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PostPosted: Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:16 pm    Post subject: Lass Act Reply with quote

Irish singers parlay pure voices and glamorous good looks into huge North American success.

She's the face of Celtic Woman -- a blue-eyed, milky-skinned lass with a mane of fiery red curls and a bewitching smile.
The alluring Irish colleen dominates the covers of all five Celtic Woman CDs and the associated concert DVDs.
Gaelic girl group

Celtic Woman was conceived in 2004 by producer Sharon Browne (also the mastermind behind the all-male Celtic Thunder). Browne assembled a creative team that includes David Downes, a former musical director of Riverdance. The head of programming for the PBS network had told Browne he would consider a female Irish act for a pledge-drive TV special if it had the impact of "Charlotte Church meets Enya meets Sarah Brightman."

The 2005 debut special, custom-made for PBS, vaulted Celtic Woman to stardom. The attractive quintet -- currently down a singer and touring as a quartet -- is costumed, coiffed, made up and choreographed for maximum visual appeal. The act has been characterized as "Irish music in Spice Girls packaging."

One of the three remaining original members, Chloë Agnew, was only 15 years old when the group was assembled. She's now 21. The voluptuous blond, who tends to generate the most ecstatic audience response, is the daughter of famed entertainer Adele (Twink) King, who was in an Irish girl group called Maxi, Dick and Twink in the 1960s and '70s.

Celtic Woman's five CD releases have sold more than five million copies in total. The group's most recent PBS TV special, released on DVD, is Songs From the Heart: Live From Powerscourt House and Gardens. Filmed over two nights outside a floodlit 13th-century Irish castle, the show is a spectacle featuring pyrotechnics and flaming torches, a 27-member orchestra and 10-member drum group, plus a gospel choir and a bagpipe ensemble. It's nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding musical direction.
There is, in fact, no such human being. She's a brand identity manufactured on a computer screen. The woman who posed for the image didn't even have red hair, admits Lynn Hilary, one of three comely singers currently filling the ranks of Celtic Woman.
"I believe she's just a model," says the Dublin-born Hilary. "They actually changed her face a little bit, the eye colour... and they added the hair. I don't think I'm supposed to say that, but I believe so."
Such calculated marketing of idealized Irish femininity doesn't seem to bother the legions of fans who have made the PBS-spawned Celtic Woman the most successful Irish girl group ever, and one of the top-selling Irish acts in history.

The pop-folk-classical ensemble, known for pure, ethereal vocals, opulent strapless ballgowns and stage sets wreathed in dry-ice fog, comes to Winnipeg for the first time on Sunday, playing the MTS Centre.
The group will be backed by a seven-piece band (musical director David Downes, prominent at the piano in the DVDs, has a replacement on the tour) and a three-man, three-woman supporting chorus.

Celtic Woman, often billed as "Riverdance for the voice," has undergone several lineup changes since its 2005 debut. It's normally a vocal quartet plus a nymph-like dancing fiddler, Máiréad Nesbitt. But singer Alex Sharpe left in May to spend more time with her family, becoming the fifth singer to depart the project. So "the team," as Hilary calls it in a phone interview from Nebraska, is down to three vocalists.
"She may be replaced in the future," adds Hilary, 28, the very slender soprano with the longest brown hair.
The classically trained Hilary, a former lead singer with Riverdance, has been with Celtic Woman since 2007. She names Joni Mitchell as the artist she'd be most thrilled to work with.
Asked to define the Celtic female that the group seeks to portray, she says it's a many-faceted portrait, both traditional and contemporary, "not just the leprechaun thing."
"In a lot of Irish history, Ireland was portrayed as a woman, in songs especially.... When Ireland was under the rule of England, the Irish weren't allowed to portray the love for their country. So they would write songs about women, when actually the beauty of this woman was a code for Ireland."
The ensemble's repertoire varies from pop numbers such as the Cyndi Lauper hit True Colours and Sting's Fields of Gold, to standards like Amazing Grace, Galway Bay and Danny Boy, to soaring pop-classical favourites such as You Raise Me Up, to songs written specially for the group.
While Celtic Woman is a sensation in North America, it has not found equivalent success at home. Ireland's Sunday Times has called the glamorous lassies "mistresses of shmaltz" and noted that "even by the soft-focus, emerald-tinted standards of Riverdance and the Irish Tenors, Celtic Woman has been accused of watering down its Irish musical heritage."
Many critics have found the live concerts uplifting, praising the "celestial" singers for their angelic sound and demographic-spanning material.
Some have complained that the presentation is so tightly orchestrated -- down to the way the singers have been coached to stand with elbows crooked, hands planted below their hips -- that they're as sterile as mannequins, devoid of spontaneity or soul.
"I know what you mean, but we have evolved," says Hilary when asked about such criticism. The group does lack spontaneity in the Songs From the Heart PBS special/DVD, she says, but that's because the material was brand new to them when the special was filmed last year.
Now that they're comfortable with the songs, she says, there's looser interaction with the audience.
"Chloë is very emotive. She uses her hands all over the place. She literally sometimes crouches right down to the audience to smile to a child. And Lisa giggles when she sees an old man -- that's the kind of person she will emote to."

By: Alison Mayes
Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipeg, Manitoba
08/12/2010 1:00 AM
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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