Each time the Irish musical ensemble known as Celtic Woman takes the stage, audiences are transported back to Ireland. For some, it’s their ancestral homeland; for others, it’s a place with such rich art and cultural history that it doesn’t matter whether they have any Irish heritage at all, they become adopted sons and daughters of Ireland for a few hours. It’s similar to the camaraderie of St. Patrick’s Day. And, this year, Celtic Woman will help usher in the St. Patrick’s weekend for those in New Jersey with a performance at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on March 14.
Celtic Woman has been touring around the world and has sold millions of records since forming in 2004. The group’s latest releases, “Believe“ and “Home For Christmas” –both released in 2012–each made its debut on “Billboard”’s World Music chart at No. 1. This was the eighth consecutive time Celtic Woman had topped the chart. All total, the band has sold more than 7 million copies of their records.
The group features the wonderful talents of four Irish women – vocalists Chloë Agnew, Lisa Lambe and Susan McFadden, and violinist Máiréad Nesbitt. Together they combine traditional Irish music with original songs and contemporary pop standards under the vision of David Downes, the group’s music director, arranger and composer. No stranger to American audiences, Downes was formerly the musical director of Riverdance for the U.S. and European touring companies, and worked as the orchestrator of the Broadway production.
According to McFadden, audiences can expect to hear songs from the “Believe” album alongside the band’s greatest hits from throughout their catalog. “We’re really mixing it up this year,” she explained. “We’re doing some of the older songs that people probably remember from the early days of Celtic Woman – the really traditional, well known and loved Irish songs. It’s a really good mix this year.”
Downes agrees, “Celtic Woman’s 2013 tour of the U.S. is going to be an incredibly exciting and fresh, new live show. This may be the most exciting mixture of music we have ever performed – from deeply emotional original songs, to unique reworking of well-known classics; it will be a spectacular live experience.”
McFadden joined the ensemble a year ago when Lisa Kelly (one of the original members) left to go on maternity leave. Prior to joining, the singer from Dublin was best known for her work as an actress in roles like Sandy in “Grease” at the Piccadilly Theatre and Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde, the Musical“ at the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End. She said she was working in London when she got the call inviting her to join the group.
“I was just delighted to have an opportunity to go back to my roots – back to working as part of an Irish group and working with Irish people again,” said McFadden. “I had been following the success of the girls over the years, so it was a great honor to be asked to be part of it. I think anyone would have jumped at the chance.”
McFadden had toured America many years earlier as an Irish dancer for a national touring show, but has definitely seen a lot more of the country since joining Celtic Woman. The group’s current tour runs for four months and includes over 75 performances. While the girls do get a few days off to do a little sightseeing, the majority of their time goes into the show, and they love performing in front of American audiences.
“You know when an audience is having a good time in America because they’re very vocal, very expressive, and if they’re enjoying the show they’ll let you know,” said McFadden. “It’s so lovely. It makes your performance so much more enjoyable. It’s so nice to be able to perform in front of people who are genuinely having fun and they show you their enthusiasm. The reactions are wonderful!
“I think European audiences are generally more reserved,” she adds. “They keep their appreciation until the end of the show. Sometimes when you’re performing in Germany you’re thinking, ‘I don’t think they’re enjoying the show’ and then they’re up on their feet, screaming and clapping and shouting at the end of the night! It’s like they wait… they’re reserved… but Americans are great from the get go. It’s wonderful. It really adds to the show.”
Part of the enthusiasm from American audiences stems from the vast legions of Irish families throughout the country. Each time the girls of Celtic Woman sing, it reminds those listening of home. Much as McFadden said she relished the opportunity to go back to her roots, audience members welcome the chance to hear the songs of their youth. It’s almost as though the farther one gets away from Ireland, the more the band becomes appreciated. For Celtic Woman, America has truly become their second home.
“For every Irish person, these songs are in our blood,” explained McFadden. “I suppose when it’s there on your doorstep maybe you don’t appreciate it quite as much. I live in England, so I have a new-found love and fondness for it. It reminds me of home because I don’t live their anymore. It’s really great to meet people after the show and see just how much the music means to them and how special it is for them. Some people get very emotional by it. It’s really touching to see that. It’s a special feeling knowing that you had a contribution and helped bring them on that journey back to their roots.”
Whether you’re Irish or not, you’ll have an amazing time hearing these beautiful vocals and wonderful tunes. This is the group’s only area appearance and tickets are going fast, so visit www.njpac.org and reserve your seats today. It’s a great way to get in the spirit of the St. Patrick’s holiday weekend!
For more information on Celtic Woman, visit www. celticwoman.com.