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MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #28 (article first published : 2007-01-21)

With the Season of Goodwill just ahead, Bev takes a look at the female group who perform under the title of Celtic Woman, and suggests you just cannot go wrong should you decide to give their latest album to a loved one this year.

It would be difficult to find voices more graceful and pure than those of the international Irish music sensation comprised of five gorgeous women –Chloe Agnew, Orla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, and Mairead Nesbitt (who won the accolade of the All Ireland Fiddle Champion) - and the good news is that their first, very successful, album (it dominated billboard world music charts in the #1 spot for 49 weeks) has now been followed up by a compilation released just in time for the Festive Season, which is titled A Christmas Celebration.

Whether singing together or alone, these amazingly beautiful voices remain with you, capturing the essence of both contemporary and traditional Irish music, and each of the girls also have solo albums on release.

Energy and beauty are the two words that Mairead feels best describe what she strives for as a musician and as a person. A fiddle player since the age of six, she began her professional career with the RTE Concert Orchestra and went on to work with such illustrious musicians as Nigel Kennedy, Van Morrison, Sinéad O’Connor, Emmylou Harris, Chris de Burgh and many others. She’s also played on the original soundtracks of the shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames. She tours with her own band, too, and has recorded with the Afro-Celt Sound System, as well as having composed the original music score for the dance show Invasion which toured during the course of this year. Raining Up was her first solo album, which captured her wide range of styles, and it was written of her that She has one foot in the traditional camp and another in a chill-out, ambient groove!

Orla is the singer and harpist who won the International Feis Ceoil and International Pan Celtic competitions twice, and she’s toured extensively in Europe and the US as a soloist, performing her renditions of haunting Irish airs along with her own original compositions. Her debut album, The Water is Wide, earned her critical acclaim and led to many radio and television broadcasts, and she is invited regularly to perform for the President of Ireland.

Lisa’s background is purely steeped in the world of musical theatre and she starred, at the tender age of seven, in the musical Bugsy Malone. A talented actress and singer, she continued her studies in drama and was classically trained in both singing and piano, but is quoted as saying her heart has always belonged to the theatre. She was cast as the lead female vocalist in the year 2000 in Riverdance – The Show, in which she toured for four years, and it was while on tour in the US that she met her husband, whom she describes as an Australian Irish dancer. Her solo album, Lisa, was released to critical acclaim but it was after the birth of her second child that she was approached to join Celtic Woman, which was originally conceived to be a one-night show in Dublin’s Helix Theatre! Her family have toured with her and she’s quoted as saying she’d be more than happy for her children to follow in her footsteps.

Meav has toured the world as a solo vocalist as well as principal soloist with the Celtic Choral group known as Anuna. She began her studies of voice, piano and harp at an early age and continued to do so while completing a law degree at Trinity College, and has to date recorded two solo albums, Maev and Silver Sea, as well as performing on tracks on other CDs and playing Erin, the Goddess, in Lord of the Dance. She also sang at the inauguration of Irish President, Mary McAleese, as well as singing in the London and Dublin runs of Riverdance and in the New York premiere at Radio City Music Hall. She says she’s particularly pleased that, through Celtic Woman, she’s had the opportunity of blending her experiences in both traditional Irish and classical singing.

David Downes – a graduate of Trinity College Dublin - is the producer who works with this wonderful group of highly talented – not to mention beautiful – young women, and he’s also worked extensively with oboist David Agnew, and was responsible for producing Chloe Agnew’s Gold debut album. He has also worked as orchestrator and arranger for Bonnie Tyler, Charlotte Church and Secret Garden (who are one of MY favourite musical groups). This man’s performance credits have included concerts in Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Wembley Arena and on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. He’s appeared with, among others, James Galway, Boyzone, The Washington Symphony, Moravian Philharmonic, Hollywood Studio Symphony, and National Symphony Orchestras. He’s been Musical Director of Riverdance for the US and European touring companies, and on Broadway at the Gershwin Theatre. He was also orchestrator of Riverdance on Broadway.

In conclusion, I have to say I can’t imagine ANY music lover who’d not appreciate the gift of an album featuring Celtic Woman - and this latest release, A Christmas Celebration, is THE perfect prezzie for someone you love this Festive Season, with my VERY favourite track being their inimitable rendition of the classic number, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (even though I just ADORED the version that formed the second to last track on Josh Groban’s eponymous debut album).

So, so get on out there and ring up the tills this season, and you’ll have THE most joyful sounds ringing in your ears – and the ears of those you love - to reward you! – Bev Pulè




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