Celtic Woman casts a magical spell

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Celtic Woman has been a worldwide phenomenon since it was founded in 2004 by Emmy-nominated music director David Downes. The virtuoso violinist Mairead Nesbitt shares the stage with vocalists Chloe Agnew, Lisa Lambe and Susan McFadden. They are backed by a six-man band, a chorus of four, bagpiper Anthony Byrne and championship Irish dancer Craig Ashurst. Bedecked in magnificent gowns, they float gracefully about the stage performing traditional Irish favorites, heart-warming original songs and pop standards, mesmerizing packed audiences.

From the first album through the eighth, all debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World Music chart. All six DVDs are equally popular with fans who passionately follow the tour schedules and buy tickets months in advance to reserve a place at the concerts coming to their cities. The ensemble arrives at Wolf Trap toward the end of a North American tour of more than 50 cities. After relaxing at home for several months, they will undertake a September tour to Australia, a European tour in October and a return to the United States in December to perform with symphony orchestras in several cities.

Lambe chatted about the joy of performing as a member of Celtic Woman and traveling from city to city every night with the entire company in four comfortable tour buses.

"This world tour is a celebration of all things wonderful about Celtic Woman," she said. "The program is an amalgamation of our newest songs and old favorites that the audiences know so well they sing along with us. Last year we released two albums, 'Home for Christmas' and 'Believe.' Now there is another album in the pipeline. While we were performing in Indiana this past April, PBS-TV recorded our show for a special that will be out later this year. It includes some new songs to be released in an album when the television show airs."

If you go
Celtic Woman
» Where: Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna
» When: 8 p.m. Friday
» Info: $45 to $55 in-house, $25 lawn; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872); wolftrap.org

Celtic Woman concerts draw packed crowds worldwide. Whether Irish or not, everyone wants to experience the vicarious return to the beauty and nostalgia of the Old Sod. The albums of traditional Irish songs and lovely contemporary numbers that cheer the soul are snapped up by the millions.

The featured artists began entertaining families and friends during childhood and wasted no time before launching careers onstage in their native Ireland and London's West End. Fans regard each as a dear friend whose music spreads joy in happy times and gives moral support during dark days.

Nesbitt, a former All-Ireland fiddle champion, has performed with many famous Irish entertainers. She played lead fiddle on Michael Flatley's "Lord of the Dance" and on the original soundtracks of "Fleet of Flames" and "Riverdance." A composer of original fiddle music, she is featured on the Walt Disney films "Tinker Bell" and "Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure."

Agnew has been a professional singer, actress and dancer since childhood. Downes produced her first and second albums, which were recorded at ages 12 and 14. The youngest member of Celtic Woman, she has been with the ensemble since the beginning.

Lambe made her name as a vocalist and actress in both dramas and musical theater. Before joining Celtic Woman, she was an Irish Times Theatre Award nominee for Best Actress as the lead in "Philomena O'Shea," performed in Dublin, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Poland.

McFadden, the newest member, has been a favorite in Ireland since starring in the title role of "Annie" at age 11. Her other stage leads include Sandy in "Grease," Milly in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," and Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde," all on London's West End.

"Wherever we travel, our greatest thrill is meeting the fans," Lambe said. "They have embraced us and sent letters of encouragement and thanks for how much our music has touched them. We feel honored and blessed that our music has such an effect on them. Our show is welcoming to all ages. Little children dance in the aisles. It's a time for families to come together, forget their woes and leave feeling happy."

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Author:

Emily Cary

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner