Celtic Woman performs at Macquarie Shopping Centre, Sydney, in August 2012
|Genres||Celtic, folk, new-age, adult contemporary, classical|
|Past members||Chloë Agnew
Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
Celtic Woman is an all-female Irish musical ensemble conceived and created by Sharon Browne and David Downes, a former musical director of the Irish stage show Riverdance. In 2004, he recruited five Irish female musicians who had not previously performed together: vocalists Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly and Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt, and shaped them into the first lineup of the group that he named Celtic Woman. Downes chose a repertoire that ranged from traditional Celtic tunes to modern songs.
The group's lineup has changed over the years; in 2009, the group consisted of Chloë Agnew, Lynn Hilary, Lisa Kelly, Alex Sharpe and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt; Alex Sharpe left the group in May 2010. Eight albums have been released under the name "Celtic Woman": Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration, Celtic Woman: A New Journey, Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey, Celtic Woman: Songs from the Heart, Celtic Woman: Lullaby, Celtic Woman: Believe and Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas. The group has undertaken a number of world tours. Cumulatively, albums by Celtic Woman have sold over 6 million records worldwide.
The foundation for Celtic music's popularity outside Ireland and Europe was built by tapping into the success of artists such as Enya, Moya Brennan and Clannad, along with stage shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Celtic Woman has been described as being "Riverdance for the voice."
Celtic Woman was taped on 15 September 2004 for PBS television at The Helix, Dublin, Ireland, in front of a sold-out audience. Organised by producer Sharon Browne, Chairman & CEO Dave Kavanagh, television producer and director Avril MacRory, and musical director and composer David Downes, this performance was first broadcast on PBS during March 2005 in the United States, and within weeks the group's eponymous debut album, Celtic Woman, reached #1 on Billboard's World Music chart, eventually breaking Andrea Bocelli's long-standing record of chart-topping longevity on 22 July 2006 by having stayed at #1 for 68 weeks. The album held the top position on the Billboard World Music chart for 81 weeks total. Much of the group's success in America has been credited to the extensive PBS publicity throughout 2005. The live performance at The Helix was released on DVD alongside the studio album.
In preparation for their third studio album, Celtic Woman performed at Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland, on 23 and 24 August 2006, with this show airing on PBS during December 2006. The studio album, titled Celtic Woman: A New Journey, was released on 30 January 2007. As with their debut, the live performance was released on DVD simultaneously. This album immediately hit the Billboard 200 at #4 and the Billboard World Music chart at #1, moving their previous two releases down a notch and securing the top three positions on that chart for the group.
In response to the popularity of the performance at Slane Castle in 2006, PBS aired a special concert of Celtic Woman performing again in The Helix Theatre, Dublin, Ireland on 7 December 2007. This performance included songs from the group's second album, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration.
A fourth album, Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey, was released in 28 October 2008. The group's fifth album, Celtic Woman: Songs from the Heart, was released 26 January 2010. It peaked at #48 in July 2010 on the ARIA Top 50 Albums chart.
The group recently released their sixth album, Lullaby, available through PBS pledge or the QVC shopping website. On February 15, 2011, it was released by other major retailers as a limited edition album. It reached #1 on the World Charts and #3 on the Children's Charts, a first for Celtic Woman.
The group filmed a new special on 6 and 7 September 2011 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta for PBS broadcast and DVD release. It is titled "Believe". The show aired on PBS stations on December 3, 2011. The CD/DVD was released on January 24, 2012.
On October 9, 2012, the group released its second worldwide Christmas album "Home for Christmas". This album features the voices of Lisa Lambe, Chloe Agnew, Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, and Mairead Nesbitt on the fiddle. Another Christmas album, Celtic Woman: Silent Night was released on the same day for the United States exclusively.
In July 2013, Celtic Woman released a promotional video on its YouTube channel for a new PBS special, due to be screened in early 2014. This special, confirmed as Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas on 5 August 2013, was filmed at The Helix Theatre, DCU, on 7 August 2013 as a live-audience album.
On February 24, 2014, Celtic Woman released a new CD/DVD set and PBS Special, called Celtic Woman: Emerald - Musical Gems. It features Lisa Lambe, Chloe Agnew, Mairead Nesbitt, and Susan McFadden. The DVD was filmed in April 2013 at a tour stop in South Bend, Indiana and was aired on PBS, starting in March.
Celtic Woman has performed three tours in America, with additional performances overseas. The group appeared live in more than a dozen US cities in 2005 for their original album debut. The group toured the United States twice with their "Celtic Woman: A New Journey" tour, visiting 88 cities in 2007 and over 75 cities in 2008. In early April 2008 it was announced that The High Kings would be opening the act for the group through June 2008.
The 2009 Isle of Hope Tour was announced in late 2008, and features a blend of original music from composer David Downes and Brendan Graham (the author of the group favorite "You Raise Me Up"), renditions of songs such as "Fields of Gold" and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and traditional performances of "Danny Boy", "The Sky and the Dawn and the Sun" and "Spanish Lady". This tour finished on 22 November 2009.
The 2010–11 tour called Songs from the Heart, featured some of the same music and some new music. The tour featured Chloe Agnew, Lisa Kelly, Lynn Hilary, Alex Sharpe, and Mairead Nesbitt. It began in February 2010. PBS television presented a special concert starting 28 November 2009. It was taped in HD at the Powerscourt House & Gardens in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland. It included a 27-member film orchestra, Discovery Gospel choir, 12-member Aontas Choir, 10-member Extreme Rhythm Drummers with an 11-piece bag pipe ensemble.
A second "Songs from the Heart" tour opened in February 2011 with Agnew, Kelly, new member Lisa Lambe, and Nesbitt and consisted of about 80 concerts in North America in spring 2011 and 10 performances in Germany and Austria during summer 2011.
The Symphony Tour featuring songs from their Christmas Album "A Christmas Celebration" took place during December 2011.
The BELIEVE 2012 North American Tour ran between February 2012 and April 2012. Following directly onto this, the BELIEVE European tour took place between May and June 2012. Lisa Kelly, who was expecting her fourth child, did not participate in the 2012 tours, and was replaced by Susan McFadden, the younger sister of former Westlife member Brian McFadden.
Another Symphony Tour was announced for the 2012 Christmas season, featuring Agnew, Lambe, Nesbitt and McFadden. The tour began on December 1 and continued on till December 22. Celtic Woman took "Believe" on tour again from February to June 2013, with the same line-up. On January 15, 2013, Lisa Kelly announced her intentions to open "The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy", located in Peachtree City, GA. In addition to this, Kelly confirmed that she will not be returning to Celtic Woman. Her husband, Scott Porter, also announced his departure as CEO of Celtic Woman.
Celtic Woman took "Believe" to Europe in October 2013 and visited the US on their Symphony Tour in December 2013. The Australian Tour for "Believe", previously scheduled for September 2013, was rescheduled to January 2014. Celtic Woman will also be touring again in the US from February to June 2014 on their Emerald Tour to celebrate the heritage of the Emerald Isles and to promote their new album called Celtic Woman: Emerald Musical Gems. Lynn Hilary will be coming back for the Emerald Tour as Lisa Lambe is leaving in mid-March for a role in the play Breaking Dad, Ross O'Carroll-Kelly's sequel to Between Foxrock and a Hard Place, in which Lisa had played Sorcha. Breaking Dad, will run from April 25 to May 17 at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.
The original performers in Celtic Woman were Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, and Máiréad Nesbitt. During Méav's pregnancy in 2005, Deirdre Shannon was selected to fill her place during tours. Méav returned to the group in time to record A New Journey and tour for that album, coinciding with Deirdre's departure from the group in February 2006.
The second lineup change was announced on 6 September 2006, with the announcement that Hayley Westenra officially joined Celtic Woman on 24 August 2006. As well as being featured on the album and DVD for A New Journey, Hayley alternated with Méav during tour events to maintain the live five-person lineup.
In December 2007, Lisa Kelly, who was expecting a new child in 2008, took maternity leave from the group. Alex Sharpe filled her position on the A New Journey tour during this leave. It was announced on the group's website in 2009 that Órla Fallon was taking a full break to spend time with her family and to focus on recording a new solo album, and that as a result of this, Alex would be replacing Órla as a member of Celtic Woman.
For the 2009 Isle of Hope Tour, the group comprised vocalists Chloë Agnew, Lynn Hilary, Lisa Kelly, and Alex Sharpe; and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt. This group completed the entire 2009 tour as well as the first leg of the Songs from the Heart tour, from February to May 2010, with this lineup. After the tour ended, it was announced that Alex Sharpe would take a full-time break from Celtic Woman in order to spend time with her family.
After the Songs from the Heart tour, in November 2010, Lynn Hilary announced that she was leaving the group to return to Ireland. Singer and actress Lisa Lambe joined the group as a replacement for Lynn in early 2011.
In December 2011, Lisa Kelly announced that she would be taking maternity leave from the group after the "Symphony Tour" was over. The group's website announced in January 2012 that actress Susan McFadden would be filling in for Kelly until she returned to the group. However, Kelly announced the opening of "The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy" in Peachtree City, Georgia, in January 2013 indicating that she was moving on from performing to teaching. Susan has since become a full member of the lineup and will appear on the new Celtic Woman PBS special and DVD, due for release in early 2014.
In 2012, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha returned briefly to Celtic Woman to record Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas, the first time she had appeared with the group since her departure in 2007. Méav returned to the group again, albeit on a temporary basis, in August 2013 to film the Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas PBS show and DVD. At the same time, it was announced on the Celtic Woman website on 5 August 2013 that Chloë Agnew would be taking a break from Celtic Woman to work on solo projects. In addition to this, she was not featured in the PBS special and DVD for Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas. On August 23, 2013 it was announced that Derry-born singer Mairead Carlin would be taking Chloe's place.
Shortly before the beginning of the Emerald Tour on February 14, 2014, management announced that Lisa Lambe would be leaving the tour at the beginning of March, with Lynn Hilary returning to take her place. Lambe was, however, slated to return during the summer, though no specific date was given.
When asked how the group members got along, member Lisa Kelly responded,
According to Chloë Agnew, the friendship between the vocalists was the number one question they were asked. She explained:
"I think people are always looking for a 'Desperate Housewives' story, that they all hate each other and nobody actually gets along. It's all for show. And the truth of the matter is, it's not. The reality is we do all get along. The five of us are like sisters, best friends."
Title Date of release Media format Region Chart peaks Celtic Woman 1 March 2005 CD & DVD International USA: #35 Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration 3 October 2006 CD & DVD International Celtic Woman: A New Journey 30 January 2007 CD & DVD International USA: #4 Celtic Woman: A Celtic Family Christmas 14 October 2008 CD US Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey 28 October 2008 CD & DVD International Celtic Woman: Songs from the Heart 26 January 2010 CD & DVD International UK: #122
Celtic Woman: Lullaby 15 February 2011 CD International USA: #126 Celtic Woman: Believe (Compilation) 25 May 2011 CD & DVD Japan Celtic Woman: An Irish Journey 3 October 2011 CD EU Celtic Woman: A Celtic Christmas 25 November 2011 CD EU Celtic Woman: Believe 24 January 2012 CD & DVD International (except Japan) Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas 9 October 2012 CD, DVD & Blu-ray International Celtic Woman: Silent Night 9 October 2012 CD US Celtic Woman: Emerald - Musical Gems 24 February 2014 CD, DVD & Blu-ray International
Awards and honours
In 2007 Celtic Woman won an EBBA Award. Each year the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) recognise the success of ten emerging artists or groups who reached audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album in the past year.
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