Celtic Woman Biography
The foundation for Celtic music's popularity outside of Ireland and Europe was built by tapping into the success of artists such as Enya and Clannad, along with stage shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Celtic Woman has been described by some showbiz journalists as being "Riverdance for the voice."
Celtic Woman was filmed on 15 September 2004 for PBS Television at The Helix, Dublin, Ireland, in front of a sold out audience. Organized by producer Sharon Browne, Chairman & CEO Dave Kavanagh, 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.
The release of the second album, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration, on 19 October 2006 knocked their first album to the #2 spot on the World Music chart.
In preparation for their third studio album, Celtic Woman performed at Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland, on 23 August 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, and 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, knocking 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, on 7 December 2007 PBS aired a special concert of Celtic Woman performing again in The Helix Theatre, Dublin, Ireland. This performance included songs from the group's second album, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration.
A fourth album, called Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey, was released in October 28, 2008.
Celtic Woman has performed a total of 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, and a new tour called "Songs from the Heart," featuring some of the same music and some new music, was promptly scheduled to begin in February 2010.
The performers recruited to be in the first incarnation of Celtic Woman were Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, and Máiréad Nesbitt. During Ní Mhaolchatha's pregnancy in 2005, Deirdre Shannon was selected to fill her place during tours. Shannon departed in February 2006, and Ní Mhaolchatha returned to the group in time to record A New Journey and tour for that album.
The second lineup change was announced on 6 September 2006, when Hayley Westenra was stated as having officially joined Celtic Woman on 24 August. As well as being featured on the album and DVD for A New Journey, Westenra alternated with Ní Mhaolchatha during tour events to maintain the live five-person lineup.
On 20 August 2007, Ní Mhaolchatha was announced as taking a permanent break from Celtic Woman to focus on her solo career. Ní Mhaolchatha's replacement, Lynn Hilary, made her first appearance on 10 October 2007 in Estero, Florida, United States.
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.
For the 2009 Isle of Hope Tour, the group comprised vocalists Chloë Agnew, Lynn Hilary, Lisa Kelly, and Alex Sharpe and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt. It was announced on the official Celtic Woman website that Órla Fallon was taking a full break to spend time with her family and focus on recording a new solo album and that, therefore, Alex would take over full time in Órla’s place.
When asked how the group members got along, member Lisa Kelly responded,
"We get along because we're so different. Chloe Agnew is hip, Méav Ni Mhaolchatha is rational, Orla Fallon is angelic and Mairead Nesbitt is energetic."
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."