Celtic Woman brings ‘Voices of Angels’ to Queen City
By CLAUDETTE KNIERIEM
Special to the Union Leader | April 12. 2017 12:58PM
Celtic Woman’s latest CD, “Voices of Angels,” is the heart of the ensemble’s 2017 tour, which finds them joining the Orchestra of Ireland in performances in the United States and United Kingdom.
The dynamic quartet, featuring vocalists Susan McFadden, Mairéad Carlin and Éabha McMahon and violinist Tara McNeill, will grace the stage Thursday night at Manchester’s SNHU Arena.
“The show is a joyful fusion of all things Celtic, from bagpipes and bouzouki to Irish dances,” said executive producer Dave Kavanagh. “But it’s also so much more than that. It’s a universal celebration of life. It’s traditional. It’s contemporary. It’s yesterday, today and tomorrow.”
The Voices of Angels tour kicked off March 2 and will crisscross the United States, wrapping up a 91-city tour in late June.
The “Voices of Angels” album was released in November and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World chart, while the ensemble’s 2015 “Destiny” album (which garnered a Grammy nomination in the Best World Music Album category) remains in the Top 10 more than 50 weeks after its release.
“Voices of Angels” features some of the most popular songs from the Celtic Woman repertoire, along with several previously unrecorded tracks, all with new orchestral arrangements recorded with the 72-piece Orchestra of Ireland.
Conceived in 2004 with the help of Riverdance music director David Downes, Celtic Woman performed and recorded a 2005 concert for PBS television at The Helix, Dublin, Ireland, in front of a sold-out audience.
A popular CD and DVD followed, and within weeks it reached the top spot on Billboard’s World Music chart and held the top position for 81 weeks, selling over 1 million copies. Celtic Woman since then has released 12 chart-topping albums and performed for over 4 million fans across 23 countries and six continents.
NH Weekend caught up with Carlin by phone in Baltimore, just three weeks into the tour. A native of Derry in the north of Ireland, Carlin joined Celtic Woman in 2013 after original member Chloe Agnew left the group to pursue a solo career. Carlin says this is the most rigorous tour that the group has undertaken so far.
“We’re a bit tired, but it’s a good kind of tired,” said Carlin, who attributes the success of their demanding tour schedule in part to their close-knit group, which typically spends 16 hours a day, nine months a year, touring the world on a bus together.
“You could say we’re closer than sisters,” she said. “Luckily, there are no divas, no drama queens here. We’re all very normal, kind-hearted people, and we all get along.”
In fact, The Voices of Angels tour is something of a family affair for Carlin, whose husband Ronan Scolard is currently touring with the group as a choir member. The newlyweds met in February 2016, were engaged that April and married this past September.
When asked about her favorite part of the show, Carlin without hesitation named “Ave Maria.”
“I was so honored when our producer asked me to do it, but it was a hard arrangement because there are so many interpretations of that song,” she said.
“We also do ‘Danny Boy’ together,” added Carlin, “and it’s just a simple, honest, beautiful arrangement.”
It was this song that the women recorded while at Capitol Records’ Studio A in Los Angeles on their Grammy Award junket back in March, using Frank Sinatra’s microphone and Nat King Cole’s piano.
Much of the appeal of Celtic Woman is in the quartet’s ability to touch their fans on a personal level through spiritual and poignant songs.
“For me, the audience is the No. 1 reason why I do this,” Carlin said. “People come to our shows to be moved, to be raised up.
“We’re just as affected by our audience as they are by us, and we take each performance very seriously,” she said. “We want them to come away changed in some way.”
Carlin says that although the Celtic Woman lineup has changed, fans can expect to hear their favorites as well as some new tracks from the group’s last two albums. She calls the tour “a nod to the past and a wink to the future.” The set list includes popular favorites, including “Amazing Grace” and “Mo Ghile Mear,” plus the debuts of “My Heart Will Go On” (from the film “Titanic”), and “Time To Say Goodbye” (from “Romeo and Juliet”) off the new album.
Though all the show’s original members have moved on, some to solo careers, Carlin says the current foursome and “Voices with Angels” grouping is still very much in contact with their predecessors.
“Celtic Woman has been a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” Carlin said. “It’s like (running) a relay, and handing over the baton. We’re all like family, and we’re all great friends.”