Celtic Woman performs at Macquarie Shopping Centre, Sydney, in August of 2012.
From left to right, Lisa Lambe, Susan McFadden, Chloe Agnew, and Mairead Nesbitt.
Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
Celtic Woman is an all-female Irish musical ensemble conceived and created by David Kavanagh, 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 line-up of the group that he named "Celtic Woman." Downes chose a repertoire that ranged from traditional Celtic tunes to modern songs.
The group's line-up 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, Celtic Woman: Home for Christmas," "Celtic Woman: Emerald - Musical Gems. and Celtic Woman: Destiny. The group has undertaken a number of world tours. Cumulatively, albums by Celtic Woman have sold over 9 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."
Creator and Producer, David Kavanagh & Sharon Browne
Musical Director, David Downes
The current members of Celtic Woman are (in alphabetical order of family name):
- Máiréad Carlin (5 December) is an Irish singer and a member of the ensemble Celtic Woman. Carlin was born in Derry, Northern Ireland. She began her career at the age of 15 when she won the title role of 'The Rose' in BBC Talents 'Young Singers' competition in The Little Prince (opera) by Rachel Portman. Máiréad has since performed for the President of Ireland, celebrated the Irish Anthem for the England-Ireland Rugby International to a TV audience of millions and recently, she has shared the stage with Snow Patrol and The Priests at the 2013 BBC TV Gala Concert ‘Sons and Daughters’ to mark Derry’s year as City of Culture. She also recorded the City of Culture anthem ‘Let The River Run’ with Glee star Damian McGinty. Carlin subsequently released the single under her own label Iris Records/Walled City Records. After finishing her degree, Máiréad was signed to Decca Records and recorded her debut album, ‘Songbook’ with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Air Studios and British Grove Studios. On 5 August 2013, the Celtic Woman website reported that Chloë Agnew would be taking a break from Celtic Woman to work on solo projects, and on 23 August 2013, it reported that Máiréad Carlin would be taking Chloë's place.
- Susan McFadden (8 February 1983) is an actress and singer born in Dublin, Ireland. She has also been a member of the all-female Celtic music group, Celtic Woman, since 2012. She is the younger sister of former Westlife member, Brian McFadden. In 2008, McFadden recorded two songs for the CD Act One - Songs From The Musicals Of Alexander S. Bermange, an album of 20 brand new recordings by 26 West End stars, released in November 2008 on Dress Circle Records. She played the lead role of Milly in the stage adaption of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, with Steven Houghton. McFadden starred in the original west end cast of the musical Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End playing Elle Woods after originating the role of Serena. Official reviews and audience reaction were extremely positive. On 5 January 2012, McFadden was named as a replacement for Lisa Kelly, then going on maternity leave, in the all- female ensemble Celtic Woman. McFadden debuted with Celtic Woman in February at Nashville, Tennessee for the kickoff of the "Believe" North American Tour and continued with the European, Australian and South African Tours in 2012. After Lisa Kelly announced her departure from the group in January 2013, McFadden has since become a full-time member of Celtic Woman.
- Éabha McMahon is Celtic Woman's newest member. She will be replacing Lynn Hilary in their brand new tour, Destiny.
- Máiréad Nesbitt (pronounced "mah-raid") (19 April 1979) is an Irish classical and Celtic music performer, most notably as a fiddle player and violinist. She is currently the fiddler for the group Celtic Woman. She has been a piano player since the age of four, and began playing the violin at age six. She spent some time as fiddler for the Irish group Coolfin, and recorded an album with them. Nesbitt broke into the wider world in 1996 when she was invited to perform in the Michael Flatley show Lord of the Dance. There, she played lead fiddle until 1998, at which time she went with Flatley to his second show, Feet of Flames. She toured in this production, again as lead fiddler, until leaving in 2001. Nesbitt also played on the original soundtracks to both shows, as well as for the soundtrack to Riverdance. In 2004, Nesbitt was invited to play violin for a performance at the Helix Theatre in Dublin, called "Celtic Woman." The popularity of this and subsequent performances on television and live albums led to five tours across the United States. Celtic Woman has released a total of eight albums to date: 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. Nesbitt is featured as a soloist on Walt Disney's direct to DVD film Tinker Bell. Joel McNeely composed music specifically to fit Nesbitt's distinctive style, and collaborated with her to further polish the music for Celtic authenticity. Shortly before Thanksgiving, 2011, Nesbitt married Jim Mustapha, Jr., lighting director for Celtic Woman, in Maui, Hawaiʻi.
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 line-up 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 line-up.
On 20 August 2007, Méav left Celtic Woman to focus on her solo career. Méav'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. 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 line-up. After the tour ended, it was announced that Alex Sharpe would take a full-time break from Celtic Woman 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 line-up 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 23 August 2013 it was announced that Derry-born singer Mairead Carlin would be taking Chloë's place.
Shortly before the beginning of the Emerald Tour on 14 February 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.
It was announced late 2014 that Lisa Lambe will be leaving Celtic Woman for a while to work on a solo album. Former Celtic Woman, Lynn Hilary, will again be returning in Lambe's place. It was later announced that former Celtic Woman Alex Sharpe will be returning for the 10th Anniversary tour along with Méav Ní Mhaolchatha. The current lineup is Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, Lynn Hilary, Alex Sharpe], Mairead Nesbitt, Mairead Carlin, and Susan McFadden, with all but Nesbitt and McFadden serving 2 at a time on a rotating basis for the US tour ending June of 2015. The lineup for the fall is McFadden, Carlin, Nesbitt and newest member Éabha McMahon.
When asked how the group members got along, member Lisa Kelly responded,
"We get along because we're so different. Chloë Agnew is hip, Méav Ní 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."
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 Celtic Woman: O Christmas Tree 21 October 2014 CD US Celtic Woman: Destiny 23 October 2015 CD, DVD DE
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.