Concert Review: Celtic Woman Makes A Believer out of Reviewer Orla O’Sullivan

0 0 0 0 0
Republish
Reprint

How It’s New York: Celtic Woman played Radio City Music Hall for one, packed performance on March 11, as part of their three-month whistlestop U.S. tour.

How It’s Irish: The concept group was formed in Ireland in 2004 and is comprised of singers from Ireland, though they also sing Scottish airs and  songs from American musical theatre, including  “A Tribute to Broadway/” 
Orla O’Sullivan reviews Celtic Woman at Radio City Music Hall:  She’s a Believer
The chaos on arrival at Radio City Music Hall suggested that all 6,000 seats were occupied for Celtic Woman. Almost all were vacated in the standing ovation two and a half hours later.
Walking in, the spectacular lights, the energy, and the scale of the venue made me feel I was, again, a child attending the pantomime—a musical comedy geared to children that was a mandatory part of the Christmas season in Ireland. Only later did I realize that the lead singer of Celtic Woman, Chloe Agnew, is a daughter of Ireland’s grand dame of pantomime, known simply as Twink. She also showed a comedic touch, alluding to Ireland’s economic woes by saying New York now has more Irish people than there are in Ireland.
Agnew’s fellow frontline performers, virtuoso fiddler Mairead Nesbitt and singers Lisa Lambe and Susan McFadden, are excellent, but Agnew bursts from the stage with something that feels well beyond manufactured emotion.


Her rendition of “Ave Maria,” one of many unexpected show elements, received a standing ovation from many. And the group’s version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from Carousel, often used as a soccer anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” brought Irish mist to this listener’s usually dry eyes.

There were three other female vocalists and a group of what Agnew jokingly referred to as “our token men”. Dressed in black, the male singers and musicians faded to the background, but for solos by a Riverdance-worthy Raleigh dancer, a bagpiper who enhanced “Amazing Grace,” and a bodhran player of impressive speed.


Everything about Celtic Woman is quintessetially Irish and female: from the ethereal choreography and lighting to the floaty costumes and long locks, plus songs evoking pining across the sea or, at least, the distance between two hearts. Celtic Woman represents more a received notion of Irishness than a lived one for someone Irish born—a tourist board conspiracy, some might contend. Only once in the show did this jar: when it was suggested we all grew up singing “Danny Boy” (not if you are under 70).

Yet, this money-making machine, which topped the U.S. album charts for a record 81 weeks, indubitably is a source of artistic creativity, atop technical prowess.
The group’s contemporary reinterpretation of what would be called in Ireland a “diddley-i” song brought to mind Cirque du Soleil. The ‘song,’ just vocalizations, not words, one would expect to be sung by a closed-eyed, ancient man at the back of a country pub. Celtic Woman took “da da-DEE-ana…” etc., and presented it as an argument between young women, as two singers came down into separate aisles and blasted it at each other across folded arms.

Believe is this tour’s title. Now, I do.
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts