The joy of song

Described as “haunting, pure and magical”, Ireland’s Celtic Woman ensemble is enjoying a huge surge of popularity in North America and across the world.

The supergroup, consisting of five vocalists – Méav Ní Mhaolchatha, Órla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Chloë Agnew and Hayley Westenra – and violinist Máiréad Nesbitt, received platinum status for their debut CD/DVD Celtic Woman. Their second album Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration reached the top of Billboard’s world music chart in December 2006, and now their newest release Celtic Woman — New Journey scored #4 on The Billboard 200, their highest chart position ever.

The reason their music touches so many people, from young children and hipster teenagers to multi-generational families and older folks?

“Our music conveys a range of emotions from evocative-haunting to upbeat,” says Orla Fallon, solo vocalist and harpist, who gave an exclusive interview to during the group’s stop in Toronto. “It’s a rat-race of a world, and people have an innate hunger for more time for themselves, and more spirituality.”

The repertoire includes Irish traditional, classical, contemporary and original works by musical director David Downes.

“Our music comes from the heart and it touches people’s hearts and souls,” says Orla. “Even for people who aren’t Irish… when we toured in Japan last year, we were surprised at the huge response. We blew the house down.”

The Celtic Woman soloists have all enjoyed successful solo careers before joining the group. They come from different backgrounds and have distinctly individual musical styles which when blended “creates a bit of magic,” Orla says.

“Singing with other women has given me a wealth of information and experience,” she adds. “For example, I come from a traditional background, and Celtic Woman has given me an opportunity to add a classical element to my music. So I feel that musically I’ve grown a great deal.”

As to the group’s new release: Celtic Woman – A New Journey, the title echoes the evolution of the group. “This is a new stage of our journey as Celtic Woman,” Orla says. “We’ve been on the road so much and we’ve gained in friendship and deepened our relationships. The energy in this album is most striking: we’ve taken everything we’ve learned together as musicians and poured it into this album.”

For A New Journey, the Irish Film Orchestra and the Aontas Choral Ensemble join the group. It was originally performed at the legendary Slane Castle in Meath Island in August 2006.

Orla’s career has seen her play among other venues for the Pope, the President of Ireland and at Carnegie Hall. “I keep pinching myself,” she says. “I come from a tiny village in Ireland, and I never dreamed music would take me to such places… I never take anything for granted – and I thank God for the gift of music.”

It is a gift that she has been pursuing since she was a child. As a young girl, she even sold her beloved pony in order to buy her first harp.

But happily, Orla relates that she was eventually able to get a new pony (named Whisper), enabling her to indulge both her passion for horses and music.

Celtic Woman begins their biggest U.S. tour to date on February 14 in Tampa, FL, with 88 shows that will keep them on the road through May. They plan to return to Canada in June with performances scheduled for Toronto on June 15th; Montreal on June 16th; and Ottawa on June 19.

For more information, go to Celtic Woman’s website:

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