With 1.5 million tickets and over six million records already sold around the world, Celtic Woman have become a genuine Irish musical phenomenon. AARON DUNNE caught up with the group as they look ahead to making their Aussie debut later this year.
“Not bad this, eh?”, smile Celtic Woman stars Chloe Agnew and Lynn Hilary as they take in the breath-taking surrounds of their penthouse apartment in downtown Sydney for the first time.
I’m equally impressed – Darling Harbour to the left, views from Woolloomooloo all the way to the Sydney Heads on the right, and one half of the most successful international Irish acts in recent years sat in front of me. I’ve certainly had worse Friday mornings…
For Chloe, 21, and Lynn, 28, it’s their first time in Oz and they’re visibly excited. Not that they’ll get to see much of the place on this particular promotional tour though. In the country a measly 24 hours, a show-stopping live performance on Channel 7’s Sunrise programme has just been entered into the record books as they arrive at the Fraser Suites Hotel.
‘The Irish phenomenon taking the world by storm’, the information bar had blazed across the screen as Kochie had introduced them to the country just a few hours earlier. Hard to argue with that really though.
Almost six years on the go since their debut gig in 2004, the franchise somewhat oddly dubbed as the ‘Riverdance Of The Voice’ has been smashing records all over the shop.
They’ve already topped the 1.5 million mark in ticket sales, and flogged over six million records and DVDs worldwide. Yet, despite their massive popularity (particularly in the United States where they spend most of their time these days), the girls appear to have remained completely grounded. And, it really must be said, tremendously friendly. Especially considering the jetlag.
Chloe, whose mum Adele King (aka Twink) has been entertaining Irish audiences since what feels like the dawn of time, lights up as she explains how Celtic Woman went from a one-off Dublin show to a worldwide success story.
“It really all started back in September 2004. There were five of us who got a call to do this one-night show in the Helix in Dublin, just to come along and sing a few songs. It wasn’t really a big deal at the time, but it ended up being a really big production,” the Knocklyon native recalls.
“That show was filmed, and then a few months later in January we got another call telling us to keep the next two years free! So we all went over to the US and we launched in March for St Patrick’s Day, and by the end of the week the whole thing just went crazy.
“There were people stopping us on the street and asking us for autographs, and from there things just kicked off. We did our first summer tour that July and August, and since then it’s just been a total whirlwind. I don’t know where the last few years have gone. I was only 14 when we started this!”
It’s a big weight to carry all the same when every sentence uttered about you in the media has Bill Whelan and Michael Flatley’s Riverdance barely a breath away. But is the whole ‘Riverdance Of The Voice’ thing really a fair tag for what they do? Or even a remotely accurate one?
“Yeah I think it’s fair enough,” Blackrock native Lynn chimes in. “I sang with Riverdance before, and Mairead (the group’s star violist Mairead Nesbitt from Tipperary) played with Lord Of The Dance, so I think it’s a pretty fair description.
“A lot of the same people have been involved with both – our composer David Downes was the MD for Riverdance for years, and he helped Bill Whelan score the original Riverdance, so you can’t help but bring some of that influence across to Celtic Woman.
“No matter what you do in an Irish band like this you’re always going to be compared to Riverdance. But if you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense because we sing and they dance!
“I think why people compare us to Riverdance is because we’re really the first big production of an Irish music show since then. It’s a big honour to be put in the same category as them though, because in fairness Riverdance really paved the way for us and other shows like ours. It’s really a compliment.”
Most of the world has already fallen under the spell of Celtic Woman. Australia remains the last frontier. And so far, thing are going pretty well.
“Being able to come to somewhere like Australia is just great, because for us it’s almost like starting all over again. It really keeps us on our toes,” Chloe says.
“I know the ticket sales are going really well so far, which is great. Our CDs and DVDs have been released in Australia over the last number of years and have sold really well, so we’re just delighted that we finally have the chance to come and perform live here.
“I think when people come to see the live show they’ll really enjoy it, because that’s where everything really begins to make sense. That’s our thing, the live shows,” Chloe says.
“Some of the songs are quite simple, but there is so much else going on on the stage that it’s really quite a show. We’ve got one of the best lighting designers in the world in Tom Kenny, and we’ve got some of the best musicians in Ireland touring with us,” adds Lynn.
“No two shows are the same. There’s always something a little different each night, even for us. I think that boils down to the fact that we have real musicians, real singers and performers, so every night it’s something a little different.”
A large part of the band’s tremendous success has undoubtedly come through their universal appeal. Not many entertainers can say it and really mean it, but Celtic Woman really do appear to have a little something for everyone.
“We have been so surprised by the turnout of fans we’ve had over the past few years. They range from kids as young as two or three dancing away in the aisles, to grandparents, and even the odd heavy metal fan, believe it or not!”, Chloe laughs.
“People have come up to us after shows and told us how it had brought the whole family together coming along to something everyone could enjoy.”
Celtic Woman play the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on October 22, the Sydney Entertainment Centre on October 23, the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on October 27, the Melbourne Palais Theatre on October 30–31, and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 3.