It’s a rare gift to be able to share where you come from in a rich pageantry of history and song. For the international sensations of Celtic Woman, presenting a fresh fusion of traditional Irish music and the culture and spirit of modern Ireland means that no matter where they are in the world, home is never far away.
Celtic Woman invites audiences along on the highly anticipated Homecoming Tour, March 13 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. EU Jacksonville had the chance to chat with vocalist Susan McFadden via email from the road about what it’s like to be on tour for months at a stretch, the sisterhood of Celtic Woman, and the little things that bring her the comfort of home.
The tour includes songs from the “Homecoming” album alongside some fans favorites such as ‘Danny Boy,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘You Raise Me Up.’ The ensemble features a full band playing an array of traditional Celtic instruments, including bodhran, tin whistle, bouzouki and Uileann pipes, bagpipers and a lineup of male backing vocalists and Irish dancers as well as the stellar vocals and brilliant musicianship of McFadden, Mairéad Carlin and Éabha McMahon and violinist Tara McNeill whose performing skills bring centuries of tradition to life.
“We have some brand new songs in the show which we have never performed before that embrace the theme of coming home, something we can really relate to as we spend so much time traveling the world. I’m looking forward to performing our new songs and my new solo,” says McFadden. “The show will take you on a journey through Irish music and culture. We have some very loyal supporters who come year after year to see our show, so I love when have fresh and exciting new material to showcase for them.”
Both an accomplished recording ensemble and a world-class performing collective, Celtic Woman continues to celebrate its remarkable legacy of introducing some of Ireland’s most talented singers and musicians to the world’s stage. The group’s repertoire encompasses Irish classics, contemporary songs, classical favorites and stirring originals. The lineup of performers has evolved in the years since the group’s inception, but the signature sound of Celtic Woman has remained consistent, showcasing the members’ individual and collaborative talents.
The logistics of traveling with a large production can be challenging, moving 30 people, musical instruments, sets, lights and sound equipment to a new venue around every day. McFadden says its a tight-knit group that is sharing the same experience like one big family, making the effort come together seamlessly. The familial vibe is most present among the four principles who have grown especially close through the years and share time together on stage and off.
“It can be tough being away from our loved ones for so long at a time, but I think what we all have which is so important is respect for each other, and each other’s space. We live in very close quarters for four months at a time, so having an understanding of one another and mutual respect is so important. We always know if one of the others is feeling a bit down or missing home, and we all know each other so well now that we know if that person needs a hug, a cup of tea or maybe just be left alone in peace for a while. But mostly we just really like each other!”
Born in Dublin, McFadden trained from a young age at the famous Billie Barry Stage School, while performing in theatre and television. She earned her first lead role at 11 in “Annie” and later toured in Ireland and the United States with Irish entertainers such as Tony Kenny, June Rogers and Noel V Ginnity.
In 2006, McFadden moved from Dublin to London to pursue her dream of performing in the prestigious West End. After winning the reality ITV show Grease Is the Word, she played the role of “Sandy” in the West End production of Grease. McFadden also played the role of “Serena” in the original cast for the UK premiere of Legally Blonde the Musical and subsequently took over the lead of “Elle Woods” which earned her a nomination for the prestigious ‘What’s on stage Award’ for “Best Take Over.”
Other stage credits include the role of “Kathy” in Singin’ in the Rain at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin and Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork; the national tour of Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Andrews Lane Theatre; Daniel O’Donnell’s Rock ‘n’ Roll tour and “Milly” in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in the West End.
Since joining Celtic Woman, McFadden has entertained worldwide audiences with the beauty and majesty of her native culture. Even when she’s far away and needs some relief from the pressures of touring life, she knows just where to find a little escape and a homecoming of her own. “Barry’s tea! Every Irish person knows what this is. There is no better taste than a cup of Barry’s tea. I never leave the house without them,” she says.
“We just hope people who come see our show leave feeling happy. That’s what it’s all about really, performing music that we all love and having a good time. So, if people can come to our show and leave humming a tune and tapping their foot and feel like they’ve had a couple of hours of escapism and enjoyment, then that’s all that matters.”