Thursday, April 24, 2014
From the music director who brought the dancing Irish extravaganza "Riverdance," David Downes has used his talent to round up instrumentalists, dancers, lighting crew members and four (rotating) talented women in his 10-year-long global music sensation Celtic Woman.
The all-female group is stopping in Lawrence to perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lied Center on The Emerald Tour in support of their latest studio album, “Emerald: Musical Gems.” Originally recruited in 2007 and performing with Celtic Woman until 2007, Lynn Hilary has returned for this 75-city tour, joining Máiréad Nesbitt, Máiréad Carlin and Susan McFadden.
“I just floated right back in as if I never left,” Hilary says. “Loads of the same people are still working for the company, which is really nice because it’s like family. And I’ve gotten to meet all the new people so it’s fresh and familiar at the same time.”
Classically trained as a soprano at DIT College of Music in Dublin, Hilary was a vocalist in "Riverdance" 10 years ago. While it’s a production that she would say is 99 percent focused on dancing, with singing bits here and there, Downes had her in the back of his mind when looking for another Celtic Woman performer.
“He remembered what my voice sounded like and what I was like,” Hilary says. “Riverdance was my audition process for Celtic woman kind of.”
Celtic Woman is the only all-female classical crossover group to reach multiplatinum status in the past 10 years; all eight of their albums and seven DVDs are multiplatinum best-sellers. Each of the women has qualities that reflect the ideals of Celtic woman portrayed in folklore, which is likely the reason for the singular group name, Hilary says.
“I’ve never quite known how to answer that,” she says.
Her character is shy, much like how she’s been since she was a young girl. The others, a collection of fiery, youthful, and strong women.
“It’s a representation of all the qualities of the quintessential Celtic woman,” Hilary says.
Dressed in ornate costumes as goddess-like creatures, the four women with angelic voices, are joined by world class musicians, the Aontas Choir, bagpipers and championship Irish dancers. Hilary says there are more visual elements in this production that highlight the talent of individual performers, bringing even more energy than they’ve had in the past.
“The musicians get more attention drawn to them,” Hilary says. “Drum solos, bass solos, guitar solos, piper solos and piano solos, so visually you’re drawn to them and you kind of meet each of them, and they’re so brilliant.”
The program features a number of uplifting songs including “Mo Ghile Mear," "Dulaman,” “Caledonia,” “Danny Boy” and “The Voice.” Also featured are new interpretations of ever-popular “Amazing Grace” and “You Raise Me Up.”
Much has changed since the beginning, Hilary says, where the show had been slated as four women singing classic folky Irish tunes in mythical ball gowns that might be what stereotypically depicted Irish would have worn years ago. With elegant, feminine and more imaginative clothing, Celtic Woman has undergone quite an evolution.
“It’s become a little bit like a girl group, but also a stage show, like something would be on the West End or something,” she says. “It’s got those qualities because of the little stories within the music.”