From the Emerald Isle: Celtic Woman mixes traditional Irish, pop songs

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For such a small country, Ireland has a far-reaching culture.
“I think people really are very interested in Irish people,” said Lisa Kelly during a phone interview from New York. “There certainly are a lot of us in the entertainment industry.”
Kelly is a founding member of Celtic Woman, a group that combines traditional Irish music and pop songs with a flair for the dramatic. That combination has resulted in more than 6 million CD and DVD sales and more than 1.2 million concert tickets sold.
Thanks to numerous PBS specials, Celtic Woman has been embraced by America. At first, Kelly and the other performers thought the group’s fans were the descendants of Irish immigrants.
“Initially, that’s what everyone thought, including me. We were surprised to find out it wasn’t the case,” she said. “We’ve toured Australia and we’ve gone to Germany. I’m continually getting e-mails from all over. No, you don’t have to be Irish. Not at all.”
On Sunday, Feb. 13, Celtic Woman will bring its “Songs from the Heart” to the BancorpSouth Arena. It’s part of a 73-city tour featuring Kelly, Chloe Agnew, Mairead Nesbitt and Lisa Lambe, as well as a six-piece band and the Aontas Choir.
“The major appeal for us is we love what we do,” Kelly said. “It’s not always easy. The travel can be a hard slog at times, but the two hours you spend on stage makes it all worth it.”

More than talent
Kelly had her first starring role at age 7 in “Bugsy Malone.” As an adult, she worked during the day and performed in the theater at night. She eventually landed a spot as a vocalist in “Riverdance,” then helped start Celtic Woman in 2005.
“It just really, really took a lot of work and luck, too. A lot more goes into making it than just talent,” she said. “It takes hard work all the way. It’s also how you work with others. Do they want to work with you? A lot of talented people don’t make it.”
Neither talent nor experience can inoculate Kelly from the butterflies she feels before each performance.
“I suffer really bad with nerves. I don’t like feeling nervous, but I guess it’s good,” she said. “I don’t enjoy the nerves and worrying about messing up.”
But the nerves are part of the “hard slog” that make the rewards possible.
“You’re up there and you look into the audience and you connect with somebody,” she said. “They’re either singing back to you or they’re crying or something. They’re connecting to you and you’re connecting to them.”
“Songs from the Heart” will include Irish classics, “My Lagan Love” and “Galway Bay,” as well as Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” Billy Joel’s “Goodnight My Angel,” and many more.
“Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” is a bittersweet song about Irish immigrants who went through Ellis Island on their way to becoming American citizens.
“One time, I connected with an old woman. She was crying as we sang. She came back stage. She was in her 90s, a sweet old woman,” Kelly recalled. “She said she was one of the last to pass through Ellis Island. Those kinds of moments are wonderful when they happen.”
No doubt, there will be songs performed Feb. 13 that stir Irish blood, but Kelly said you don’t need to trace your roots to the Emerald Isle to enjoy Celtic Woman.
“It’s extremely dramatic. It’s also telling stories, about the ups and downs of living,” Kelly said. “The sets are wonderful, and the lighting, too; they do a great job with that; and we get to wear those gorgeous dresses. It’s just a special show. It really, truly is.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

A week away
– What: Celtic Woman’s “Songs from the
Heart”

– When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13

– Where: BancorpSouth Arena

– Tickets: $35 and $55 plus fees at box
office, Ticketmaster outlets,
ticketmaster.com and (662) 841-6528