Monday, April 4, 2011

Review | Celtic Woman: Singers deliver emotional renditions.

Celtic Woman, a group that features three female singers and a female fiddler, dazzled an all-ages crowd in the first of its two concerts yesterday in the Ohio Theatre.

People who knew the group from its public-television specials, its CDs that top the world-music chart or its DVDs gave Celtic Woman several standing ovations and didn’t mind shelling out $20 for concert programs. Photography was strictly prohibited in the Ohio, but one parent had the right idea by snapping a photo of her daughter beside the logo on one of the group’s trucks parked on State Street next to the Statehouse.

The group’s 21/2-hour (including intermission) “Songs from the Heart” show stressed emotional renditions of pretty songs in Irish and English. Even when the words weren’t understood, the tunes were either lively ( Mo Ghile Mear, Nil Sen La, Non Ce Piu) or, in the case of Dulaman, came with an amusing anecdote: New member Lisa Lambe said the title is Irish for seaweed, and the folk tune is her favorite love song about seaweed.

Lambe acted out the song as she sang it, trying to decide which of the two male bodhran players she really loved. She had just as much fun deciding between a rich man and a poor man in the ensemble piece At the Ceili.

The other singers were also strong. Chloe Agnew had a soulful voice that made Galway Bay and When You Believe shine, and sometimes she seemed as if she might spontaneously start dancing and disrupt the concert’s careful choreography. Lisa Kelly had a pretty voice and gave fine readings of Fields of Gold and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Fiddler Mairead Nesbitt pranced about the stage like an impish pixie as she sawed away, smiling and waving her bow in the air to get people to clap along on tunes such as Granuaile’s Dance.
The quartet changed costumes a few times and spent a lot of time going up and down a couple of steps of the drapery-laden stage. A six-member choir that also changed costumes and frequently entered the stage holding lighted candles filled out the vocals.

Above the singers were the two drummers, who had a variety of types of percussion, and to their left was musical director/keyboardist/mastermind David Downes. On the right were three male musicians (playing guitars, bass and Uilleann pipes).

That piper, Tony Martin, switched to bagpipes and joined another bagpiper, Anthony Byrne, as the women sang Amazing Grace with such beauty that it brought some to tears.
There were several other high points when the harmony of the women’s voices sparkled: Orinoco Flow; Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears; My Heart was Home Again; Goodnight My Angel; You Raise Me Up and, of course, Danny Boy.

In a fine sendoff, the kilt-wearing Byrne serenaded the crowd with his bagpipe as they exited.

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