By Bruce Collier
Celtic Woman, the Irish music, song and dance ensemble, will grace the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Mainstage Theater in Niceville Sunday, May 1, at 3 p.m. The group is currently in the thick of its Destiny Tour, scheduled to play 85 cities in the U.S. The journey began March 4 in Nashville.
The Beachcomber recently caught up with violinist and founding member Mairead (pronounced Maw-Rade) Nesbitt for a phone interview shortly before curtain time in Cincinnati.
“We brought the Irish weather with us,” says Nesbitt, commenting on the heavy Ohio rain. A native of County Tipperary, she was in at the birth of Celtic Woman, which was founded in 2004-2005 as a PBS project.
“It was to be a one-night event,” she says. The success of the event prolonged the group’s lifespan. A debut CD and DVD release followed, and the album topped Billboard’s World Music Chart for 81 weeks. More sellout shows and platinum albums followed. The lineup has changed over the years, but Nesbitt has remained, staying true to her musical family’s traditions, a “fiddler” (her word) like her mother. Her father plays accordion, and grandmother is an organist. “I was very, very lucky,” she says, to have been raised playing classical and traditional violin at home.
Nesbitt began playing at age 6, and turned pro when she joined the RTE Concert Orchestra. From age 12, she played in concerts all over Ireland, watching and learning from those she played with—including Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor and Emmylou Harris. Additional credits include original soundtracks for Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames, and solo work on Disney’s animated features Tinker Bell and Tinker Bell—The Lost Treasure.
Nesbitt, once described as a “demon of a fiddle player,” is known not only for her playing, but also for her dancing. She has been known to cover an entire stage during a tune—sliding, leaping and twirling to her own passionate, sometimes high-velocity fiddling. “The music moved me,” she says. “If I feel it, I dance.”
Nesbitt attributes Celtic Woman’s international success to the excellence of the ensemble—principal vocalists Susan McFadden, Mairead Carlin and Eabha McMahon, along with the orchestra, choir and bagpiper. “They’re really fantastic.”
The company travels by bus, and most days performers check into their hotel, do their hair and makeup, followed by a meet-and-greet and the show. In their spare time they practice and occasionally rest. Nesbitt is also working on a new solo album.
The album of the tour’s featured songs, Destiny, is Celtic Woman’s tenth release, which they describe as “perhaps the group’s most explicitly Irish album to date.”
For tickets to the concert, call 850-729-6000 or visit MattieKellyArtsCenter.org.
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