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Music-Theater-Dance

Irish Legends: Celtic Woman brings traditions to life

Vocal group takes stage at Stranahan Theater Tuesday

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    Mairead Carlin, left, Eabha McMahon, Susan McFadden, and Tara McNeill make up Celtic Woman. The group performs Tuesday at Stranahan Theater.

    TROY FISHER

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    The vocalists of Celtic Woman.

    TROY FISHER

As she pursued a career in theater and television, Dublin resident Susan McFadden set her sights on a lifelong dream to perform in the West End theater in London.

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Mairead Carlin, left, Eabha McMahon, Susan McFadden, and Tara McNeill make up Celtic Woman. The group performs Tuesday at Stranahan Theater.

TROY FISHER Enlarge

But in 2012, a life-changing offer drew her down an-other path. McFadden is now a lead vocalist with Celtic Woman, an Irish music group that returns to Toledo on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. performance at the Stranahan Theater.

“I was living in London and had just finished [performing in] Legally Blonde [the Musical]. I was sort of looking for my next job and this came up and it was quite a curve ball,” McFadden said in a phone interview with The Blade. “But when you do this for a living, you never know where you are going to end up.

“For me, getting the call to be a part of Celtic Woman was the best thing that ever happened to me, it changed my life.”

McFadden is one of three vocalists with the group; Eabha McMahon and Mairead Carlin also perform vocally. The group also includes its newest member, violinist and harp player Tara McNeill, Irish dancers, and a full band of percussionists, guitarists and traditional Irish instruments, such as Irish uilleann pipes, which produce a beautiful, powerful sound that guests will recognize from the movie Braveheart, McFadden said.

“There are four male choir members who sing and dance as well, so there is a lot going on. It’s not just the four of us on the stage,” McFadden said.

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The vocalists of Celtic Woman.

TROY FISHER Enlarge

The stop in Toledo is part of Celtic Woman’s North American tour to promote its new album, Voices of Angels. The tour started in March and wraps up in June. The group last performed in Toledo in 2015.

It comes on the heels of another celebration of Irish spirit with the performance of Riverdance at the Stranahan in March.

The group performs traditional Irish melodies, such as a newly released version of the Celtic ballad “Danny Boy,” as well as modern-day songs, in-cluding their rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic.

McFadden, who trained at the Billie Barry Stage School starting at a young age, said Celtic Woman was her first experience performing as herself. She describes the group’s music as jolly and rhythmical. Irish music, she said, always tells a story.

“Hundreds of years ago, you would be sitting around a fire telling stories and playing music, and those there would put the stories to music,” she said.

Celtic Woman made its debut in 2004, when the group’s performance at the Helix in Dublin in front of a sold-out audience was recorded for PBS television and broadcast in 2005. The group hit No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music chart with its debut album, Celtic Woman, and has been at the top of the international charts several times since.

Celtic Woman has released 12 albums — selling more than 10 million albums and DVDs around the world, and have performed for millions in 23 countries. In 2016, Celtic Woman was nominated for a Grammy in the Best World Music Album category for its release, Destiny. Its newest album, Voices of Angels, is described as the most classical of the group’s career, and was recorded with a 72-piece orchestra.

They have performed for presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and at the Pentagon.

“The show is a joyful fusion of all things Celtic — from bagpipes and bouzouki to Irish dances. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s a universal celebration of life. It’s traditional. It’s contemporary. It’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” writes Dave Kavanagh, Celtic Woman’s executive producer, on the group’s website.

Each of the singers has solo performances, and the audience plays an important role in a Celtic Woman performance.

“The audiences vary so much and we feed off of their energy. It makes for a lively event,” McFadden said. “One thing I like about America in general is the audiences are fantastic — energetic and enthusiastic. We are looking forward to coming back to Toledo for another show.”

Tickets are still available for the Stranahan show by going to go etix.com or calling the box office at 419-381-8851. Prices range from $32 to $102. For details, celticwoman.com

Contact Roberta Gedert at: rgedert@theblade.com or 419-724-6075 or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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