Celtic Woman alters sound slightly with ‘Voices of Angels’ show

Celtic Woman will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at Bell Auditorium. NAOMI GAFFEY/SPECIAL

Being a singer in Celtic Woman had been a long-held dream for Éabha McMahon. Now, after more than a year in the group, she feels the reality of being a Celtic Woman has exceeded how she envisioned life.

One reason has been the camaraderie with fellow singers Susan McFadden and Mairéad Carlin and the recently departed violinist, Mairéad Nesbitt.

“It’s so rewarding being on stage as a team with the girls, and we’re all equals and we all get on so well,” McMahon said in a recent phone interview. “If there’s ever a night where you’re feeling unwell or have a cold or something, they’re always there to lean on. They always lift you up. I can’t explain it. It’s like a force … I mean, I’ve definitely made friends for life.”

The music she has recorded for the popular Irish group – which includes the 2015 studio album, Destiny, and the newly released Voices of Angels – and the different shows she has performed on tour also gave McMahon more than she anticipated.

“The show, when I joined, was the 10th anniversary (greatest hits) show, and that went into the Destiny show and then into the symphony (Christmas themed) show and now into the Voices of Angels,” she said. “So I’ve been fortunate to be part of all of those different shows in such a small space of time, like a year and a half … You’re just constantly on your toes, and I love that. I don’t like getting too comfortable. I like challenge and I like when things are switched up a little bit.”

McMahon figures to continue to give her toes a workout as Celtic Woman heads into a busy 2017.

The group is just beginning its tour in support of Voices of Angels, with a stop at Augusta’s Bell Auditorium at 8 p.m. March 18. It figures to be a very different show from last year’s Destiny tour, which was meant in part to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, a failed uprising against the British Empire that triggered the Irish War of Independence and a truce in 1921 that established Ireland as an independent state.

“I think (the Voices of Angels show) is going to be so exciting and something quite different to the Destiny show,” McMahon said. “Destiny would have been quite, I think, traditional Irish. There was a lot of Irish in it, Irish music and all of that. And it went down brilliantly. And I think Voices of Angels is more geared toward like classical crossover.”

For most cities, what will also be new with the Voices of Angels show will be violinist Tara McNeill. She recently replaced Nesbitt, who was the last remaining original member of Celtic Woman, and made her American debut with the group on its 2016 Christmas tour. For McNeill, the Voices of Angelstour will be her first visit with Celtic Woman to many of the American cities.

In a separate phone interview, the violinist (who also plays harp and sings) said she has made a smooth transition into Celtic Woman.

“The girls have been, you wouldn’t believe how welcoming and comfortable they’ve made me feel,” McNeill said.

Perhaps one reason McNeill has quickly settled into Celtic Woman is the group is accustomed to this sort of change.

McMahon became the 11th singer to join the ranks of Celtic Woman when she replaced Lisa Lambe in 2015. By that point, she was joining a group that had gained worldwide popularity for its blend or Irish music and adult contemporary pop, having sold more than nine million copies of its CDs and DVDs during its first decade.

The Destiny project put McMahon in a comfort zone immediately with Celtic Woman. The album leaned toward traditional Irish material, which was perfect for her, a native of Dublin who grew up focusing on traditional Irish singing and won a number of notable singing competitions in Ireland.

Voices of Angels, though, is notably different than Destiny. For one thing, it features a fuller sound, thanks to the liberal use of orchestration in the arrangements. It also features a unique mix of material, with five new songs, new recordings of several fan favorites from the Celtic Woman catalog and a trio of Christmas songs.

For McNeill, the musical direction of Voices of Angels complemented her background in classical violin and traditional Irish music, particularly on a pair of instrumental pieces that are on the album.

“I don’t think there could have been a better time for me to join because of this album,” McNeill said.

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