By the time I spoke with Celtic Woman singer Susan McFadden she was in Alabama halfway through a four-month, nearly 100-date American tour with the beloved ensemble that first debuted this side of the pond 12 years ago on PBS television.
June 2 | 7:30 p.m. | Reno Events Center | Reno, Nev. | $43.50+
“This year in particular is probably our busiest U.S. tour ever,” she says. “It’s quite a grueling schedule. We’ve just hit good weather. So when the sun shines, it puts us all in a good mood.”
Somehow the musical ensemble, featuring a selection of classically and traditionally trained, Irish female musicians, still manages to turn every performance into a unique night.
“It starts out quiet and by the time we reach the end people are up our on their feet dancing, clapping and singing along. It’s all about the shared experience between the audience and us up on stage.” – Susan McFadden
“The audiences in America are brilliantly energetic,” says McFadden. “When they are on our side, we want to give them the best performance we can. Their energy gives us a great boost on stage. Sometimes we are tired, but as soon on the music starts you get transformed into another world and lose yourself during those two and a half hours each night.”
McFadden was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, where her parents started her in stage school at age 4. By the time she was age 11, she was starring as Annie at Olympia Theatre. Further performances in “Legally Blonde,” “Grease” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” garnered her the attention of Celtic Woman in 2012 and she has been with the production ever since.
“I was living in London’s West End [theater district] when I got the call completely out of the blue,” she recalls. “I was excited to go on tour with Irish people again. I thought I’d do it for a year and five years later, I’m still here.”
As part of the casting protocol, Celtic Woman purposely looks for women who they believe will collaborate well during the long months on the road.
Listen to Celtic Woman’s “Danny Boy”
“We spend a lot of time with each other, but we actually all genuinely get on,” says McFadden. “I think the main thing is really we respect each other. If somebody is homesick or having a down day, we support her, but also respect her space and privacy.”
McFadden sees Celtic Woman as an opportunity for her and the rest of the cast to showcase to the world the diversity and depth of their country’s music and cultural heritage.
“People think we all have red hair and freckles,” says McFadden, a natural blonde. “I think we break that stereotype because we are all Irish. Tara McNeil is the only one who has red hair and she’d be a very rare beauty in Ireland. We feel very proud that we are four Irish woman touring the world. Ireland has never had an all-woman group with our level of success. Celtic Woman is still touring after 12 years and we feel quite strongly about that.”
Like the other women in the show, she believes there is more to Irish culture than is stereotypically acknowledged or celebrated around the world.
“Our country is one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world and this show represents a modern and vibrant representation of our community,” she says. “The performance moves from old songs into the 21st Century. We also have this beautiful big screen on the back of the stage that projects images of Ireland. Maybe some people are not be able to make the journey themselves, so we can take them there through the music and imagery.”
Although they are sure to perform classics such as “Amazing Grace,” “Danny Boy” and “As She Moved Through the Fair,” Celtic Woman aims to bring a modern approach to traditional Irish music. They will be performing classic tunes, as well as new songs from their 2016 release “Voices of Angels.”
“We bring the audience on a journey,” McFadden says. “It starts out quiet and by the time we reach the end people are up our on their feet dancing, clapping and singing along. It’s all about the shared experience between the audience and us up on stage. I hope everyone comes to see us.”
To purchase tickets, visit visitrenotahoe.com.