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 has exceeded her expectations of life in the group.
One reason has been the camaraderie with singers Susan McFadden and Mairéad Carlin and fiddler Mairéad Nesbitt, who recently left the group.
“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 mid-November 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-rooted group – which includes the 2015 studio album “Destiny” and the newly released “Voices of Angels” – and the shows she has performed on tour also gave McMahon more than she anticipated.
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“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’ … 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 like challenge and I like when things are switched up a little bit.”
McMahon expects a workout as Celtic Woman concludes 2016 and heads into a busy 2017.
On its 2016 Christmas tour the group performs with local symphonies in each city on the itinerary. So not only is the show itself different from the 2015 edition, there’s the variable of performing with a different symphony from night to night.
Then early next year, Celtic Woman will begin a lengthy tour in support of “Voices of Angels” and will have a new show for that occasion.
For now, McMahon finds herself in the Christmas spirit and happy to help bring this year’s Celtic Woman holiday performance to cities across America. The tour comes to Sacramento’s Community Center Theatre on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“It’s such a mix of Christmas music and (other) music from the ‘Voices of Angels,’ and maybe Christmas music that’s been done for years in the show, but now has been arranged differently by (musical director) Gavin Murphy,” she said.
Violinist Tara McNeill, who recently replaced Nesbitt, makes her American debut on the Christmas tour. In a separate phone interview, the violinist (who also plays harp and sings) said she has made a smooth transition into Celtic Woman.
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 of Irish music and adult contemporary pop, having sold more than 9 million CDs and DVDs during its first decade.
The “Destiny” project put McMahon in a comfort zone immediately with Celtic Woman. Created to celebrate this year’s 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, “Destiny” leaned toward traditional Irish material. This was perfect for McMahon, a native of Dublin who grew up focusing on traditional Irish singing and won a number of notable singing competitions in Ireland.
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. “It made me slotting into the group that much easier and more comfortable because on the album we have ‘Across The World,’ which is very traditional. Then also I have another solo (piece) called ‘For The Love of a Princess.’ That’s the love theme from the ‘Braveheart’ movie.”
Celtic Woman Home for Christmas
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1
Where: Community Center Theatre, 1301 L St., Sacramento
Information: 916-808-5181; www.sacramentoconventioncenter.com