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Music / Celtic Woman

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The Original Five - Lisa, Máiréad, Chloë, Órla, and Méav.

Celtic Woman is an all-female, New Age/Celtic/Contemporary Classical singing group. Created by music director David Downes, the ensemble blends the girl-group concept of hit groups like the Spice Girls and Celtic artists like Enya with some of the elements of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance tour. Their repertoire ranges from Celtic tunes like "Mo Ghile Mear" and "Nil Se'n La" to modern standards like "You Raise Me Up" and "When You Believe."

Originally supposed to be just a one-off concert at the Helix Theatre in Dublin in 2004, the group decided to remain together and start touring globally due to the groups popularity overseas, especially in the United States. In fact, the group wrote a song called O, America to thank the United States for all the love and support.

The group has released 18 albums, sold over ten million albums worldwide and consistently charts at or near the top of the World Music chart. Their albums have also set records for length of time at the number one spot; in fact, their first album was only knocked to second place after over a year by their subsequent album "A Christmas Celebration."

The line-up has varied across the years, as members have left and others have replaced them. Overall, there have been 18 different members; 16 vocalists and 2 violinists.

Current Members:

  • Máiréad Carlin: (2013 - 2021, 2023 - present) - A lovely soprano with a breathy voice, and like Lynn before her, a true "Black Irish". Has shared the stage with Snow Patrol, The Priests, and Ireland's National Symphony Orchestra, and has also performed for the President of Ireland. Replaced Chloë in August 2013. She made her PBS debut in late 2015, on the Destiny concert special, however she toured earlier with the group during Emerald - Musical Gems Tour in 2014. Carlin is the first member from Northern Ireland. In 2021, Máiréad left the group to pursue solo work. In July 2023, Máiréad returned for Celtic Woman's 20th Anniversary.
  • Tara McNeill: (2016 - present) - Joined to replace Máiréad Nesbitt after Nesbitt announced she would be leaving to focus on her personal work. Another former member of Anúna, she plays violin and harp, and is a singer as well. First appeared in the orchestra at the Destiny concert playing the harp. Made her debut in the following Voices of Angels CD and Homecoming - Live From Ireland DVD. She and Máiréad Carlin are the only two Celtic Women from Northern Ireland.
  • Muirgen O'Mahony: (2021 - present) - Joined the group in early 2021, replacing Máiréad Carlin. From Cork, she debuted in the Postcards From Ireland CD and TV special.
  • Emma Warren: (2023 - present) - Joined after Megan announced her departure. Originally from Dublin, Emma was the lead dancer with Riverdance for over 5 years.

Former Members

  • Deirdre Shannon: (2005 - 2006) - Temporarily replaced Méav on tours during Méav's pregnancy in 2005. Although no offical recordings of Deirdre have been on any albums, she was acknowledged as being part of the group on their Celebration: 15 Years of Music and Magic album.
  • Méav Ní Mhaolchatha: (founding - 2007, 2015 - present) - Another former member of Anúna with a thing for upbeat, cheeky songs. Has a healthy solo fanbase, particularly in Japan, where her voice is considered "healing music." Made a one-album-only return on Home For Christmas, to fill in for Lisa Kelly during the latter's pregnancy. Returned to the group in 2015 as Creative Director.
  • Hayley Westenra: (2006 - 2007) - New Zealander with Irish heritage that has a thriving solo career and a clear, bell-like angelic voice. Was a big attraction during her single year with the group. She was featured on the A New Journey album and tour as a guest artist. Returned to her solo career after the A New Journey Tour.
  • Órla Fallon: (founding - 2009) - A former member of world-renowned Irish chamber choir Anúna. Her unique voice has been consistently raved about; its haunting, ethereal timbre evokes ancient Ireland. Plays the Irish harp, and has accompanied herself on songs such as "Carrickfergus" and "Isle of Inisfree." Lisa Kelly described her as "angelic". In 2009, released her solo album Distant Shore, which included both traditional music and her own compositions, as well as her own harp accompaniment.
  • Alex Sharpe: (2009 - 2010, 2015, 2018) - Got her start in Dublin's theatre world. First joined the group in 2007 as a replacement for Lisa Kelly, who was on maternity leave; joined permanently after Fallon's departure in 2009. Returned temporarily in 2015 with Lynn for the Decade 10th Anniversary Tour. Returned again for a few weeks to fill in for Susan who went home for a family emergency.
  • Lynn Hilary: (2007 - 2010; 2014 - 2015) - Classically Black Irish with the fairytale voice to match. Also a former member of Anúna. Replaced Méav in 2007 in time for the A New Journey Tour. Left and returned home to Ireland after Song From The Heart Tour. Returned and toured with the group again to fill in for Lisa Lambe in 2014. Announced she would be leaving the group at the end of 2015.
  • Lisa Kelly: (founding - 2013) - Former singer with Riverdance, with a talent for soaring ballads. Numerous solos has David Downes accompanying her on the piano. Took a maternity leave in 2008 for the birth of her daughter and was replaced with Alex Sharpe. Took another maternity leave in 2012 and was replaced with Susan McFadden. Permanently left the group in early 2013 to open 'The Lisa Kelly Voice Academy' in the US.
  • Lisa Lambe: (2010 - 2014) - Soprano with a full, throaty voice reminiscent of Méav's. Has done theatre, television and music. Has long locks that rivals Chloe's. Is one of the most well-respected artists in Ireland. She has been described by the Irish Times as "the finest singer and actor of her generation." Left the group in 2014 to go back to theatre and pursue solo projects.
  • Máiréad Nesbitt: fiddler (founding - 2016) - Former All-Ireland Fiddle Champion for a reason (she's been playing since she was six years old), CW's fairy-like violinist has been described as a "fiddle pixie." She bounces all around the stage while playing her heart out. Also played with the Lord of the Dance tour. Was the last remaining original member before leaving in 2016.
  • Éabha McMahon: (2015 - 2020) - Joined to replace Lisa Lambe in the group's 2015 Destiny tour. Yet another former member of Anúna, she has won several singing competitions and headlined a sold out show in New York City in aid of Kylemore Abbey. She will be releasing her first solo album in 2016. Left the group in early 2020 to persue her own projects.
  • Chloë Agnew: (founding - 2013, 2020 - 2022) - First sang on television at the age of six years old, was only fifteen when she began performing with Celtic Woman. During her tenure, she was generally treated as the lead singer of the group. In fact, during her original tenure, of all the DVD concerts she appeared in, Chloë was the first vocalist heard. Her trademarks are her light and clear but powerful soprano and her long hair. Left in 2013 to pursue solo projects. Returned to the group in 2020 to fill in for Éabha. On 19 August 2022, Agnew announced that she would be taking a break from group once again to focus on solo projects.
  • Megan Walsh: (2018 - 2023) - A classically trained soprano, Megan joined after Susan McFadden's pregnancy in 2018 and made her debut on Ancient Land. Released a solo song called 'Maybe' in 2021. Megan is currently the youngest member ever, born in 1997. On 16 April 2023, Megan announced she was stepping down to pursue solo projects.
  • Susan McFadden: (2012 - 2018, 2021 - 2022) - a soaring mezzo-soprano. Previously starred in many productions in London’s West End, including as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical; the role earned her a nomination for the prestigious ‘What’s On Stage Award’ for Best Takeover. Also, incidentally, the sister of Westlife's Brian McFadden. Left the group in 2018 to start a family. Returned to the group in 2021 in a part-time basis, filling in for Chloë for seven shows and Megan for the last few shows during the Postcards From Ireland Tour in 2022.
  • Hannah Traynor: (2022 - 2023) - Replaced Chloë after her second stint, Hannah will be toured with the group in the 2022 Christmas Tour. Originally from Kilkenny, Hannah is another former member of Anúna.


  • Celtic Woman (2005) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, Órla, and Méav.
  • A Christmas Celebration (2006) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, Órla, and Méav.
  • A New Journey (2007) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, Órla, Méav and Hayley.
  • The Greatest Journey: Essential Collection (2008)
  • Songs From The Heart (2010) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, Lynn and Alex.
  • Lullaby (2011) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, and Lynn.
  • Believe (2011) - with Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, and Lisa L.
  • Home For Christmas (2012) - with Máiréad N., Chloë, Lisa L. and Méav.
  • Emerald - Musical Gems (2013) - with Máirèad N., Chloe, Lisa L. and Susan.
  • Destiny (2015) - with Máirèad N., Susan, Máirèad C., Éabha and Méav.
  • Voices of Angels (2016) - with Susan, Máiréad C., Éabha, Tara, and Méav.
  • The Best of Christmas (2017) - a compilation of past Christmas music
  • Homecoming - Live from Ireland (2018) - with Susan, Máiréad C., Éabha, and Tara.
  • Ancient Land (2018) - with Máiréad C., Éabha, Tara, and Megan.
  • Celebration: 15 Years of Music and Magic (2020) - compilation album of all past members of Celtic Woman.
  • Postcards From Ireland (2021) - with Chloë, Susan, Tara, Megan, and Muirgen.
  • Christmas Cards From Ireland EP (2022) - Digital only with Susan, Tara, Megan and Muirgen.
  • Celtic Woman 20 (2024) - with Máirèad C., Muirgen, Emma and Tara; with special apearances by Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, and Méav.

Celtic Woman Provides Examples Of:

  • A cappella: "Somewhere", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "Over the Rainbow", and "Hush Little Baby". For each album there is certain to be one number performed in this style.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The band and background dancers briefly have a little fun performing for the audience on the Emerald concert while the ladies are backstage. Until Chloë, Lisa and Susan came on stage and caught them.
  • Adventurous Irish Violins: Courtesy of Máiréad Nesbitt and Tara McNeill.
  • Album Intro Track: "Walking in the Air" from their debut album opens with a brief intro of "The Last Rose of Summer".
  • Alliterative Name: David Downes and Lisa Lambe.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: The group have recorded many versions with different vocalists. One can be heard here
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: numerous over the years
    • The original lineup - blonde (Chloë, Méav, Máiréad N), brunette (Lisa K.), and redhead (Órla).
    • The 2011 lineup - blonde (Chloë, Máiréad N), brunette (Lisa K.), and redhead (Lisa L).
    • The 2017 lineup - blonde (Susan), brunette (Máiréad C, Éabha), and redhead (Tara).
    • The 2021 lineup - blonde (Chloë, Susan, Megan), brunette (Muirgen), and redhead (Tara).
  • Christmas Songs: A Christmas Celebration and Home for Christmas.
  • Classical Music: Tara's version of Where Sheep May Safely Graze to name one.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted with their cover of Black is the Colour.
  • Cover Version: Plenty. "You Raise Me Up" and "When You Believe," just to name a couple.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Has one in all-male Celtic group Celtic Thunder.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The very first song on the first Celtic Woman album is an instrumental excerpt of "The Last Rose of Summer". A complete version with lyrics would not be heard until their third album, A New Journey.
    • "My Lagan Love" was originally an instrumental solo by Máiréad N. from their debut concert, and then with vocals by Lynn on Songs from the Heart.
    • Órla performed an original song called "Shooting Star" during the 2005-2006 concert tour, which would not be seen on a CD until her debut album Distant Shore in 2009.
    • The German Deluxe Edition of the Songs From the Heart album features "A Spaceman Came Traveling" performed by Lisa Lambe a few months before her introduction on the Believe album and concert.
    • Happened again with the German-exclusive edition of Believe. Susan McFadden sings with Lisa Lambe, Chloe, and special guest Chris de Burgh on the song "I'm Counting on You".
    • Máiréad Carlin toured with the group for over a year before making her debut with Éabha on Destiny. On the Destiny concert only Éabha received a welcome as the newest member of the group since many fans were already familiar with Máiréad.
    • Eagle-eyed viewers have noticed Tara McNeill in the orchestra playing the harp in the Destiny DVD concert before she became a full time member.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first concert focused much more on the solo artists, which makes sense - it was originally intended to be a one-off event at the Helix in Dublin, bringing together five of the biggest names in Irish music. The concert sparked a tour, Celtic Woman exploded onto the World Music scene, and by A New Journey the five artists - and the production team - had gelled into an organic, coherent whole. From A New Journey onward the songs were a pretty solid mix of duets/trios/group numbers and solo numbers, with each of the girls generally having one or two solo songs in the concert, and Celtic Woman had matured into its current form.
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted completely. Órla was easily the gentlest and most soft-spoken member of the group. As is Lisa Lambe and Tara McNeill.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Says Lisa K. of the original five, "We get along because we're so different. Chloë Agnew is hip, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha is rational, Órla Fallon is angelic and Máiréad Nesbitt is energetic." And Lisa herself? Well, she's the "bossy mommy"!
  • Genki Girl: Máiréad N. The way she plays her violin (whenever the music she's playing starts to pick up she begins to bounce around the stage) should be a good indicator.
  • Genre Shift: Most of the music Máiréad plays goes from a slow slip jig to a very fast-paced reel as the song goes on. Also, there is the occasional song which don't really fit the group's style such as Let It Snow on their first Christmas album and a Lisa Kelly cover of Forever Young. These are often included as bonus songs on the albums.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey, which also features reworked tracks like an extended version of "You Raise Me Up" and live versions of numbers performed at the Slane Castle concert.
    • Celtic Woman: Emerald - Musical Gems. However, this features rerecorded versions by the then-current line-up, so it is also an Updated Re-release.
    • Celebration: 15 Years of Music and Magic celebrates the groups 15 year anniversary with a compilation of songs from their previous albums. Apart from Deirdre Shannon, every past member up to that point is included in the album.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: The unnamed protagonist of "Níl S'én lá", who provides what could well be the page quote:
Fill the glasses one more time and never heed the empty bottle
Turn the water into wine and turn the party up full throttle
  • Harp of Femininity: Órla Fallon, and now, Tara McNeill.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Several of the songs have these as their ending. A good example would be Lisa K.'s singing of "The Voice" in A New Journey and Susan's version in Emerald, where they hold out the final note for eight seconds before the music cuts out.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-on-This-Record: The redhead of Celtic Woman's "logo" isn't a member of the group (considering the actual members are all very attractive women). It's stated on their website that this is what a traditional Celtic Woman looks like.
    • Although toured with the group in 2005, there are no recordings of Deirdre Shannon in any of the albums.
  • Let's Duet: Numerous. Méav and Hayley duetting "The Last Rose Of Summer"; and Lisa K. and Lisa L. duetting "My Heart Was Home Again".
  • Melismatic Vocals
  • Mood Whiplash: A few of their songs feature dark lyrics set to upbeat music. For example, Bean Pháidín on Destiny is about a jilted woman who wishes to break the legs of the woman married to the man she loves.
  • Mutually Exclusive Party Members: Meav and Hayley, who needed to alternate positions during the A New Journey tour to maintain the group's Arbitrary Headcount Limit as a five-member group.note . And this was in spite of the album and DVD concert being performed by all six members.
    • Alex and Órla were then brought up for this prior to the Isle of Hope tour, as Lisa Kelly rejoined after her first maternity leave and Alex's status as a member was put into question. Averted when Órla announced her departure, allowing Alex to become a full-time member.
    • Chloë and Susan are alternating tour dates for the 2022 Postcards From Ireland Tour.
  • Mr. Fanservice: The group's drummers, namely Ray Fean who frequently shows off his muscular arms.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Frequent, and always appreciated. Pretty much universal with Máiréad's costumes.
  • One Lisa/Máiréad Limit: With Lisa Lambe's joining the group, things got a mite confusing. When Lisa Kelly left the group, this ended - until Máiréad Carlin joined a year later!
  • One-Woman Wail
  • Pardon My Klingon: Songs that are either composed of Gaelic or some other language.
  • Pimped-Out Dress
  • Revolving Door Band: Notably, the group did not become this until the departures of Alex and Lynn after the Songs from the Heart tour, after which the line-ups began to change drastically.
    • There was a notable period of stability from 2015 to 2017 where the vocalist line-up remained the same across three albums.
  • Scenery Porn: Slane Castle in County Meath (venue for the A New Journey concert video); The Powerscourt House and Gardens near Enniskerry, County Wicklow (venue for the Songs from the Heart concert video); and Johnstown Castle in County Wexford (venue for the Ancient Land concert video), all in Ireland as well as all locations which were filmed for Postcards from Ireland — the group's first special to be a series of music videos rather than a concert.
  • Self-Titled Album: The group's first album.
  • Ship Tease: Chloe has blown kisses to conductor David Downes on more than one occasion.
  • Supermodel Strut: Méav has been noted in the press as the member of the group who adds a "delicious wriggle" to her performances, and tended to be the most blatantly sensual of the group. This trope was a key component of said blatant sensuality.
  • Team Mom: Lisa Kelly.
    • Hilariously Chloë (who is the youngest member of the group) has demonstrated this trait. In the behind-the-scenes footage of the Songs From the Heart concert, Máiréad and Lisa reveal they both forgot important items only for Chloë to find what they nearly lost: a violin and a baby, respectively (Lisa was on her first tour with a baby).
  • Temporary Substitute: This is needed when current members are unable to participate in touring. Depending on the circumstances, several of these substitutes became full-time members of the group.
    • Deirdre Shannon: replacement for Méav during the group's first tour from 2005 to 2006.
    • Alex Sharpe: replacement for Lisa Kelly's first maternity leave. Later joined the group on a permanent basis after Órla Fallon's departure and remained until 2010.
    • Susan McFadden: replacement for Lisa Kelly's second maternity leave. Joined the group on a permanent basis after Kelly's departure.
    • Méav: replacement for, again, Lisa Kelly on the Home For Christmas album and Chloë on the DVD.
    • Lynn Hilary: replacement for Lisa Lambe, who returned home to spend time with family and act in a play.
  • The Bus Came Back: Méav returned for the Home For Christmas album. Later, Lynn Hilary returned to take over for Lisa Lambe on the first half of the group's 2014 tour.
    • Alex returned temporarily in 2015 for the 10 year anniversary and again in 2018 to fill in for Susan.
    • Chloë returned in 2020 and stayed for a few years before leaving again in 2022 (partially owing to the pandemic halting the 2020 tour).
    • Susan also returned in 2021, although in a part-time basis, filling in when necessary.
    • Máiréad Carlin returned in 2023 for the groups 20th Anniversary.
    • Lisa K, Máiréad N., Chloë, and Méav returned for the filming of the 20th Anniversary Concert.
  • The Heart: Lisa referred to Órla as "angelic"; since her departure the role has been filled by Chloë.
  • The Unpronounceable: Pick a random person off the street, show them Méav Ní Mhaolchatha's name and ask them to pronounce it. Watch hilarity ensue. (The correct pronunciation is approximately "Mayv Nee-mwail-ka-ha.")
    • A few people have trouble pronouncing the names of Máiréad (pronounced like parade but with an M) and Éabha (pronounced Ay-vah) due to the spelling.
    • The Irish names of the songs also qualify to non-native speakers of Irish Gaelic.
  • The Voiceless: Máiréad N., who is the sole member of the group to not be a vocalist. She has spoken onstage a few times, once at the end of the group's rendition of "Let It Snow" during the first Christmas concert. Another time was before the performance of "You Raise Me Up" during Emerald. Her role is now fulfilled by Tara McNeill, although Tara is a vocalist, she is known for playing the violin and harp instead.
  • When She Smiles: Órla Fallon. When she smiles, you will smile back.