As singer Alex Sharpe sees it, the timing for Celtic Woman's "Isle of Hope" tour couldn't be much better.
The show, which began last spring and goes through this fall, took on new meaning that couldn't have been anticipated when it was conceived.
"With a new president in office in America, I think a lot of people there are very inspired and full of hope," Sharpe said in a recent phone interview. "I think the theme of the tour goes in harmony with the hope that America has with a new president and ... with the hope that the Irish had coming to America, the hope for a better life. There's kind of a synergy there."
The "Isle of Hope" tour represents a major next step in building on the success Celtic Woman has had over the past five years.
The group has recorded a new song, "O, America!," for the tour, and a new concert special just debuted on PBS. That performance will be the DVD component of a new CD/DVD package, "Songs From the Heart," which will be released on Jan. 26. The CD will feature studio versions of a new collection of songs.
Originally, Celtic Woman was formed for a single television special filmed in Ireland, and musical director David Downes and producer Sharon Bowne recruited four singers — Orla Fallon, Chloe Agnew, Lisa Kelly and Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, along with fiddle player Mairead Nesbitt — to perform.
That show went on to become a popular fundraising program for PBS in spring and summer 2005 and helped pave the way for a concert DVD that sold more than a million copies. Meanwhile, the group's self-titled first studio album topped Billboard magazine's world music chart for a record-setting 68 consecutive weeks.
Solo albums by each of the Celtic women arrived in 2006, and in the fall of that year a holiday CD, "A Christmas Celebration," was released and immediately topped the world music album chart.
For 2007, audiences got another spate of Celtic Woman releases. There was a second studio CD, "A New Journey," and a concert DVD, "A New Journey: Live at Slane Castle, Ireland."
Last year, the group took a look back with a best-of CD and DVD, both titled "The Greatest Journey: Essential Collection."
Celtic Woman's success has continued, despite several personnel changes. Fallon and Ni Mhaolchatha left the group, with Sharpe and Lynn Hilary taking their places.
Sharpe, who came on board in spring 2008, is the newest addition, and she adds a bit of a theatrical singing style to Celtic Woman.
A native of Dublin, Sharpe got her big break in 1998, when musical producer Cameron Mackintosh cast her in Point Theatre's "Les Miserables" in Dublin.
Next came a chance to sing on the soundtrack to the movie "Evita" (starring Madonna), followed by perhaps her most prestigious stage role, when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton cast her in the London production of their musical, "The Beautiful Game."
Sharpe, though, was ready for a change when Downes called looking for a singer to fill in for Kelly, who was pregnant and unable to do the next summer tour.
"I had kind of stepped back a bit from musical theater myself because I have a son," she said. "I had moved back (to Ireland) from London when I had him ... I was doing a lot of concert work here and I was doing some musical work, but it really came at a good time for me.
"As it turns out, Orla retired this year, so now I'm on board full time," Sharpe said. "Like they say, timing is everything."
With the current tour, Sharpe and her fellow Celtic women will bring their talents to a show that features plenty of new elements.
"There will be some of the old favorites in it music-wise, ones that fans really love, like 'Orinoco Flow,' 'Snow,' 'Sky & The Dawn,' 'Spanish Lady,' " she said. "Then we've got a broad new spectrum of new songs.
"Then there are a lot of the solos, we've all got new solos," she said. "And we've got a whole new stage setup as well. It's a much bigger production ... I think it's going to be a very exciting show."
If you go
What: Ensemble of Irish vocalists
Where: Century II Convention Hall, 225 W. Douglas
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.
How much: Tickets $25-$60, available at www.wichitatix.com, 316-219-4TIX. Information, 316-264-9121.