Concert DVDs boost Celtic Woman

As a child, Lisa Kelly occasionally visited Powerscourt House & Gardens, a historic mansion near Dublin, Ireland, modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France.

But when Kelly returned to Powerscourt last August as a member of Celtic Woman, she gained a whole different perspective.

"As a child, you don't really appreciate it," Kelly said in a recent phone interview. "But the minute you go back, you realize how beautiful it is and how vast the estate is. They have a Ritz Carlton there actually in the estate. That's how big the estate is. ... They have beautiful statues within the grounds, and they were all (lit up) for the show. Oh, it was just magical."

As her comments suggest, Celtic Woman didn't go to Powerscourt as tourists. The vocal group was there to film its latest concert DVD, "Songs From the Heart: Live at Powerscourt House & Gardens." The show had its debut last November on PBS.

The live DVD also served as a prelude to the recently released studio CD, "Songs From the Heart," which features the studio versions of a number of songs that were performed at Powerscourt. The CD debuted at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's world music albums chart earlier this year, while the live DVD also opened at the top spot on Billboard's DVD chart.

Concert DVDs — and the exposure they have received on PBS — have played a central role in building the career of Celtic Woman, which was formed to sing on a TV special filmed in Ireland by musical director David Downes and producer Sharon Browne.

In addition to that original DVD and self-titled debut CD, the group has gone on to release three more of each. In all, the ensemble has sold more than 4 million copies of its CDs and DVDs.

Celtic Woman has had some changes since its debut. Singers Lisa Kelly and Chloe Agnew remain from the original lineup, but two other vocalists, Orla Fallon and Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, were replaced by Alex Sharpe and Lynn Hilary. Fiddle player Mairead Nesbitt, another original member, remains in the group.

As the "Powerscourt" DVD and "Songs From the Heart" CD suggest, Celtic Woman has weathered the personnel changes just fine.

"We've been very lucky that all of the girls who have been picked to be in Celtic Woman have all been great," Kelly said. "And it's not just stage-wise because there's more to us than that. We have to live together and we have to travel together. So it's important that the personality traits are there as well."

Kelly is also pleased with the way the "Songs From the Heart" CD turned out. Like other Celtic Woman CDs, it covers a wide range of musical styles, including a little classical ("Non C'e Piu"), a few traditional Irish songs ("My Lagan Love" and "Galway Bay"), standards ("Amazing Grace") and covers of contemporary songs (Sting's "Fields of Gold" and Billy Joel's "Goodnight My Angel").

"I felt that 'Songs From the Heart' kind of went back to the roots of Celtic Woman, went back to having a classical number, having the traditional (Irish songs), having all of those things," Kelly said. "That is what Celtic Woman was all about."