Before the airing of Believe, the sixth concert special by Irish sensation Celtic Woman, fans had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the chart-topping group. The singers – Chloë Agnew, Lisa Kelly, and Lisa Lambe – would give heartfelt, stirring emotional performances with their pitch-perfect voices, adding a dash of performing pizzazz when warranted, while fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt would enchant audiences with her effervescent movements as she plays her violin. There would be solos, group numbers, a lively song-and-dance number, drums, and bagpipes. Believe meets all of the above expectations, adding a dose of the new here and there.
That isn’t to say that Believe is boring – anything but. Believe, which is currently airing on PBS stations and will go in tour this spring, is a magical new concert experience, bringing music to life in the distinctive Celtic Woman style. From the opening of “Awakening,” the show takes viewers to another world, one where all you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the harmonies.
The highlights of the show, for the most part, echo past elements that have worked so well for Celtic Woman. “Téir Abhaile Riú” follows in the tradition of “At the Céili” and “Níl Sé’n Lá,” more Irish-sounding songs where the performers wear simple dresses and sing and dance while telling a fun story. New member Lambe adds her lively personality and spoon-playing skills to separate it from these past numbers. “Mna na hEireann” is similar to past Nesbitt performances, like “The Ashoken Farewell/The Contradiction” and “Slumber My Darling/The Mason’s Apron,” which are essentially two tunes, one slow and emotional, the other lively and toe-tapping. Kelly’s and Agnew’s solos keep in line with their pristine voices, with Kelly’s heartwarming “The Water is Wide” and Agnew’s perfect “Ave Maria.” Lambe’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling” is easily the best solo, adding necessary flair to the show, à la former member Alex Sharpe’s theatrical “You’ll Be in My Heart” from a previous show.
The newest element in Believe, besides Lambe’s inclusion, is the addition of an Irish step dancer in a couple of numbers, including the aforementioned “Téir Abhaile Riú” and “Mna na hEireann.” His dancing adds rhythm and excitement to the show – and a necessary element of surprise.
Believe, thus, keeps in line with the Celtic Woman formula, which fans have come to expect. I admit that I have fallen under the spell of Celtic Woman, and I enjoy everything they turn out. But sometimes I wonder if casual viewers want something else from them. True, they do turn up the performance slightly with each new show, but you have to wonder if they’ll ever change the formula – and if they do, if it will have the same magic it has now.