But before rushing home for the holidays, the women of Celtic Woman — Chloë Agnew, Lisa Lambe, Susan McFadden and violinist Máiréad Nesbitt — stopped by the Anniston Performing Arts Center Friday night to spread a little Celtic cheer.
“Y’all don’t know how happy we are to back in Alabama,” Agnew told the audience in an accent that sounded exactly like a very Irish voice doing a very bad impression of a Southern drawl.
Presented by Knox Concerts Series, the show was billed as a low maintenance version of the group’s usually high-end productions, trading elaborate costume changes and set design for orchestra accompaniment. It turned out to be a fair trade.
From the opening number, “Carol of the Bells,” the ladies’ simple entrance and (relatively) understated black evening gowns were overshadowed by the power of their crystal clear voices rising over the full orchestra. And it proved indicative of the evening ahead.
Agnew’s Southern accent notwithstanding, each performance was a flawless showcase of some new nuance of the group’s talent.
Lambe’s sad, sweet interpretation of “Auld Lang Syne” brought more than a few to tears with its raw emotion. Meanwhile, an upbeat take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” gave the traditionally mournful tune a joyful edge. And on a classic rendition of “White Christmas,” the ladies managed to create a vintage sound to evoke memories of Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.
The one regret in a delightful evening was the reining in of Nesbitt's famously high-energy performance. The limited space afforded after accommodating a full orchestra on stage didn't allow the fiddle player to perform with quite the same abandon as seen in past performances. The audience hardly seemed to notice, though. When Nesbitt took the stage alone for one of the traditional Irish jigs she's known and loved for, the crowd immediately took their cue and clapped along for the light-hearted interlude.
Despite the sold-out crowd, the PAC’s low stage — discreetly decorated with evergreen and a sprinkling of white lights — made for intimate surroundings to witness the uplifting and unblemished Christmas spectacular.
If the Celtic women return home with as much holiday spirit as they shared with their audience Friday, Ireland is in for a very merry Christmas.