Singer and instrumentalist Muirgen O’Mahony wondered if it was time to choose a new path after going nearly two years without performing due to the pandemic.
Then she landed what she thought was a long drawn out audition for Celtic Woman last year and everything changed.
The native of County Cork, Ireland has joined the Grammy Award-winning band known for bringing traditional Irish songs to the world stage. On Saturday, the band are set to perform at Proctors as part of their ‘Postcards from Ireland’ tour, which kicked off earlier this year.
O’Mahony, who is fluent in Irish, studied as a classical soprano at Cork School of Music and later studied musical theater at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
The Gazette recently caught up with O’Mahony about the band’s new album and what it’s like to tour after so long at home.
Q: What made you get into music?
A: I’ve always been a music-oriented kid. I was initially mainly an instrumentalist growing up, so I didn’t really start singing until I was 16. I had played classical flute and violin and different things before that, but I always knew I wanted to go down the music road. I don’t think I ever had a clear idea of myself as a performer, but from around 16 I started getting involved in musical theater and amateur theater and really fell in love with singing. and the scene.
When I made the decision to go into music for a university degree, I studied music in Cork. The only type of music degree that was available there was a classical course. I’ve had [to make] the decision to do classical flute or classical singing, and I decided to go with singing. Although I guess classical singing was something I never really saw myself in, I’m so thankful for the training I got there. It was awesome [base] for me too and for someone who had no singing experience before that, I think it was just a good start. Then from there, I continued with a master’s degree in musical theater in London. That’s really where I found my bearings in terms of singing and wanted to see myself with a career in music. There was never really a specific plan. It was a lot of grace [from] tutors along the way, lots of support from my family, and I guess experimenting with different avenues of industry. I would say yes to a lot of things. It got me to where I am and I’m so grateful that it did, because while some experiences may not have been particularly relevant, I think they all add to my journey.
Q: When did you first join Celtic Woman?
A: Actually, I joined Celtic Woman in June 2021. You can imagine it was just an absolute whirlwind because I hadn’t really played in about two years, due to the pandemic, which was just overwhelming. I really found myself at a crossroads, not knowing if there was a place for me in this industry, just financially and emotionally.
When this opportunity presented itself, not only was it a longtime dream of mine, but it came at a time when I was almost on the verge of closing the door on this vocation. It sounds so cliché, but it’s just a dream come true. Until we started the tour, I don’t think I had completely internalized my place in the band, and now I could be on stage and share [those] really special moments with the people on stage and also with the audience, it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced, but it brings the whole project together and ultimately I feel like I’m part of this group.
Q: When you joined the band, were you working on the last album? [“Postcards from Ireland”]? When did you jump into this process?
A: When I even talk about it now, how quick the turnaround was, it’s funny to think about. I auditioned at the end of May last year and found out maybe two weeks later that I got the job. Then about three weeks later we were in the studio recording “Postcards from Ireland”. It was crazy. Three or four weeks later, we were shooting the [TV] special around Ireland.
I had never even set foot in a recording studio, so going from not really knowing where your career is going to then being in a recording studio recording an album. . . I wasn’t sure what was going on.
Q: Did you feel like you had to catch up?
A: I feel like in those situations, and I think that’s what I mean about the opportunities that I’ve had along the way that maybe don’t play much relevance in my career now, but I think what [they] gave me the feeling of working on his feet and being able to adapt quickly to new situations. You might find yourself in a situation where you’re sitting with an orchestra, and you don’t have rehearsal time with them. So you literally have the right show and I’ve had those kinds of experiences in the past. So that really played into my strength and really helped me along the way.
It was still absolutely terrifying though and I gave myself some credit. I felt like given the lack of experience I have in a recording studio, I was really happy with how it turned out and just, I guess, pretty proud of myself . But to be honest with you, we had such an amazing team around us. Our sound engineer, our musical director, the girls, everyone was so supportive, and . . . to receive some sort of artistic license on songs I listened to growing up and now make a brand new version of them was just an absolute honor. I had already exceeded my expectations by just stepping in the door.
Q: How was filming the TV special after that?
A: It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. There are places in Ireland where I have never been, and to see them. . . First of all, we were shooting over two weeks, and filming outdoors in Ireland is such a risk, because it’s 90% [chance of] rain all the time. The sun was blazing for two weeks, which we couldn’t [believe]. It honestly felt like someone was looking down on us.
There were times when we were going to a shoot at 6 a.m. and it was raining all morning and the minute we stopped for the shoot, it stopped raining. It was actually surreal, the whole experience and seeing parts of Ireland that I had never seen before in that amazing sunshine and being able to pair that with that epic music was, again, something I feel like I’ve only ever seen it on TV. I never really lived on my own.
I had only met the girls a few weeks before. We had lunch together. It was the only time I met them. So having two weeks in a row where we were able to bond and have this magical experience together, I think we prepared this tour really well because we’re all like sisters, immediately. It’s cliché, but we like each other’s bones. The “Postcards to Ireland” special was just a bit of a snippet of what was to come. I think the final product speaks for itself. It’s just that it really shows Ireland in the most magical way. It was the best experience we could have hoped for.
Q: When did you officially launch this tour?
A: We launched the tour on February 24th. And it’s just been an absolute joy. It’s been a whirlwind and like I said, there are days when I don’t know exactly where I am. But every time we go on stage, the response from the audience has been overwhelming and I’ve never had an experience where you go on stage and people are already excited to see you. My background is with musical theater and it’s just a different environment where you gain respect from the public but Celtic Woman is such an old band that I’m following these amazing women who even came before me and the fans absolutely love the music. It’s so beautiful to be able to enjoy this connection with them too. My favorite thing about the tour is the audience reaction so far.
Q: How was it the very first time you performed live in front of an audience with Celtic Woman?
A: I really thought I was going to be inconsolable with nerves, but to be honest with you, I was so grateful to be there and just excited too.
There were definitely nerves from the first night; because I have a lot of nerves and also a lot of stage fright, I thought I would experience that in this first show. But it didn’t come and I don’t know if it’s just after the pandemic or what happened [me] a new perspective on her, I just got to enjoy it. For the first time in nearly two years, I felt like myself again, which I didn’t realize I was until we were actually on that stage.
Q: What became your favorite songs to play live?
A: For me, one of my solos is ‘Dúlaman’ which was performed most recently by Máiréad Carlin. It’s the most epic song. It’s really theatrical in the way we staged it. From the costumes to the dancers, the lighting and music arrangement is so epic. And I just got into a different character at that point, which is a nice change from some of the slightly more concert-like classic stuff that we have throughout the show.
Q: Are there any other songs from the ‘Postcards from Ireland’ album that you really loved recording?
A: I think for me the most epic was probably “Dawning of the Day” [and] youTo play it at Ballintoy Harbour. We would be doing our hair and makeup from 2am trying to catch the sunrise and that morning was just this fireball of a sunrise and it was over the most serene calm water. The song lends itself to that epic feeling of a new beginning and it was just a beautiful morning for me. . . I mentioned that the rain had stopped when we stopped at some places when we filmed ‘Mise Éire’ in The Burren, we had our hair and makeup on again at 2am and it was pouring rain. We thought, “Why are we up at this hour? We can’t shoot. I’m not kidding when I say 6am, we arrive and I was about to get off the bus and it just stopped raining.
The Burren has like a galactic stone landscape and because it was so wet from the rainfall, and then this really bright sun came out as the sun was coming up, it just reflected off all the rocks.
We were incredibly lucky with the kind of coincidence of the weather and the fact that due to COVID at the time there were so few tourists. So many of these areas were usually crowded with people, but since that wasn’t really a possibility at the time, they were completely empty. So we were very lucky in that regard as well.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Supervisors, Schenectady
MORE INFO: protors.org
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Schenectady