Four years ago Celtic Woman, the five member Irish super group, traveled from Ireland to America on a fast track journey to super stardom that has been like a dream come true for vocalists Chloe, Lisa, Lynne, Alex and Celtic violinist Mairead. This week the all-female super group are back in the U.S. with their new Isle of Hope tour, a big budget dazzler calculated to delight the fans who ensured their last album was number one in Billboard magazine's World Music charts for an staggering 90 consecutive weeks. But it's all in a days work for the young Agnew, who says that the biggest drawback to the group's epic international tours is that she misses hanging out with her Dublin friends on the weekends. "I was practically born on the stage," Agnew tells the Irish Voice. "Both my parents were in the entertainment business at home in Ireland. My father David Agnew is a well-known oboist and my mum is the very well known entertainer Adele King, or Twink. "So I was born into the spotlight, really. I did my first TV appearance when I was four weeks old, I made my stage debut at age six and I recorded my first record at 11." Given her glitzy background it's no surprise that when the call to join Celtic Woman came she immediately jumped at the chance. Everything she had done up to that point had prepared her for it. The only problem was that she still hadn't grown up yet. "At the age of 15 I packed my bags and got on a plane for Celtic Woman's very first international tour. I was terrified and elated at the same time. It's a very scary age to start off from but I feel like I've grown up with this show and with all the people involved over the last few years," she says. Anyone who suspects that Agnew had her path streamlined for her by her famous family's network of contacts needs to think again. The truth is that from the beginning Agnew made her own luck and created her own projects. It was her own commitment to performing that first got her noticed, not her famous parents, she says. "Some people imagine I got a leg up the ladder because of my mum and dad. Anyone who knows me knows that's not true," Agnew says. "Anything I've done I've done on my own bat. I approached Celtic Woman's producer and musical director David Downes myself at the age of 11 and I begged him to keep it a secret from my mum and dad. "We recorded 'Angel of Mercy,' a Christmas song for charity (for the children affected by 9/11), which raised over $40,000 at the time. That was a huge sum for an 11 year old. After that I recorded my first album and it sold so well I recorded a sequel. After all of that came Celtic Woman. So anything I have done I've done on my own bat and I'm quite proud of that, you know?" Although they perform as a group, Celtic Woman is really composed of five gifted soloists. Each one has immense and singular strengths to add to the final mix. "Celtic Woman: The Greatest Journey," the group's most recent album and DVD, was released just before Christmas, and the DVD includes a special behind the scenes documentary that vividly shows just how hard the girls have been working over the past four years. Amazingly, Agnew, one of the group's original members, has been touring with the show since it began, when she was just 15. "I'm 19 now, a grand old age," she says laughing, but in conversation she has the measured, thoughtful tone of someone who's much older. Clearly she's an old soul, or the show business life that has always surrounded her has taught her all about what to expect - and crucially, how to handle it. "My mum toured the U.S. when she was the exact same age as me, and it was shortly after that she became involved with the Irish show bands, where she took up residency in Las Vegas at the Stardust for five years," says Agnew. "I'm walking the same path as she has. For her it's kind of scary that I'm following in her footsteps. But I have always found it a blessing, though because she's been there, she's done what I'm doing, and if I pick up the phone she knows what its like. She understands the long hours, the tears and the happiness, you know? I'm very grateful for that." Touring with the show around the world, Agnew still found time to successfully study for her Leaving Certificate exam (Ireland's high school degree equivalent) with a private tutor. "It's important to keep up and I was dedicated to it, you know? I did well in geography and history because I'd actually been to a lot of the countries I had to write about," she says. "I feel very fortunate too. I mean, how many 18 year olds have actually been to China and Japan and all over Europe and everywhere else, so they have some idea about the place?" Fans wondering about what to expect in the new show will discover that it's Celtic Woman's most magical production yet, says Agnew. The song lineup features brand-new renditions of Sting's "Fields of Gold" and "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," as well as two original anthems entitled "Oh America" and "The Call" by Brendan Graham, writer of "You Raise Me Up," one of the group's biggest hits to date. Musical Director David Downes has composed new music for the 19-member orchestral ensemble that accompanies the group on the tour. Says Agnew, "We do have to pinch ourselves when we hear something like we've been number one for 90 weeks. You think, Oh my God, that is really us, that has really happened. It's so easy to just let things happen and forget about them in the midst of all the touring madness. It's only afterwards that you feel chuffed about it." The up and down life of show business is now Agnew's natural element, and she's lucky to have found her equilibrium at such a young age. "If I ever write a book I'll call it 'From Carnegie Hall to Lunch Duty,'" she says. "That's the way that my life turns anyway. I played Carnegie Hall in New York one week with Celtic Woman and the following week I was back at school on lunch duty, cleaning off tables and mopping the floor. "But that's life. I'm so fortunate to have this wonderful opportunity and I love every minute of it." Celtic Woman is now on tour. For tour dates details visit their website at www.celticwoman. com.
Ancient Irish recorded first solar eclipse 5,000 years ago