Celtic Woman

Re-examining old tastes


Back in high school I used to listen to some songs by Celtic Woman, an all-female Irish group. I uncovered an old favorite recently and had another look at this group. Three things haven’t changed:

  1. I don’t actually like any of their individual voices.
  2. Some of their arrangements are just too good that I can overlook #1.
  3. I lost interest in them because Hayley Westenra joined them.

One thing has changed: I now think their performances are a disgrace.

Side rant on Hayley Westenra

NZ has at most five recognizable musicians or musical groups (probably closer to two in modern times). Hayley Westenra used to be one of them and I’m glad she’s now irrelevant. I strongly dislike her voice and everything she stands for. Maybe she sings beautifully, but at the same time all her songs are soulless, and I dare say her talent is unremarkable. Usually I’d stop here, because music is just music these days, and you can’t judge a person based on their music. But there are many exceptions to this, and I think as a former teenage star Hayley is one of those exceptions. Her beginning defined her. The way her career progressed, and the nuances of her performance: they still capture that flawed beginning. Is Hayley a good singer? A good role model? A good person? I think these are all related. It is also hard for me to dismiss the time she so casually butchered one of the national songs of my birth country at the World Games.

What changed?

Having learned more about recording and acoustics from dabbling in home recording, I realized this time round that one of my favorite songs When You Believe wasn’t quite right: the performance is lip-synced. Lip-syncing is common but we’re not talking 50%. We’re talking 100% lip-synced. The soloist Chloë Agnew is not producing any sound for the audience to hear. It gets worse. The whole choir behind her, and the instrumentalists including the flutist are lip-syncing and miming too. So more like, the performance is 5000% lip-synced. The whole song is a basically a prerecording with fancy clothing and exaggerated choreography. Who the actual fuck does that? Could you enjoy a concert knowing that was happening?


I’m not saying that Celtic Woman didn’t have talent; they clearly did. I’m not saying that all their songs within all their concerts were complete prerecordings; most of Hayley’s singing was probably live at the least. Still, it’s disappointing to realize that Celtic Woman happened to be one of the worst offenders in the industry.