Dec. 14 2011 12:00 AM

Celtic Woman raises spirits with help from a symphony

For 22-year-old Celtic Woman singer Chloe Agnew and her group, Christmas is the time to try something new. Instead of the usual six-piece band that accompanies their shows, the four-woman ensemble has brought along a 45-piece symphony orchestra to support them for “A Christmas Celebration — The Symphony Tour.”

Agnew, whose parents were in the entertainment business in Ireland and who grew up around theaters, isn’t worried. As a child, she said (in a phone interview), “I was constantly surrounded by different music productions and concerts so it’s very natural to me.” 

If the group has temporarily changed its style, it hasn’t ignored what people expect to hear at a holiday concert. The program includes  “Carol of the Bells,” “White Christmas,” “O Holy Night,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” as well as some Celtic Woman favorites, such as “You Raise Me Up.”

Although the concert is grander than fans might expect, according to music critic Rachael Recker of Southwest Riverside News Network, it also gives Agnew and her sister songstresses a chance to show their personalities.

“The lack of pomp and circumstance seemed to allow the vocalists a stage on which to be a little freer with their words and audience interaction, which was a nice change to their typically ultra-polished concerts,” Recker wrote of the group’s appearance at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., earlier this month.

Celtic Woman continues to have mainstream success without the help of radio or video airplay. The quartet has succeeded by connecting to fans through PBS specials (their latest, titled “Believe,” premieres on stations nationwide this month) and a series of CDs that have topped the Billboard World Music charts, including “The Greatest Journey” and the recent “Lullaby.”

According to Agnew, touring the United States in December is actually quite a lot of fun. “Americans really know how to celebrate the holidays,” she said.

Celtic Woman: ‘A Christmas Celebration —
The Symphony Tour’

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18

Michigan State University Auditorium