Written by Kindah Mardam Bey
for Lucid Culture
In reference to the song “She Moved Through The Fair”, Deirdre Shannon says wispily in her authentic Irish lilt “Yeah, everyone seems to like that one.” A stunning Irish beauty ascending the path of classical crossover artist alongside the Celtic Tenors, who she is on tour with this year, Shannon has etched out a name for herself by exuding vocal excellence with traditional standards such as “She Moved Through The Fair”. On Shannon’s debut collection you are likely to hear such time-honoured songs as “I Know My Love”, “Ardaigh Cuain”, “Apron Of Flowers”, and the ever resilient classic “Danny Boy”. Deirdre Shannon does venture outward on her debut collection into classical crossover at times with renditions of “The Prayer” with Matthew Gilsenan, and even does a cover of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, which Rod Stewart made famous.
The reason I will tell you about Deirdre Shannon is that you may already know her voice, as she has been a soloist in Celtic Woman and was also Erin The Goddess in Lord of The Dance for four years. But most importantly, I will tell you about Shannon because she may be the answer to the much sought after classical crossover female artist in music today.
“’She Moved Through The Fair’ is a song that has followed me. I did it in Celtic Woman in a choral version I fronted, and also in Lord Of The Dance,” she tells me. Shannon’s version of the song has garnered her praise and awards already. Her debut collection was released in October of 2006 and it has already received attention for its simply understated beauty in a mere six months. Shannon says, “It was released on my website quietly, but seems to be finding its audience easily. The CD has been received very well as I already had a fan base from Celtic Woman, Lord of The Dance and also touring with the Celtic Tenors.”
Deirdre Shannon seems to exude a laid back calm to her career, life in general, and even when telling of her journey to music. Shannon reminisces, “I was raised in the middle of the countryside in Ireland; at my heart I’m a countryside girl, my heart is there. Growing up I had an eye for drawing. I went to school and received a degree in textile design, I specialized in interior lighting. At that time Ireland was coming outof a recession, the Celtic Tiger, the big boom in Ireland really had got started by then. Anything I made was very labour intensive and handcrafted, no one wanted it at the time, so I decided to go to the college of music, which I simultaneously didwhile I was getting my degree for textile design. I met an Irish acapella groupfeatured heavily in Riverdance and they asked me to tour with them, which I did forabout two years mainly in Europe. Through the acapella group Michael Flatley had heard about me and I auditioned for Erin the Goddess and then Celtic Woman after that and then the Celtic Tenors.” Shannon adds pleasantly, “Moving, moving, moving.” Aside from Shannon’s budding career, she has the benefit of youth that affords her to up-sticks and travel the world touring, she says that she will have to assess this lifestyle when she is married with children, but for now she feels “extremely lucky to go wherever she pleases.” Shannon continues, “I’m really happy where I’m at for the moment. I started very young and have been able to advance at a great pace in my career. Over the last three years I’ve found my niche as an artist and I am constantly developing in that. The older I get, the more I know who I am and that reflects in my music.” An astute understanding of her personal growth and her expansion as an artist has helped Shannon define her music and her career.How does Shannon describe her music? She’s considered folk by many broad standards but prefers to see her music as classical crossover. Shannon also has her own views on writing her songs; “I believe in different courses for different horses. I focus now more on my performance of the songs. I have a want in me to write my own songs, and I might in my future.”
Perhaps Shannon’s strongest point about her music is the emphatic belief in usinginstruments as opposed to synthesizers to accompany her voice. “My choice to useinstruments only, made for an expensive album; paying musicians is a lot more costly than using a synthesizer, and I funded this album myself, so at least the choice was mine. Listening to music over the years, one of my major hatreds is synthesizers. I feel a violin cannot be synthesized. It simply doesn’t sound authentic. For me it was a hands down decision, but I did take the brunt of that cost, but well worth it in the end.” By touring so much, Shannon has gained much of her experience by living instead of observing. What’s touring like? I asked and she responds, “Each country dictates the type of touring you’ll be doing. For example, you’ll have to travel for a month in the US because it is a larger sized country. You also have to be prepared to leave your home for a long time, and you’ll definitely have to concede on your healthy habits. No breakfast sometimes or other times your only option is a waffle house. If you are a stressful person, then the schedule can be grueling, but I try not to carry a lot of stress, so the schedule is fine for me. The joy for Deirdre Shannon is “getting to do what I love every night. I get to focus on my craft because time is so crucial on the road, at home I’d do a little singing, a little painting, etc., but on the road all you can do is travel and sing. It makes for a good discipline.”
Deeper and deeper into the conversation I realize that Shannon’s heart is in her voice and that is where her happiness rests. What was the best performance she ever had? “Quite a few spring to mind, really. Last Christmas we had gone back to Ireland for a Christmas concert and we were performing at the National concert hall. It’s a small hall, about two and a half thousand seats, but the room was full. At the end of the concert everybody stood for the last two songs and held hands. It was a moment where the energy coming off the people was beautiful, it doesn’t happen much in Ireland as we really aren’t a demonstrative people, so that was a lovely sight to see.” I suspect Shannon could talk about her moments spent in concert allafternoon, as she tells of another time. “I was with Lord of the Dance, and it was a stadium we were performing at in Birmingham, Alabama, and the sheer noise from the crowd was a phenomenal memory in itself.”
Deirdre Shannon, in her calm and pleasant outlook on life has simple advice for herself and others: “When you do something you enjoy, keep doing it, but when youdon’t enjoy it anymore, then stop.” I fully suspect that in Deirdre Shannon’s future,with her goals of a distribution deal, her own concert tour, and another CD releaseset out for her future, that if this laid back Irish lady ever feels that she’s not enjoying herself, she’ll simply stop; but her unequivocal joy at talking about her music lets me know she never will.
Music that inspires Deirdre Shannon is: Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Josh Groban and the classical composer Shostakovich.