One quarter of Celtic Woman Susan McFadden tells Fiona O’Brien about their new tour and her recent marriage
Susan McFadden is no stranger to the stage. Since entering the doors of the famous Billie Barry Stage School at the age of four she has enjoyed musical theatre, before going on to win ITV’s Grease is The Word in 2009.
Since then she cut her teeth on the West End, playing Sandy in Grease, and was the lead in the first ever Legally Blonde musical.
“I started from a very young age and I’ve been on the stage pretty much my whole life. My mum let me go to stage school when I was four as a hobby, just for something to do as an extra activity as well as school to keep me going and keep me busy as a kid,” she says.
“I just loved it. It was one of many, many different activities that I took up but this was the one that stuck that I loved that I continued. I was always onstage even as a child. I’d be going to theatre in the evening times after school to be in plays or musicals or whatever professional productions. I was onstage from a very early age and I continued with that after I finished my school.
“I did my school. I left school when I was 18 and had plans to go to college and maybe get a degree in something. But, I am continually working in theatre. I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can and then many years later, I’m still here and I’m still on the stage.”
Then four years ago she got the opportunity to join one of Ireland’s biggest exports and travel the world in the Grammy-nominated Celtic Woman: Destiny Live In Concert DVD.
The group was an idea imagined in Ireland in 2004 that included classically trained Irish female musicians and has since enjoyed success all over the world. Audiences come again and again to enjoy ‘all things Celtic’ from bagpipes and bouzouki to Irish dances.
“What first dawned on me was the fact that it was that it was such a long contract,” says Susan who is the longest serving member of the group.
Mairéad Carlin joined in 2015, Éabha McMahon last year and now the band are introducing the breath-taking new violinist, Tara McNeill.
“On the West End you get booked for shorter stints, but then that is very intense playing the exact same role maybe seven times a week.
“This way the show changes with every tour and album, and there could be a guest performer at every show so it always has that variety. I couldn’t imagine that I would stay so long, but at the moment I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Being part of the group has also brought Susan love. She met her husbandAnthony Byrne while working on the tour, as he travels with the group as a bagpipe player.
“It is really tough being away for ten months of the year, it really puts pressure on your relationships,” says Susan whose previous engagement broke up due to work commitments.
“But now it is brilliant having someone with me. He was part of Celtic Woman before me, but I literally couldn’t imagine doing it without him now.”
They tied the knot in Tinakilly Country House Hotel in Wicklow in July, in front of friends and family, including Susan’s brother, former Westlife member Bryan McFadden, who entertained the guests with his own rendition of Mustang Sally.
“It sounds really cheesy but believe it when people say it is the best day of your life,” she says. “It was really emotional. I’m my dad’s only daughter so he was quite moved”.