Meet the Mormon Celtic Woman

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Singer Alex Sharpe

Singer Alex Sharpe

CelticWoman_042715Roll out the emerald-green carpet. During May and June, Irish singer Alex Sharpe will rejoin the popular group Celtic Woman on tour, celebrating the popular group’s tenth anniversary.

The LDS musician is especially excited for the group’s City June 10 stop in Salt Lake City, where she has many good friends. “I probably have more friends there than here, in little Ireland,” she told me last week during a Skype interview. “We’ve had so many missionaries that have served here that I’ve stayed in contact with, and Americans who have been in our ward, and also work connections that I’ve made in America.”

Singer Alex Sharpe

Singer Alex Sharpe

This winter and spring, Sharpe has been putting in long days to get herself tour-ready. It’s twice as much work now as the first time she was in the show (2008-10) since this time she is pinch-hitting for two different people, covering for one regular during the tour’s first three weeks and another during the last five.

“My brain is scrambled!” she laughs. “I won’t be able to just sit back and relax those first few weeks. Just as I get comfortable with Mairéad’s part, I’ll switch and do Lynn’s shows.” There’s also “a lot more dancing this time around.”

It’s clear, though, that she wouldn’t trade the experience. “It’s very fun and exciting for the fans, to bring back the pre-existing girls.” It’s the first time Celtic Woman has brought together so many of the singers who have been involved in its various tours through the last decade.

Leaving Celtic Woman five years ago was tough, Sharpe concedes, but at that time she felt she needed to be home with her son, now thirteen. “I’m a single parent, so it was very hard to be on the road,” she says. “I don’t feel so bad going away this time, because he’s more independent now, and it’s also for a shorter time.”

But Sharpe has hardly been idle these past five years. She returned to her early roots in musical theater, including some pantomimes in the UK. She loved getting to play Maleficent — “a baddie,” as she jokes – and the challenge of developing new roles. “I like that variety,” she says. Something like Celtic Woman is “nice for the financial security, but as performers we need to be challenging ourselves. If you’re not a little bit scared and insecure, you’re not challenging yourself enough.”

She also recorded her first solo album, the LDS-themed Be Still My Soul. Filled with some of Sharpe’s favorite church songs and hymns, the collection also features some new songs, including the popular and heartfelt “His Name,” written by a California friend.

“The album was recorded to send out the message that people are not alone even if they feel alone. They have a Heavenly Father and he loves them,” she says.

Sharpe was a baby when her mother converted to Mormonism from Catholicism. “My mom had a lot of questions and wasn’t getting the answers she wanted from the priests, so when the Mormon missionaries knocked on her door she asked them her questions, and they had answers,” she says.

However, it wasn’t always easy. “She was inactive for some years, not because she lost her testimony, but because she was raising three kids on her own and it was tough. She was a young widowed mother. Back then, classes were split over a weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, and it was two bus rides to get to church.”

Today, Sharpe is active in her ward when she’s in town. Her most recent calling was to be the nursery leader, which she loved. “It was a nightmare trying to get people to stay in nursery callings, but I had great fun,” she says.

She had to leave that calling in December to take a job in Cork.

“I’ve been back [home] since January but I haven’t been approached about a calling. And the bishop knows I’m going to be gone for most of the summer. So right now I’m enjoying a break from having a calling, but it’s still very busy. I teach in a theater school, and I’ve been trying to get them ready for their big concert, and learn all the Celtic Woman music and choreography. It’s busy, but it’s all good.”

OneHeartOneVoice_042715She’s also preparing for her own first solo concert, which will take place in Logan, UT, on August 7 and 8. “Everybody has caught the spirit of this,” she says, noting with pride that the musicians for “One Heart and One Voice” are all volunteers, and the concert will be free to the public. “We just want to share our talents.”

At nearly 44, she’s a latecomer to the idea of a solo concert, mostly because she “wasn’t comfortable with putting myself forward.” She’s unsettled by the kind of celebrity attached to something like Celtic Woman, for example, which she says was her first experience with that kind of fandom.

“It didn’t fit with me until I was gone and received a lot of very positive feedback from people about how the [CW] music had uplifted them,” she says. Seeing how the music could touch people’s lives so deeply propelled her to consider the solo concert.

“I really believe that if the Lord has a plan for something to happen, it does,” she says.

 

  • DougH

    Celtic Woman has been one of my favorite groups ever since I first heard their music, but I wasn’t aware that a Mormon had been a member. Thanks for the info, and for the heads up.

  • Listening Closely

    Well well, I am overwhelmed that finally you have a real Mormon woman writing how she loves the church and what it means to her. She knows what it is to love the Lord with all her heart and appreciates whatever has been thrown her way and made the most of it. No complaining, no grumbling, No telling how much smarter she is then the leaders of the church. This is what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is all about. Alex Sharpe stands out and above any of your previous writings that I have read. There were some good ones who stood their ground and I credit them for doing so after the beating you have given them. This type of article is what people of the church need to hear more often and maybe, just maybe, it might light up their lives.
    It is easy to find fault especially, in this day and age of fault finding but it can be eliminated if we look for the good things in people and help them to know, Life is worth living and someday all what we suffer will no longer exist.

  • A Happy Hubby

    “Listening Closely”, I am glad you like this and I am sorry that it bothers you if anybody says anything at all negative about the church. For many of us we are driven and in fact feel that we are being guided to improve the church. If you study church history you will see that so many things in the church came from someone seeing something less than what it could be and taking steps (not from church HQ) to improve. The Primary, RS, Young Single Adults, the welfare program, just to name a few. I for one find that Jana is very thoughtful and not like some exmo’s that just complain about everything.

    For me I am happy that this member is part of this wonderful group. I don’t like the group any more or less just because 1 member of it is “in my clan.” I just hope she does not get blasted for occasionally showing a shoulder (gasp!), but I guess now I am getting into items that Jana often pokes at.

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  • Listening Closely,

    It IS easy to find fault. It’s just very, very ironic to hear that comment from someone who so often appears to be guilty of the very thing of which I stand accused.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  • You’re welcome, Doug! This interview was a joy to do. I only learned about the Mormon connection because a reader who is a fan of Alex’s alerted me to it by email. I hope you will check out her album, which is beautiful and very inspiring.

  • Thank you, Happy Hubby.

  • Listening Closely

    To Happy Hubby,
    Thank you for replying to my comment on Celtic Woman.
    Just so you understand better. There is nothing wrong with someone being unhappy in the church it happens all the time. But in the case of Jana, it is carried way beyond unhappy. It is complaining about everything she disagrees with and wanting to discourage others towards the church. You don’t improve the church by belittling it and its leaders. For example, if i have a problem with anything I am dealing with in the church I go to the bishop or one of his counselors. If i can get it taken care of with them, great, but if I don’t get it taken care of i do everything I can to make my situation better. I am not in charge of the church that is why the Lord has leaders to oversee His church. It is not my calling to belittle the church as Jana does. This article as I said earlier is the first one I have seen that I can say; it was positive, not anti-church, or tear down anything. How much more refreshing this is.

  • Eric

    Amazing. You’ve taken a great article that puts the focus on a church member apparently worthy of emulation and then turned that around to put the focus on someone you think is doing the church harm. Maybe you should have just expressed your gratitude for the story and let it go at that.

  • Listening Closely

    Eric,
    Thank you for your reply to my comments.
    Amazing, that you missed what i said. I gave credit for this story on the ‘Celtic Woman.” Because it was very good. But I was comparing it to what I am usually reading by Jana, which is not commendable. i know people who think and feel like she does which is sad because those people are missing out on the beauty of the church. I gave accolades to Jana, for the piece and how much more I appreciated this story then the other negative stories she writes. I hope you understand what I mean.

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  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    There must be a good mature man out there who can help share the work and joys of parenthood with such an outstanding person.

  • Roger

    Hi, Jana: I’m the retired pastor who wrote to you before about Alex and how much her album has inspired me. Thank you for your wonderful article about this inspiring lady of faith. I hope that members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir hear Alex on the CW tour and in solo concert and invite her to be a featured soloist after the tour is over. Peace and have a blessed day..

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  • SarahA

    Please some one take me to this year’s party I’d be so grateful.http://www.celticwomanconcerts.com/c/celtic-woman-discography/celtic-woman-destiny/