Celtic Woman's newest member: Group is 'the perfect platform for me'


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Tara McNeill is a violinist, singer and harpist from Antrim, Ireland. In 2016, she became the newest member of Celtic Woman, which performs tonight at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. She is only the second violinist to ever join the No. 1 world music act and the first multi-instrumentalist as she also brings her harp and voice to the group.

She has toured Canada, China, Japan and Holland as both a singer and solo violinist with the vocal group Anúna. She is also the solo violinist on the album "Illumination." In Celtic Woman's 2015 TV special "Destiny," she plays the harp. She took some time out to answer staff writer Paul Wood's questions.

Tell us about growing up in a very musical family.

I have two brothers and one sister. We all played the piano and sang and either played the violin or cello. It was lovely being surrounded by music growing up, and as I was the youngest, I could see and hear how my siblings improved over the years. It was a special thing being able to make music with my family, and it still is.

What made you want to join Celtic Woman?

I had admired Celtic Woman for years and always watched videos of them on YouTube, believing I was meant to be a part of the group. I loved the beautiful music and arrangements and thought it was the perfect platform for me as a female Irish performer.

When did you start to play the violin? What's your favorite thing about the instrument?

I started playing the violin when I was 8 years old. I feel like the violin is now an extension of myself ... another limb. I love that the violin is like a voice, it can sing and speak with so many emotions. It's also such a beautiful piece of art — the detail that goes into making a violin is incredible.

Tell us about the harp.

The harp is actually the national symbol of Ireland. It holds a special place in our hearts, and it's wonderful to have in the show.

What was it like studying with Michael D'Arcy?

I was very lucky to study with Michael D'Arcy in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. He was a wonderful teacher with endless knowledge of the violin. We could spend an hour working on just two lines of music.I always left each lesson inspired and determined to improve for the next week. I owe so much to him.

You toured with Camerata Ireland and pianist Barry Douglas, performed with the RTE Concert Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra, led the Ulster Youth Orchestra and both the RIAM Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. Of all those, what was your favorite?

These were all very great honors, but I have to say that my favorite was leading the Ulster youth orchestra. I was in this orchestra for seven years, starting at the back of the second violins, pretending that I could play all the difficult passages. The orchestra course was the highlight of my summers growing up so when I got the position of leader, I was just delighted. It was a real sign that my hard work over the years was paying off.

If you go

Who: Celtic Woman

Where: Virginia Theatre

When: 7 p.m tonight

Tickets: $45 to $106

Info: 217-356-9063, thevirginia.org/event/celtic-woman/


Paul Wood is a reporter at The News-Gazette. His email is pwood@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@pvawood).