KU Presents! Offers Rare Chance to See Renowned Celtic Duo

Photos of Cahill and Agnew

By Susan L. Peña

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – The acclaimed Irish tenor Emmet Cahill of Celtic Thunder and soprano Chloë Agnew of Celtic Woman will perform together 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, Schaeffer Auditorium, as part of Kutztown University’s KU Presents! series. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this one-time concert will feature songs from Broadway and beloved Irish music, as well as a few love songs and will be preceded by a “Sup Like a Singer” dinner 6 p.m., Schaeffer Little Theater (reservation required). The duo will be accompanied by pianist Seamus Brett, assistant music director of Celtic Thunder.

Agnew, born in Dublin, Ireland to stage and television entertainer Adele “Twink” King and oboist David Agnew, made her singing debut on Irish TV at age six. At 14, she became an original member of the internationally famous Celtic Woman, formed in 2005. She has toured the world with them and can be heard on many of their albums. In 2013, she departed to pursue a solo performing, recording and songwriting career.

Agnew said she was excited to be performing with Cahill in Kutztown in February. “This is a one-off show,” she said. “It’s pretty special. Emmet and I have done shows together many years back, but between Covid and me being back touring on the 15th anniversary tour with Celtic Woman and him back with Celtic Thunder, our paths haven’t aligned. I’m thrilled that this opportunity came up with this particular venue. He is one of my favorite voices in the whole world . . . an amazing talent. I hope it’s the first of many to come.”

The two did perform together virtually during the Covid lockdown and their video duet of Van Morrison’s “Days Like This/Have I Told You Lately” is still available online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dotDURnQjRI). Agnew said they will probably perform it as part of the live show.

As a child growing up with two parents in the entertainment industry, Agnew said she started early with singing, dancing and theater. “My grandfather used to say, ‘If you hang around wet paint long enough, some of it is bound to rub off on you.’ It was a way of life. I never saw it through rose-colored glasses.”

While receiving her formal training in the prestigious Christ Church Cathedral Girls’ Choir in Dublin, she recorded a charity single at 11; the record company invited her to record an album at 12 and then another one two years later. This led to her joining Celtic Woman and on to more opportunities as a solo performer. “It wasn’t by intention,” she said, “but I wouldn’t change any of it for the whole world. It’s been a blessing to fall in love with music many times over.”

For Agnew, the Covid lockdown was her first chance since she was 14 to have quality time with her family and her dogs in Ireland. While there was plenty of fear and uncertainty about her career, she said, “there was a great sense of people rallying ‘round each other. There were online writing sessions, remote recording sessions and I had a chance to work and connect with people for the first time on the other side of the world. Now, I’m reaping the benefit from all that. Life is now back to its normal, crazy, hectic schedules and touring.”

Cahill, too, grew up in a musical family in Mullingar, Ireland in County Westmeath in the Midlands Region. His father, Martin, was a piano teacher and choir director and his mother, Carmel, was a church singer, who saw to it he had piano lessons starting at age five and vocal training at seven. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where he won an award for “Most Promising Young Singer.” He also won multiple awards in the Irish National Feis Ceoil singing competition.

After performing professionally as a soloist, Cahill was invited to tour with Celtic Thunder in 2011, and has performed with them periodically ever since, including a 72-city tour of the United States and Canada in 2016. He has recorded a solo album, “Emmet Cahill’s Ireland,” with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and recently performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He is currently on tour with Celtic Thunder this spring and is working on a new album to be released near the end of the year.

“I was actually booked for this tour in 2020,” Cahill said, “but Covid shut it down. The show in Kutztown will be a very unique show. It’s our first opportunity in years to work together. We’ve been guests on each other’s shows (in the past).”

During the Covid lockdown, Cahill said, he kept busy by filming a series of four documentaries in Ireland for viewing online, focusing on Irish music and its relationship to history and culture. It involved a trip to the West Coast of Ireland for filming and he is continuing with the Irish diaspora story. There are plans to have the documentaries screened on PBS.

The lockdown, he said, “gave me a different perspective on music. Suddenly we had to be still, and then we began collaborating with other people. It taught people the value of being able to be together and music as a conduit to connecting. It’s reflected in the live shows.”

Cahill said he is scheduled to perform in his first opera as Ferrando in Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte,” in late July in Hong Kong; and after that as Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore.”

“We’re back with a bang,” he said.

Tickets for Emmet Cahill and Chloë Agnew are $36; $32 for students and seniors and can be purchased at www.KutztownPresents.org or by calling the KU Presents! Box Office 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, at 610-683-4092. Established to be the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that entertain, educate, and enrich.