Friday, May 28, 2010

Alex Sharpe Announces Departure From Celtic Woman

A sad day for Celtic Woman Fans ....Another One Bites The Dust! :(

In light of all the emails and telephone calls I’ve received concerning the recent announcement that Alex Sharpe is leaving Celtic Woman, I thought it would be best at this time to offer my thoughts about it as well as give an overall historical timeline concerning the circumstances of how the other 4 members of Celtic Woman departed.

Let me be clear up front on this newest addition to leave Celtic Woman. I believe unlike all the other cases that Alex is making this decision on her own. She has recently gotten married and has a young child. The tour schedule is really too much for anyone. It really does take its toll. Ive traveled to many cities just to see the show. I along with others have traveled in much the same fashion as how the performers do. Ive only done it for weeks at a time. These people are doing it for almost a half a year at a time with no breaks. It really is hard. These people are really working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when on tour.

I am saddened that Alex is leaving but I cant blame her and I wish her the best. Nobody should sacrifice their family for any job. I work in the oil industry. I feed and house the people who work remote sites in Alaska. All the workers are from other areas of the country and they too are away from their families for weeks and months on end. In the 17 years Ive been doing this I can say of the thousands of people I meet here in this construction camp, the number of marriages that have lasted during that tenure is…..ZERO. I do understand how these long tours effect these people. How Lisa, Chloe, Mairead along with the other band members who have been on tour from day one have done it is beyond me.
In addition to the long tour schedule, traveling, being away from family and friends, these people really don’t have a life. Then toss in the abuse these people are subjected to by Celtic Woman management and it’s a miracle this group has lasted this long. But I feel as though the days of Celtic Woman are numbered.

Alex’s departure is interesting because not only was it announced on the Celtic Woman website but there is a statement from Alex herself. This is the first time that the departing performer has issued a statement on the official Celtic Woman website. That tells me that Alex is leaving on good terms and that this is her decision. I will give Celtic Woman the benefit of the doubt that there is no foul play involved on their part in this decision even though I know their history better then anyone else.

Now the question remains who is going to take the place of Alex. I have my thoughts on that and they aren't good. If I am reading this correctly then I’m going on the gut feeling that Alex will not be replaced. Its looking like they will continue on with only the 4 remaining members. Why do I say this? Because that is what Celtic Woman has posted. On the website they posted the following….

“The 'Songs from the Heart' Summer Tour in North America and our Australian Tour, will continue to feature the phenomenal vocalists Lisa, Lynn & Chloë, alongside the awe-inspiring Celtic violinst, Máiréad.”

Unlike all the other departures they are not naming a replacement and they have not indicated that a replacement will be named in the future. Is it possible they could name someone? Yes. However the reputation of Celtic Woman management is now known throughout Ireland based on the articles, and the word of mouth of people. Most performers who would be in the replacement pool would not be so willing to be subjected to the abuse these artists are subject to. In short, there are many now that want nothing to do with Celtic Woman including many who have worked and traveled with them.

Their best option for replacing Alex in my opinion would be to promote from within. I could easily see a current or former member of the choir moving into that slot to fill the void. Sara would be the best choice from the current line up in the choir. Roisin would be the next logical choice. Helen could fill it as well or any number of the choir members from the first DVD from back in 2004.

Celtic Woman has been left with little options as far as a pool to choose from. I believe they would be far better off promoting the choir members then to bring in someone new altogether. But as I said before, I believe based on their written statement that they have closed the door on any new additions of replacements. Words mean things. And the meaning I get from their statement is that Celtic Woman “will continue to feature the phenomenal vocalists Lisa, Lynn & Chloë, alongside the awe-inspiring Celtic violinst, Máiréad” and nobody else. Time will tell. And its going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I suggest people get their tickets to see Celtic Woman now while you can as I believe Celtic Woman’s days are numbered as we know them.

Moving on I want to address a question I was given some time ago by a reader of this blog concerning the departure of Orlagh. This person quoted the following statement I made and asked a question. Below is the quote and the question. The answer and historical outline follows.

"Then after loosing both Meav and Hayley 6 weeks apart, the next to fall in the crosshairs was Orlagh"I've been confused about this for a while, why exactly did they want to get rid of Orlagh?

To understand why they had to get rid of Orlagh you have to understand the full scope of the situation concerning Deirdre. Deirdre was fired because she was no longer any use to Celtic Woman. Her role was finished and she could not provide an incentive for the Japan audience to attend any Celtic Woman concerts. Meav on the other hand already was well known in Japan and in other areas around the world. Deirdre was fired as a direct result of the fact that she could not further advance a new audience in Japan.

Meav was brought back in for the promotional tour of Japan and the spring 2006 U.S. tour which started in Toronto, Canada. Kavanagh had every intention of tossing Deirdre to the curb as early as late December of 2005. On January 10th 2006 all the solo albums of all the Celtic Woman artists were released in the U.S. under the EMI label with one exception. Deridre’s album was not released even though Celtic Woman promoted its release in inserts that went out with the launch of the other artists solo albums. This insert clearly had Deirdre’s solo album as an EMI release under the Celtic Collections name.

When Deirdre was informed backstage after the concert at The Point via email that she was no longer wanted, it became clear to all as to why her solo album had not been released with the others. Again keep in mind that CW LTD and EMI promoted the album with inserts in the other solo albums. As a result of all these events and the fact that Deirdre herself told her fans via an internet chat set up by Danielle in June 2006 that Celtic Woman promised her a full time position as a 6th artist. It was during this chat that she informed us that she took legal action against Celtic Woman for wrongful discharge. Sadly she was unable to prove her case because she didn’t have the documents that would have proved this arrangement. I wont elaborate further on these documents except to say that they do exist. Also, the night that Deirdre was fired at The Point was the very same night that Kavanagh declared war on the fans from the U.S. There were about a half a dozen fans who traveled from the U.S. to Ireland for the show at The Point. Several fans went to pick up their tickets at “will call” and Kavanagh was there badmouthing the fans who traveled from the U.S. to the venue staff. He wasn’t talking in generalities. He named specific names of the very people who were there and they were the very people who picked up their tickets at “will call” while he was badmouthing these very fans. This is the type of person Dave Kavanagh is. So when you read in the newest Songs From The Heart show program his statement thanking the fans, DON’T YOU BELIEVE ONE WORD OF IT!!! This man is a piece of shit. Pure and simple!

When New Journey was filmed and the subsequent tour planed for the U.S. market for spring 2007, Hayley was added as a “guest.” The real reason why Hayley was added was to break into the European, New Zealand and Australian markets where Hayley was already very well known. However, the addition of Hayley presented a very serious problem for Celtic Woman which I will explain later.

The U.S. tour of Celtic Woman had an interesting situation announced 12 days before the start of the tour. Celtic Woman announced that there would be a tour lineup alternation between Hayley and Meav. Celtic Woman along with PBS, Madstone, and the PBS member station engaged in consumer fraud by promoting the tour up to that point as having all 6 of them on tour. There were hundreds of us who bought tickets unaware of this deception. This deception was pre planned and done to maximize ticket sales. This became one of the grounds of my consumer protection complaint in addition to the canceled meet and greet in Boston.

The tour alternation between Hayley and Meav contrary to what was posted publicly was not what Meav wanted. Meav had no choice in the matter and she was not happy about it. This became the primary reason and the straw that broke the camels back and why she quit. Hayley had quit 6 weeks earlier when Celtic Woman cancelled the show at Red Rocks. Hayley had thoughts of quitting long before that as she details in her book. (Sometime I’ll repost quotes in her book and explain what each sentence means and offer the timeline to the facts as they happened.)
One reason why Hayley quit was Hayley knew full well why she was being used. She found out that she was being used as a pawn to replace Meav at the conclusion of the Christmas DVD filming. It was announced by Celtic Woman in March 2007 that Celtic Woman would be filming the Christmas DVD in July of 2007. When this announcement was made the first question we asked was, “Is Hayley going to be a part of the show?” We knew that Hayley had already planned a solo summer tour that summer and it would be hard for her to work around that. The answer we received from Celtic Woman concerning Hayley on the Christmas DVD in March 2007 was …”No, she would not be part of the show.”

At the same time that we were told that Celtic Woman would be filming the Christmas DVD, we were also told that Celtic Woman was planning a tour of Europe. Interestingly enough that tour was to start in August of 2007 approximately 5 weeks after the conclusion of the Christmas DVD filming. As early as May 2007 Celtic Woman started selling tickets to the shows in Europe. Just like in the U.S., Celtic Woman committed fraud in their advertising by placing all 6 performers on the promotional materials that went to the venues in Europe where Celtic Woman was to perform. This wasn’t an oversight in the advertising. Unlike in the U.S., Celtic Woman listed the show as “Featuring: Hayley Westenra.” This was after it was announced that Hayley would not be part of the Christmas DVD filming.

If you were both Meav and Hayley how would you feel if you were faced with these facts. Hayley must have been thinking to herself, “Im good enough for the New Journey DVD/CD a U.S. Tour, a European tour but not another DVD filming.,” Meav must have been thinking why am I here? And what is to come of me after the Christmas DVD filming and prior to the European tour. Will I be dropped just like Deirdre was 17 months earlier.” These were the things that had to be going through these performers minds. As a result they both quit. Hayley quit first and during an interview in June 2007 when asked by a reporter if she would be touring or doing anything with Celtic Woman in the future her response was, “Absolutely NOT!!!”

Meav remained and at the conclusion of the Christmas DVD filming she quit as well, leaving Celtic Woman in a major bind. As a result they had to cancel the European tour. Celtic Woman had already informed Steve Abbott, Hayleys manager, that the tour would be canceled when he flew to Ireland to confront Kavanagh on July 2nd 2007 concerning the false advertising and the fraud of using Hayleys name for the European tour. However they kept selling tickets for another 7 weeks.

As a result of Meav leaving under the circumstances in which she did and the fact that Hayley had left 6 weeks earlier, Celtic Woman was now scrambling to salvage the show in time for the fall 2007 U.S. tour. They brought in Lynn as a replacement for Meav and Hayley. The addition of Lynn solved the tour alternation problem they had created in the spring. Celtic Woman lost 2 really great performers as a result of Kavanagh’s greed, arrogance, and evil nature. He destroyed Meav’s career. Hayley went back to performing solo and performed to sold out venues. On a side note, those that bought tickets for the European tour were told that the tour would be rescheduled for January of 2008 and to keep their tickets. Hundreds of tickets holders kept their tickets and were out the costs. Some were able to get refunds but the majority of those in the UK were not refunded. This was why Celtic Woman didn’t rebook any UK venues when they finally did their European tour in the fall of 2008.
Now, it’s been asked of me “You say Kavanagh can't touch Hayley W. to ruin her career, but I think her own management could do that just as well”. Those that know Hayley’s story know that this is very unlikely to occur. I highly recommend all Hayley and Celtic Woman fans to buy a copy of Hayley’s book. In it she details about her management. I’m going to quote from her book as Hayley describes it. “… was the moment that I first met the man who was to become my manager, Steve Abbott. Years after the event Steve (or Abbo, as he’s known to his friends) confessed that he had been really nervous about meeting me. So much so that he had been out and bought a whole lot of new shirts and a suit, thinking that, if he was going to be working in the classical-music world, he had better make himself look respectable…..I needed a full time manager, because it was becoming too big a job for Mum and Dad to do on their own….Steve is not your typical manager. He’s a very hands on manager and he doesn’t just sit on his own in his office…..He is very down to earth and that is one of the reasons we work so well together. He became part of the family; it was a big trust thing for Mum and Dad to hand over their daughter to a manager, but he always worked very closely with them.” Hayley Westenra In her Own Voice pages 92 and 93.
The quote above should be very telling about the difference between Stave Abbott/Bedlam Management and Dave Kavanagh. The fundamental difference between these two management styles is respect. Steve respects Hayley as an artist and her parents for placing their trust in him. In turn Hayley and her parents respect him as do Hayley’s fans that have met Steve Abbott. Kavanagh on the other hand commands no respect from the artists and he doesn’t respect any artist he has encountered. Therefore the fans who have encountered him do not respect him as a result. Nor should they. This was the primary reason why Steve Abbott went to Ireland to confront Kavanagh when Rodger and I contacted him about how Hayley was being promoted in the UK as being the featured performer for Celtic Woman on the 2007 European tour when Hayley made it clear a month earlier that she would not perform with Celtic Woman again.

Now it is finally time for me to address the situation with Orlagh’s departure. In 2008 while Lisa was on maternity leave Celtic Woman brought in Alex to take her place for that tour. During that tour there was speculation that Lisa may not return and when Rachel was asked by several fans if Lisa would be returning, Rachel replied that it was up to Lisa. This response now brings up another question. What would become of Alex if Lisa were to return?

In the fall 2008 it was announced that Alex would be remaining on and just like with Hayley and Meav, Celtic Woman in early November 2008 announced that Alex and Orlagh would be alternating just like Meav and Hayley did. The difference this time was that Celtic Woman posted the tour schedule and who would be performing at which venue prior to the tickets going on sale. This was a direct result of my consumer protection complaint having been filed 15 months earlier which was still unresolved by the CPB Inspector Generals Office. WGBH was at that time under 3 separate audits that concluded at the end of 2008 as a direct result of the consumer protection complaint I filed in August of 2007. WGBH was fined millions of dollars and they will never again have any sort of meet and greet with any artist again. WGBH learned a lesson the hard way, as did Kavanagh in the fall of 2008.

Before the alternation of Alex and Orlagh was announced on the official website I received an email letting me know that Orlagh would be the next to go. This email came from someone with inside information. Days later the Celtic Woman website announced the tour schedule alternation between Orlagh and Alex. This announcement was made just prior to the US promotional tour of the local PBS stations.

Because Bruce Sommers had discovered this blog and was running his mouth about it to others in an attempt to have it removed, I wrote to him to inform him that the information was true and correct. I then explained what it would take to remove the information written. In addition I also informed him that I knew that Orlagh was the next target and that she would be leaving. This was 3 weeks before the announcement was made.
I’m not an idiot. It makes no sense whatsoever for Celtic Woman to have posted the tour schedule listing which performer would be at which venue if it was known by them that Orlagh would not be on that tour. Therefore one has to conclude that Orlagh made her decision to leave Celtic Woman AFTER that tour announcement was made. The announcement of her departure was made less then a day following the promotional tour in the US. I believe the email I received 3 weeks prior to that announcement. I believe that yes Orlagh made the decision to leave but I would submit based upon the facts as I know them that she was FORCED to make that decision. As a result one has to conclude that any time an employer leaves an employee with no other option then to depart on their own, that employee has been fired. Its clear by the public as well as the private actions of Celtic Woman they did not want Orlagh to remain on. Her remaining would give them the same problems they had in 2007 when they alternated with Hayley and Meav. Nobody was happy about that arrangement. Not Hayley. Not Meav. And certainly not the fans. However the question continues to come up as to why Celtic Woman just doesnt have 6 performers on tour. Why these silly games. Ill explain it like this. Because Deirdre filed a lawsuit based on wrongful termination she lost the case because Kavanagh said that she was only a temp for Meav. The position of Celtic Woman LTD to keep from loosing the case was that the group was based on 5 artists during her time with them and into the future. Had Celtic Woman ever added a 6th member to the show and toured with all 6 members at any time, Deirdre would have all she needed to prove her case for wrongful discharge. This is why in both Meav/Hayley and Alex/Orlagh's cases they had to do a tour alternation schedule. The tour alternation schedule was to save them from a lawsuit from Deirdre that she would have won if Celtic Woman LTD ever had 6 members on that stage on a tour. Keep in mind that Hayley being added for the DVD did not fall in the same realm as the tour. Deirdre was hired to tour and not to do a DVD therefore adding Hayley to the DVD did not constitute an unfair labor practice. Deirdre's suit was based solely on the touring production and not the film production of Celtic Woman.

Taken all these events, one thing has to be clear. When you have a 56% turnover rate of your lead performers, there is a serious problem. I wont even begin to attempt to calculate the turnover rate of the rest of the group. Oh, and lets not forget. These people are subjected to the worst treatment I have ever seen of any group of employees by there management. In the final analysis, I do not believe the official propaganda put forth by Celtic Woman management concerning this or any other issue. They have shown themselves to be untrustworthy in every respect. The Celtic Woman theme song should be Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust."

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