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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

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Celia Farran takes Celtic creativity to the Fourth Dimension


Trying to write an article about Milwaukee's Celia Farran is like trying to focus on a single speck in a Pointillist painting. Farran is a swirl of creativity with so many projects simultaneously flourishing that it is nearly impossible to focus on just one.

So let's not.

The just-turned-30-year-old performer is a singer, songwriter, musician, dancer, acting coach, storyteller and teacher who has performed in plays and one-woman shows off-Broadway, in Milwaukee and on many stages in between. She regularly facilitates workshops for children, recently released her first CD, "Fire In the Head" -- a collection of mostly classic Irish songs -- and is already working on a CD of all-original material with Willy Porter in the producer's seat.

Her new release, "Fire In The Head," which is a line from W.B. Yeats' poem, is a beautiful alchemy of classic Celtic and modern adult contemporary with Farran's voice airy yet deeply emotional.

Recently, Celia Farran chatted with OnMilwaukee.com despite her many projects and busy performance schedule about music, fairies, Milwaukee and what it's like being a redhead.

OMC: Why did you choose a line from the Yeat's poem for the title of your album? ("I went down to the hazel wood/Because a fire was in my head...")

CF: Here in the hazel wood, Aengus envisions a spirit woman with whom he falls in love with such a passion that he lives out his days wandering the earth in search of her mortal manifestation.

It is this same passion-the source of our enlightenment-that takes us above daily confusion and plants us directly in the center of the flame. It is what brings us to the river's edge, leaps under our feet in a moment of timeless flight and sends us on our path in quest of our ultimate purpose. This great power within us is our "Fire in the Head". It is our inner invitation. Locate it. Acknowledge it. Fan the Flame. Dance on.

OMC: What brings you to Milwaukee? Did you grow up here?

CF: I grew up on a farm in Big Bend. I then went to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and earned my BFA in Theatre Performance. Then in '99 I moved to New York City to pursue my acting/musical theatre career. Later that year, First Stage Milwaukee hired me to do a show called "The Irish Chord." I had been in their first production of "Sleeping Beauty" as a child actor. Milwaukee became my new home base and I have been here now for four years.

OMC: Is Milwaukee a good place for an Irish musician?

CF: Milwaukee has a large concentration of people from an Irish background. It is also the home of "Irish Fest" which is known as the largest Irish music festival in the world. I am grateful that Milwaukee has been so responsive to what I offer, but I have also noticed an eagerness for Irish/Celtic material everywhere that I travel.

OMC: What other Milwaukee Irish bands do you like?

CF: I particularly like Frogwater for their eclectic style and stage energy. I also enjoy Leahy's Luck. I truly appreciate their dedication to family and music and bringing light into the world through both.

OMC: Are you Irish?

CF: My heritage is Irish and German.

OMC: How did you get into Irish music?

Well, my family was involved in Irish Fest from the start. I was involved in the plays and Irish dancing and song. In '97 I took a trip to Ireland with my mother. It was a workshop trip with Tom Cowan (author "Fire in the Head") We went to the ancient sites and learned much of the mythology and mysticism. I returned to New York and shortly afterwards produced my one-woman show of "Stories in the Stone." Celtic material has been a part of my career ever since.

OMC: When did you start singing? Storytelling? Dancing?

CF: I started performing when I was very young. I took the kindergarten play very seriously! I was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and quite proud of my role. When I was seven I started taking Irish Dance. I played the violin as soon as I could (in the fourth grade) and I also took piano lessons at a young age. Soon the stage became my first passion and I started taking acting classes. In high school I immersed myself in every choir and theatre opportunity that I could. In my freshman year I did a show with First Stage Milwaukee and it left a strong impression on me. When I was 16 years old I recorded my first solo album of all original songs titled "Character Sketch."

I started storytelling when I joined the high school forensics team. I was absent the day that we got to choose our topics. I surely would have chosen something like solo acting, but got stuck with the one thing that no one else wanted: storytelling. I soon became a champion storyteller for the team, so now I am grateful. It was excellent training for all of my performance work.

OMC: You do workshops for children. Why? What draws you to kids?

CF: Ooooooh, kids are awful fun. They keep you honest and on your toes. I never thought that working with children would be a part of my career. When I lived in New York I was hired to do a few tours for Theatreworks USA, a top notch children's theater company. I would perform for hundreds of kids at a time all over the U.S. It made me recall the performances that I saw as a child and how it effected my choice to be a performing artist. Part of our mission as performers is to inspire. We must foster this in our youth so that the flame will be kept alive.

The other formative experience that I had with children was connected to "Stories in the Stone." Every audience member received a stone wrapped up with a wish written by a child (like an Irish fortune cookie.) This involved workshops in New York schools. Ever since then children have been a large part of my career.

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