Sara Clancy has a voice clear and pure as the elements. It is no wonder that she has been able to go as far as she has with her singing. One cannot help but stop and listen as her voice fills a room.
Sara Clancy first made herself known as a soloist with Anúna. She sings on Anúna's Anúna and Invocation albums. She is also featured as an Anúna soloist on the original Riverdance soundtrack, singing "The Heart's Cry."
Now, after having toured with Riverdance for a few years as a soloist, Sara Clancy is the lead female soloist in Riverdance on Broadway in New York City. Riverdance on Broadway was scheduled to only be at the Gershwin Theatre for a short time. However, the show became so popular that the time has been extended. If you have the chance, it is a must see! Sara Clancy is featured as a soloist on the Riverdance on Broadway CD.
Q: Where did you grow up? Did your family and location influence your decision to pursue music as a career?
A: I grew up in a seaside town called Arklow in Co.Wicklow, Ireland. Looking back I was extremely fortunate to have been born into such a wonderfully nurturing family and town where music, its enjoyment, creation and celebration was very much a way of life. My grandparents, parents and extended family were and are a very musical bunch of people and I suppose it was no great shock to anyone that I chose music as a career. Many of my mother's friends say they aren't one bit surprised to discover that I am now a professional singer as my mother supposedly sang herself to distraction when she was pregnant with me many moons ago!!! Arklow town itself and the education I received there also had a tremendous influence on my decision to pursue music as a career. I was very fortunate to receive music tuition from some wonderfully inspiring and gifted teachers and had many outlets within the town in which to express my talents...music and drama festivals, school choirs, school orchestras etc.
Q: When did you first begin any type of formal music training?
A: I began to learn how to play the violin at the age of 10 with Sr. Paul Joseph. My grandmother, Sarah, had been a wonderful violinist in her lifetime and I remember saying to her shortly before she passed away that I would start taking violin lessons and follow in her footsteps. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), she never had the opportunity to hear me play but today when I play it is on her very own violin. My vocal and choral training began two years later with Sr. Agnes Cecilia Nolan. This woman has passed on so much to me in matters of the voice both as a soloist and chorister that I will forever sing her praises and reap the rewards of having known her as a teacher and friend.
Q: Where did you go to college? What was your major?
A: I spent 4 years at University College Dublin studying for a B.A. in Music and German, followed by a B.Mus (pure music degree) graduating with honours in 1991 and 1992 respectively. Simultaneously I studied voice at the College of Music in Dublin. I then went on to study for a Higher Diploma in Education graduating with 1st Class Honours in 1993. We do not necessarily have majors in the university system in Ireland. Whilst studying for my B.A. I sat both subjects at honours level and so both demanded an equal amount of work and attention. Neither was my minor or my major.
Q: How did you become a member of Anúna?
A: An Uaithne (as they were then known) were rehearsing a work by Irish composer Seoirse Bodley for an up-and-coming concert. I had performed this work with the U.C.D Chamber Choir a few years beforehand and this prompted Michael to call me and ask me if I was interested in becoming part of An Uaithne. The rest as they say is history!!!
Q: How did you become a soloist for Anúna?
A: Having sung with the group for a while Michael, now knowing the strengths of my voice, gradually began to ask me to sing more and more solos. Before I knew it I was a regular soloist within the group.
Q: Do you have a favorite solo that you performed with Anúna?
A: "Silent O Moyle" most definitely. This haunting melody by Thomas Moore enhanced by Michael's exquisite arrangement is a wonderfully melancholic piece to sing. The sense of deep yearning is profoundly moving and I thoroughly enjoyed indulging myself in the depths of darkness this piece required. My favourite piece to sing with Anúna however was "Pater Noster." This piece is utterly divine in its essence and the closeness of the harmonies has a tremendously powerful effect on both the audience and the performer. There are times when I sang this piece that for one brief moment in time everything in life felt perfect…pure spiritual bliss. Such a feeling is rare to come by.
Q: Do you have a favorite place that you toured with Anúna?
A: I have to admit that the most memorable places I have toured with Anúna have been in Ireland. Perhaps my memories are synonymous with how enjoyable the concerts were and the ones at home were always very special. Having said that I have had some unforgettable trips to Scotland, Barcelona and Sweden with the group. Working and seeing the world at the same time is always a pleasurable pursuit.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories with Anúna?
A: My favourite Anúna memories are quite personal and not for public reading but there are many memories of post-concert parties that bring a smile to my face, in particular the post-concert party we had in Killaloe one year….I vaguely remember some kind of out of control conga-line weaving in and out through the house!!!
Q: How long were you with Anúna? What made you decide to leave?
A: I joined Anúna in ' 91 (I think!!!) and officially departed in '96/'97. Leaving the group was a very hard thing to do emotionally but it was the right decision to have made at the time. I wanted to remain a part of Riverdance and Anúna's plans lay elsewhere.
Q: How long have you been involved with Riverdance?
A: I have been performing with Riverdance since 1995….1994 if you include The Eurovision.
Q: Which company of Riverdance did you tour with?
A: I began as part of the original cast, then remained in London as part of the Liffey Company touring Europe. In 1998 I joined the Lagan Company touring Canada and The States and presently I am with the Shannon Company on Broadway.
Q: Where have you toured with Riverdance?
A: I have toured Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Canada, all over the States from Boise, Idaho to San Diego, California and have even done a promotional Riverdance gig on board the QE2!!! Having been based in America for almost 3 years now I have grown quite attached to living here. The thoughts of life without Starbucks is frightening!!!
Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out that you would be the lead vocalist in Riverdance on Broadway?
A: I received the news that I was going to be offered the lead on Broadway whilst in San Francisco with the Lagan Company. Initially I was filled with a mixture of nervous excitement and to some extent disbelief. Me….on Broadway…..who would have thought!!!
Q: Do you like the show changes they made for Riverdance on Broadway?
A: On the whole, yes, most especially our costume changes. As singers we have some wonderful costumes to wear along with some spectacular jewelry. I also love the new arrangement of "Lift the Wings" that I get to sing alongside Brian Kennedy. I now get to explore the lower range of my voice which has quite a different timbre to the pure tones of my higher range.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being part of the cast of Riverdance?
A: The people I have met and the places I have been to along the way continue to make Riverdance an extremely rewarding experience. Being part of the cast has opened me to an array of different cultures and a way of life I had never even dreamed possible.
Q: How long do you intend to be a part of Riverdance? Will you stay with Riverdance after it is no longer on Broadway?
A: As long as I am enjoying what I do and giving of my best to the show, I am quite happy to remain part of Riverdance for as long as the opportunity presents itself. In many respects it has become my family away from home.
Q: How did you get involved with the recording of The Devil's Own soundtrack?
A: A friend of James Horner, Tony Hinnegan, came to see Riverdance when we were playing in London and afterwards asked me if I would be interested in auditioning for a soundtrack recording with James Horner for. A few weeks later...audition completed...Tony rang to say that I got the gig and would be off to L.A. I was elated!!!
Q: What type of songs did you sing on this soundtrack?
A: I sang the opening title track twice on the recording…once in English and a slightly faster version in Irish. The rest of my work involved some atmospheric material which was added where appropriate throughout the score.
Q: How long did it take you to put this soundtrack together? What went into the making of The Devil's Own soundtrack?
A: I spent approximately three weeks in Nov. '96 and two weeks in Jan. '97 in L.A. recording the soundtrack and it was most definitely one of the best experiences I have had to date. To be involved in the creation of a soundtrack at such a level and to see how the entire process evolved was extraordinary. The movie is first shown to the composer (in this case with three different endings) who then sets about composing a score to enhance what is already there. It is amazing to see the naked movie become so much more emotionally powerful as a result of the composer's and artists' input. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some great musicians on this project…Tony Hinnegan, Eric Riggler, Ian Underwood (formerly of The Frank Zappa Band) and Tommy Hayes...with whom I had worked in the early days of Riverdance...small world , eh !?!
Q: You were also involved in the recording of Jeff and Mychael Danna's A Celtic Romance. How was this opportunity presented to you?
A: Eric Riggler, whom I had worked with on the soundtrack of The Devil's Own mentioned my name to Mychael and Jeff as a possibility as they were looking for a Celtic sounding female vocalist to feature on their recording of A Celtic Romance. I received a phone call from their assistant to see if I was interested and it was all stations go!!! I love this album and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Celtic music (and I'm not being biased...honest!!!).
Q: Have you been involved in any other musical projects?
A: Being part of Riverdance I am constantly singing at various gigs promoting the show. The next will be in Bryant Park on Aug 03 as part of the "Broadway in the Park" series. I will be singing "Lift the Wings" with Brian Kennedy which should be great fun. Recordingwise I have most recently featured on the Riverdance on Broadway CD which was released in March of this year and as I have said am busy trying to get my debut album together for the New Year. I have also recorded some dance tracks which have not yet been released but may well be released in the future...quite a different project for me...but one I thoroughly enjoyed as I got to express myself in a way few people had heard...even me to some extent!!! Deep down I'm really a crazy dance artist waiting to erupt!!!
Q: Do you plan on releasing a solo CD? When and where will it be released?
A: I have been working on a solo album for a couple of months now but with family priorities and simply life getting in the way I haven't progressed as quickly as I had forecast. Hopefully in the New Year I shall have something out on the market and then you'll get a chance to hear what I've been up to!!!
Stephanie Giamundo conducted the interview with Sara Clancy, wrote the write-up of her performances, created the web design, and edited the graphics and photos found on this feature. Stephanie is the webmistress of her web site, Rua's Realm. At Rua's Realm you can find information about Celtic Corner and Uisce, as well as other information dealing with Celtic Music. Celtic Corner is Stephanie's mailing list that discusses mainly Celtic Music, as well as Celtic culture and literature. Uisce is Stephanie's Celtic band, a band centered mostly around traditional celtic music. You can find mp3s of Uisce's music at Rua's Realm.