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Saturday 30 August 2014

Chloe Agnew, 18, is a singer, songwriter, performer in the show 'Celtic Woman' and elder daughter of Twink. She is also a Leaving Cert student. When not on tour, she lives in Dublin with her mother and her sister, Naomi

Published 15/06/2008 | 00:00

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I've just come back from LA which is eight hours behind, so the jetlag has just hit me. Normally, I'm a mid-morning riser, but now that I'm back at school and still on LA time, I'm up early, ready to go. Home life is pretty normal with my little sister, Naomi, and my mum -- three little women.

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Myself and Naomi are both at Alexandra College. It's a fantastic school and I'll be sad to leave it. I had my graduation the other night. Mam drops us to school some days, but I'm learning to drive so I'll be all set soon. We don't have a school uniform in 5th or 6th year, which is great. It gives you a bit of independence. I usually go in wearing my tracksuit.

I love coming home to Rathfarnham because I can be normal and everyone treats me the same as ever. The teachers have been so supportive and very understanding in the past few years, especially when you consider that I've been making guest appearances at school in between tours. You'd expect jealousy and bitchiness from the girls in school, but, I have to say, I haven't encountered it.

It's been mad trying to fit in study between shows, but now that I'm home I've realised that everyone is scattered at this stage.

Last year, I hit a moment when I got really stressed and panicked. But now, I've chilled out again. I'm going to take it little bit by little bit. I've found that when you hit a point in the night when you're not taking anything in, you've got to push the button and say 'Stop.' That's one of the lessons I've learned the hard way.

I'm doing six subjects for the Leaving -- English, Irish, maths, French, geography and music. I think people usually do seven or eight, but I'm throwing all my focus onto the six and hoping for the best.

I've been away with Celtic Woman for the past three years. It started straight after my Junior Cert. I finished my exams, packed my bag at 15 and got on a plane. In between, I've been home for a few weeks here and there. It's a big show with five of us -- four singers and one fiddle player and then a big production, big choir and big band. David Downes composed a lot of the music for it. He's a genius.

This year, we kicked off our tour in February in Dallas, Texas and, since then, we've been going non-stop all across the country. We wrapped it up on the west coast in California in the Greek Theatre in LA. It was beautiful.

We did an arena tour where the audience ranged from 4,000 up to 10,000. Some of the venues have been amazing to perform in. We played in Red Rocks, Denver, Colorado, which is set in two huge pieces of stone in the side of a mountain. The whole place is tiered and it seats 10,000 a night.

In some states in America, they are very serious about you having to have a tutor if you are travelling around, but for me it was more of a personal thing. There was the option just to continue school and focus on singing, but it was my own call to keep up the studies. Education is very important to me. My mum has always helped me by telling me that education is something you have if all else fails.

My mother is my role model. She is highly intelligent and she is the epitome of someone balancing a career and having an education. She thinks it's very important that I am normal like everybody else and that I will be able to say that I sat the exams. At the end of the day, I'll still have my Leaving Certificate, whatever happens. No matter if I do really badly or very well, I'm just happy to say that I sat it.

When I am away on tour, I have two tutors. Clare Madigan helps me with the majority of the subjects and John O'Brien (the uilleann piper in the show) is my music and Irish teacher. No, Peig isn't on for the Irish. Everyone asks that.

It's easier to describe my day starting with the end of the show. After our meet and greet, where we'll meet anything up to 100 fans, we get on the bus. I usually go straight down to the back of the bus and do some homework. Then I go to my bed.

We have beautiful little bunks which become our own space. It's very luxurious, like MTV Cribs. We're very lucky. On the wall, I have pictures of my family and friends and all our dogs -- we have six now. The bus becomes a home away from home. It's very easy to get cabin fever when you're with 60 people 24 hours a day for six months, but we've been blessed that the five of us clicked on day one. We give each other space.

I don't phone home when the show is over because it is usually 4am in Ireland but my new love is Skype. I have a little web camera on my computer, so we get to see each other that way. And of course, I'm inundated with emails from friends that keep me up to date with what's happening back home.

At 4am or 5am in the morning, we roll into some hotel. We have to lug all our own stuff up to our rooms and try to catch a few hours' sleep. I get up at about 9am for school. I do it in the hotel room. I try to divide my time so that I do 45 minutes to an hour on each subject. Clare will be with me and it's just like school, except it is one on one. My favourite subject is English. I love to write. I'm studying Wuthering Heights, Othello and The Crucible with The Truman Show as our movie.

My worst subject is maths. My little sister is brilliant at it -- she has my dad's genes. My mum and myself share the maths genius genes -- not! If I never seen a linear programme again it will be too soon.

I have a short break of 15 minutes and then we go until 2.30pm. We check out of the hotel at 3.30pm and do the sound check at 4pm.

There have been some days when the rest of the cast and crew are on their day off, sunning themselves by the pool, while I'm sitting inside studying and pining to be out there. But some days, when the weather is lovely outside, Clare and I will go out and do the work by the pool too. That's when I think, 'Nobody at home is studying like this.'

After the sound check, I do homework for an hour and then there is hair and make-up -- they let me go in last. Then, I go and do another hour of school at the venue. This is when I do music and Irish with John. I have to perform six songs as part of the music practical exam.

When I was eight, I had the honour of being part of Christ Church Cathedral girls' choir and I got all my music training there. Mark Dooley was in charge. There's where I learnt my theory. They taught me everything I know about music and I owe a lot to them.

Everything I know about the stage is thanks to my mother. Professionalism has been instilled into me from day one. I've watched her courtesy with people. She's very gracious. She is a very hard worker and always gives 150 per cent. She has taught me to do the same because it's very easy to let your game slip if you're tired.

Some nights, I have walked out on stage, exhausted and I think: 'How am I going to do this?' but then you see a little girl in the third row who is screaming with happiness and you think, 'OK, that's why I'm here.'

The Leaving Cert ends on June 20.

'Celtic Woman' has just completed its seventh US tour and will embark on a European tour in September. For more information, see www.celticwoman.com

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