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June 22, 2021

Interview with The Celtic Tenors

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Celtic Tenors at Byron Theatre Friday 17 May

The Celtic Tenors

Byron Theatre, Community Centre  |  Friday 17 May  |  7.30pm  |  $59/69

When you put together three brilliant tenor voices with natural Irish charm, singing spine-tingling classical, folk, Irish, Gaelic, and pop favourites in stacked three-part harmonies, then mix them up with quick-witted banter, you have The Celtic Tenors. The charismatic, globe-trotting, classical crossover artists spoke with The Echo ahead of their Byron show.

How did you three find each other and become the Celtic Tenors?

The opera world in Ireland is tiny. There are only around five million people on the island of Ireland, and so inevitably the classical music scene is quite intimate. We all know each other. Daryl, Matthew, and I were all in the same opera together – Die Fledermaus (Strauss) – about 20 years ago, with our national opera company. We all have very different personal music tastes, but opera has bound us together from day one.

Which parts of Ireland are you from and how does coming from different parts of Ireland inform your trio?

We come from three of the four provinces – Daryl comes from Omagh in County Tyrone, Matthew from Kells, County Meath, and I’m from the heart of Yeats Country in Sligo in the west of Ireland. We all grew up singing in churches, and later opera, but our individual musical choices cover a vast eclectic mix, which may be the reason we have a mix in our set. Also in Ireland traditional music varies as you travel across the island. We each have three very distinctive solo voices, but when we sing in harmony we strive to sound like one voice; hopefully that is the Celtic Tenor sound.

What is it about the songs from the Irish Songbook that resonates with audiences all over the world?

Even though the group celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and we have recorded Irish songs on many of our CDs / albums, An Irish Songbook is the first pretty much all-Irish CD we have recorded together. We ignored perhaps many of the most obvious Irish titles until now, as they’ve been covered so much, so we thought it was time to give some of the obvious Irish titles the Celtic Tenors treatment. We are all aware of the huge Irish diaspora across the globe, perhaps most especially in North America and Australia. The Irish are everywhere.

What is Danny Boy actually about?

Danny Boy has so many varied interpretations, suggested meanings. The most common one put forward perhaps is the story of a father sending a son off to war. For this reason we stripped it right back and thought three guys singing it a capella would perhaps make most sense. The biggest irony, bearing in mind our history, is that while the melody is undoubtedly Irish, the words were written by an Englishman who never even set foot in Ireland.

As classically trained tenors what do you bring to the Songbook that is new and unique?

In our show we get a chance to open out and display our classical training from time to time. In the album An Irish Songbook we hope our years of choral training help our harmonies display a good blend, and we do open out a little even in these traditional songs, more so than a typical folk or pop singer would. But we hope it’s tasteful.

What kind of experience do you like to give your audience?

Fun! We don’t take ourselves seriously and the banter hopefully illustrates that. While we treat serious songs with respect, we do have fun onstage. We are not stuffy tenors in white tie and tails; we have, I hope, years ago broken down that barrier between the stage and the audience. There is no elitism in our shows, we hope. We want to take our audiences on a rollercoaster of emotions, and most of all have fun. If singing becomes a job I, for one, will pack it in.

What should we expect for your Byron show?

Our usual eclectic mix of opera, Celtic music, inspirational, pop, and of course songs from our new Irish album An Irish Songbook. And bad jokes, banter, and fun (we hope).

The Celtic Tenors play the Byron Theatre on Friday 17 May at 7.30pm.Tix are $59/69 at byroncentre.com.au


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