Lehman Center Welcomes The Celtic Tenors
St Patrick’s Day will be celebrated this year at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx, on Saturday, March 16th at 8:00 pm, when it invites The Celtic Tenors to perform their eclectic music. The Celtic Tenors are comprised of Matthew Gilsenan, Daryl Simpson and James Nelson, and includes their musical director and pianist, Colm Rogan.
I was able to talk with tenor Matthew Gilsenan of The Celtic Tenors, who mentioned that The Celtic Tenors hold the distinction of being one of the first Irish acts to mix classical with traditional music and Irish drinking songs.
“We basically pick songs we like whether it’s a song like Whiskey in a Jar or Danny Boy,” explained Gilsenan. “We are always expanding our music from Italian songs right through to Roy Orbison and Bob Dillion songs. Our show is a relaxed fun show. It’s not a very high brow tenor show in that sense. We are just three normal guys.”
Presently on tour, The Celtic Tenors have performed in central and western Canada, traveling on to Kansas and Minnesota. “We are doing an all-stops tour of America right now. We love being in America. There is a similarity between America and Ireland, although the size and diversity within America is different than in Ireland,” remarked Matthew who is from North Meath. “I come from farming stock which is 40 miles north of Dublin. For my part, I bring traditional music. Daryl Simpson is from Northern Ireland and loves opera, jazz and pop. James Nelson is into choral music. All of us are classically trained and harmony driven. What we really like doing when we travel around the world, is spreading good news about Ireland. Our group is comprised of mixed faiths. I am Catholic. The other tenors are Presbyterian and Protestant. 30 years ago we could not have stood on the stage together due to all the fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Our country is now more peaceful. We love to spread the news Ireland is not so much at war these days. Britain was the ruling class in Ireland at one time but things are beginning to change. Did you know the tune Danny Boy was written by a British person who never once set foot in Ireland although it’s a quintessential Irish song,” remarked Matthew of the traditional Irish song.
The Celtic Tenors’ latest CD is called “Feels Like Home” which can be found on Amazon and Itunes. Interested parties can even get the CD at the Lehman Center show. “The theme of the album is home” said the talented tenor. “There is an event in Ireland this year called “The Gathering.” It’s a year long party to remember home. Ireland invites folks to come to Ireland and get involved in the party this year,” said Matthew who explained that The Celtic Tenors spend 6-8 months on the road. “We have been in Australia, New Zealand, Holland, Germany, England and China. So we are away from home a lot. Thus, “home” is always very close to our hearts.”
The Celtic Tenors are filled with national pride thus seek to preserve their native tongue. Therefore, some of the songs they sing feature Irish language. Their debut album shot to #1 in the classical charts, was well received in the pop charts and became ‘the first Christmas #1 Classical album of the New Millenium’ in Ireland. They were invited to sing for former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to Dublin Castle, and later in a private audience for the Secretary General of the United Nations.
“We all studied at the College of Music.” I was studying engineering and then took a 6 month break to sing. I met James Nelson and we started singing together. We eventually got a record deal. After that, The Celtic Tenors took off. We got on the Billboard charts in America and sold over a million records. The Celtic Tenors see themselves as a live act that is not driven by records but rather by doing live shows. Our music is not stuffy and boring. We sing songs we think are fun and emotional. We have songs that are sad, happy and ones you can clap too. We do ballads and pop songs.”
The Celtic Tenors are peace ambassadors but also humanitarians. James Nelson is involved with Cheryl’s Children, a project that builds orphanages in Nairobi. He gives a large part of his life to this project. “We’ve all gotten involved in this project and it’s one of the most fulfilling things we’ve done. In 1998, Daryl Simpson was in the street the day there was a car bombing. Several people were killed including some of Daryl’s friends. He saw a lot of carnage. He realized something had to be done to stop the perpetuation of hatred and strife between Catholics and Protestants on both sides of the community in the North of Ireland. He saw the anger, hatred and nonsense being passed down from parents to their children. Daryl, who is known for hitting the high notes, said we are not accepting this any more. So he established a children’s choir comprised of 50% Catholic and 50% Protestant, giving a strong message from the children its time for peace in our country. These days, we invite people to visit Ireland. Check out Dublin, County Cork. See the Giant Causeway and the Irish coastline. There is an incredible pub culture where you will find traditional music and dance. Ireland is a place where everyone feels welcome,” says Matthew.