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October 2019
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Fan Q & A

this Q & A section was done by fans for the Celtic Tenors Yahoogroup Anniversary


If you start to plan a tour or a concert, what work has to be done before hand, like choosing cities, finding a date which `fits' into the recent schedule, choosing musicians, tour / stage management, accomodation, choosing songs for the evening? How much time do you need, how early does the planning start, and who does what part of the work (agency, management, tenors ....)?

Well really the management OUGHT to do the planning of cities, countries, flights, hotels, overall diary management, etc. Sometimes the venues set up the hotels. Anything artistic is decided by us, the singers, and David, our MD. Of course there are always clashes of dates, and sometimes you end up singing in a very tiny theatre, as an offer of a much larger gig had to be turned down, as the contract had already been signed. But for me, I just want to perform, cos that's what I love, and as long as I am busy, and hopefully giving pleasure, then that works for me.


How many miles do you think you and your mates covered by plane last year?

Gosh , absolutely no idea. How many times did we cross the Atlantic? Ok, Hmmm - 73, 458 miles!! Do you think that could be right? Add the lengths I swim in the pool to that, and maybe it is doubled?


Which song, one you have never performed before, would you like to perform solo and why and, which song (again never performed before) would you like to perform as a trio and why? It can be any kind of song, regardless whether your voice(s) allows you technically and whether it fits into the Celtic Tenor repertoire.

I would love to perform one of the two "Queen of the Night" arias from the "Magic Flute" which of course will never happen, as it is for the highest possible female voice, and you need 4 very high Top Fs! It just is a piece which amazes me. As a trio, I REALLY want to do an ABBA song, they are fed up of me requesting that, but maybe one day. OR  "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacques which has ALWAYS made me cry. I grew up with that song.


What city, in the world, has the best burgers?

I actually rarely eat burgers, really. Last one I had was actually in the Shangri-La Hotel in Muscat, Oman, and it was excellent. I am sure the answer probably is Chicago though? Or LA perhaps? Or New York! An American city methinks. London burgers are good too I seem to remember. I would say I eat 3 burgers a year.


What quality do you most admire in a person and why?

Can I have a few qualities? Maybe trust, sense of humour, spirituality, drive, sense of adventure, love of animals, love of the outdoors, sensuality, intelligence, conversation Oh Gosh, ok if only one, sense of humour as I LOVE to laugh and smile.


Is there a standard, established norm for writing the vocal harmonies you use? Is it always a combined effort? (Who writes the best ones?)

It started that I did them all really, at the beginning. Now it is more combined, but it still starts that I bring a full harmonisation to the table, and then they are rehearsed, and sometimes jiggled about a bit. It is something I have done for years, so I tend to do it by the piano, but it is democratic. Each person has `a moment' normally, and perhaps a nice top note. The harmony line ought to be a line itself, and not just any old notes in any order. It ought to really be a melody itself ideally. In some songs at times, it is better that one person is on the tune throughout, like me in "Athenry" and "Wild Rover", and Matthew in "Caledonia"? Something like "Danny Boy" is through composed and swops about a lot. Who writes the best harmonies? You decide!


How is it decided who will do what part of a song when the song has been chosen to be part of your repertoire? Do you ever `switch parts' and if you do, how do you decide who will take which part and is it difficult to keep straight the new part you've taken on and not do the old part you're accustomed to?

With certain songs now I still would not be able to sing the other verses! Not sure I know the other verses of "Caledonia" confidently even at this stage. Normally, it becomes obvious which songs suit certain people, like Matthew in "Ten Thousand Tears". A few unusual ones happened along the way. I was not meant to have recorded "Summer of my Dreams" originally, but I sang it through in the studio, took it home, made it mine, and recorded it. I am glad I did, as I love it. Once you have learned a line, and performed it over and over, it is hard to switch. Not sure I know the tune of "Caledonia"!!


If you could choose ANYBODY in the world, who would be the guest artist on your next CD??

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Robbie Williams or Placido Domingo or Bobby McFerrin! Any of these would be cool. Actually LOADS more too..


I noticed that when the fan club was first started, you had filled out a questionnaire (This is us). My question to you is, have you met or surpassed any of your fondest dreams?

Generally, I have surpassed my dreams. I had originally thought I was going to work in my father's shop in Sligo. Then decided to do a degree in music instead. Someone heard me sing. I went for lessons. I later moved to London as a teacher there suggested I move over to study with him -“ David Harper. I sang in opera all over the world, a dream come true. As a Celtic Tenor, I was signed to EMI and released several CDs. Since then, big moments keep happening all the time. Of course there have been lows, but I am living from my hobby, so yes, I have definitely surpassed my dreams. Even if it all stopped now, I would be fine with that, as I have done more than I expected.


If you could have something you didn't already have, what would you want and why would you want it?

The winning numbers on this weekend's Lotto draw, so I would never have to worry financially again, as I would truly prefer to be making music 100% for pleasure, and not be thinking of mortgages etc all the time. I could also treat all my family and friends to whatever they wanted. Perhaps bring them all to Tuscany for a week's holiday in a huge villa. I can't believe I have answered that question by essentially saying money!!! forgive me please.


What would you do if the audience started leaving one by one during a concert and there were only a handful of people left after the intermission?

Cry I think??. Or perhaps laugh actually, and make a joke of it. Or maybe pack it all in??. Guess which member of the CTs is the most insecure???


Leaving family and friends aside, what is it you miss most about Ireland when you are travelling? On the other hand, during all your travels abroad, what of the things/ procedures/ways of life you have seen would you like to bring back to Ireland?

I know it sounds like a cliché, but I DO miss the greenness!! It is actually greener, because of all the rain. I miss the country people who are still genuinely friendly, and REAL people, there is a lot of falseness in the music industry. Sadly the city folk are becoming less friendly. I miss my little daily routine, with my lunch dates, my swimming, and my hillwalking etc. I miss my friends most of course. I miss my family's dogs. I would like to bring back to Ireland some of the sun we sometimes see on our travels. The rain becomes a little tiresome here, and bring back some of the nice customs and cuisine we sometimes encounter. Also the warmth from some of our audiences, to bottle it, and take it out on a rainy day!


If it was not another joke that you painted your front door all by yourself - do you normally hum or sing while you are occupied with private or domestic matters?

Firstly, I DID paint my own door all by myself - if you saw it you would see that I STILL colour over the lines too. Because I live in the country, in a detached cottage with a little land around it, I normally play CDs as I work, and leave a window or door open. When I painted my door I had Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations on my player, and I had some Purcell Choral Music, and the Mozart "Requiem". It is not blaringly loud, but loud enough to carry out to the road, just about. When walkers walk past my cottage sometimes they comment, or ask me why I am not playing one of the CT CDs, or just look at me funny. I sometimes sing when working indoors, and often isolate a difficult phrase in a song, and work on it.


What would you consider your most challenging and yet most rewarding performance in your career as a Celtic Tenor?

Probably the CCH concert in Hamburg which was being filmed. We had a director who had staged some of it, so had specific blocking and moves to memorise. Also we were aware that it was being filmed and recorded, and so we were extra nervous. Even though there are things wrong with the recording which now annoy me, like the sound quality, and some of the dancing, it was quite cool to have recorded a live DVD. Also the St Patrick's Day Festival in London in Trafalgar Square under Nelson's Column with 65,000 people was cool, and the following year on the South Bank to 100, 000.


Which of the other two tenor colleagues doesn't squeeze out his tube of toothpaste properly?

I can safely say I have no idea, having never shared a room with either. That is one thing we just do NOT do. We spend so much time together, we need our space BIG TIME. And I use a toothpaste dispenser!!


If I were to achieve a lifelong dream of a stay in Ireland, what would you recommend that I add to my itinerary so that I could enjoy a real Irish experience?

I would insist you do the West Coast in detail -“ the Ring of Kerry, the Skellig Islands, West Cork, Dingle Peninsula, Clare and the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, or my favourite Achill Island, Galway to Connemara up through Leenane and Louisburgh to Westport, Sligo of course (detailed itinerary can be supplied), and WONDERFUL Donegal -“ all of the north and north-west coast of Donegal up to Horn Head. Is that too much? And hire a car. A real Irish experience might involve a night in a B&B on the Aran Islands, and a traditional music session in an island pub, and a walk to Dun Aenghus the following morning - recently did it myself.


In which age would you like to live for a while if it were possible to make time journeys, and why?

Actually, truthfully, I am happy enough in the 21st century. The previous centuries had far too much hardship in them really. And I DO like my comforts. I would not want to be without electricity, hot water, and the selection of foods on offer in our supermarkets. So quite happy in this age really. But maybe would want to pay brief visits to - perhaps 18th century Vienna or Paris? And an even briefer visit to the Stone Age - now that would make a good column I think.


That was your most embarrassing moment on stage?

Perhaps pre Celtic Tenor days, when I announced that I was going to sing "E lucevan le stelle" from Puccini's "Tosca", which I explained in a well- projected voice was better known as "The stars are SHITELY BRINING"!! And I really did. The most embarrassing and horrible was going onstage in Germany with no voice at all!!!! that was living hell.


If you are at home, that is not on the road, how do each of you celebrate Christmas?

I would normally spend it with my Dad, my sister, her husband and their three children. I am not really a big Christmas fan actually, bit of a Scrooge really. I would actually love to work in a homeless shelter or something on Christmas Day, and maybe even bring a keyboard and sing some songs after feeding the people - I love St Stephens Day, just walking long walks with the dogs, and then coming home to my Dad's for cold turkey, brown soda bread and chutney! (Not the Drugs Cold Turkey)


If you could invite 3 people to dinner, whom would you choose? The people you choose can be famous, infamous or ordinary folk - living or dead.

Bill Clinton, Jussi Bjoerling, W.A. Mozart. I LOVED meeting Bill Clinton, and found him one of the most charismatic people I have ever met, I would say he would be a really interesting dinner guest. Jussi is my tenor hero, and I would love to tell him how much he inspired me as a young singer, but as he was an alcoholic I think maybe we would just have cranberry juice. I have many favourite composers, but I suppose really Mozart is my Number 1. I have read his letters, and sadly his genius made him a difficult person, a kind of weirdo, so he would probably not turn up, and if he did, he would probably take over completely, but I would still want to tell him how much I ADORE his music. If Mozart didn't turn up, perhaps Mother Theresa could come instead.


The Dublin shows this year will be `The World's Greatest Tenors." Having seen this wonderful show two years ago, I wonder if there are any plans to record this for release on DVD or CD?

Not as yet anyway, but who knows? There has been a mention of another DVD recording though, so as soon as we know, we will let you know. Nice idea though


If you could be an animal for one day, what would you be and why?

Just for one day, a swallow perhaps!!


Many of the songs on `We Are Not Islands' are duets with other artists. `Deep In Your Heart' was written by Liam Lawton and his own CD features a version of the song on which he sings along with you. Is there a specific reason why you chose to put a version without Liam on `We Are Not Islands'?

Truthfully, no, I don't think there is. Probably because in the other songs, the guest's role is very clearly defined. But in Liam's song, it is really just taking lines from our verses? But no, not a conscious decision I think.