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2005-11-09 Celtic Tenors sing for Jackie

from the Oakville Beaver
written by Wilma Blokhuis

 

The Celtic Tenors could be Ireland's 'next big thing' following in the footsteps of Bono from U2 fame.

 

The trio, accompanied by a pianist who plays like a one-man band, rock.

 

At the snap of a finger and stroke of a piano key, Niall Morris, James Nelson and Matthew Gilsenan switched from beautifully harmonized ballads to foot- stomping Irish music to Italian operas and traditional mouth music for their third fundraising concert for Wellspring Halton-Peel Cancer Support Centre at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts last Wednesday.

 

The Celtic Tenors, and their accompanist, David Munro, delighted their Oakville audience with perhaps the most beautifully performed versions of Caledonia and Danny Boy they've ever heard.

 

They were comfortable on stage wearing black suits and black T-shirts, forcing the audience to look at the expressions on their faces...their expressive eyes and at times, mischievous grins. After the intermission, they reappeared in white open-colored shirts, vests and more formal jackets, and for the encore, they threw off their jackets over the grand piano.

 

The tone for the night was serious commentary followed by beautifully sung harmonies mixed with Irish humour and foot-stomping, hand-clapping 'Irish drinking songs.'

 

"We've recorded with five of the hairiest men in all of Ireland ... Dubliners ... amazing talented guys," said Gilsenan in introducing a song he in jest dubbed The Hairy Rover.

 

"This is a big audience participation song," he said as the trio broke into a rousing rendition of Wild Rover.

 

Whiskey in a Jar, another traditional Irish folk tune, was introduced as "another hairy man song."

 

The repertoire included John Groban's inspirational You Raise Me Up to The Beatles' Here There Everywhere, Air Supply's All Out of Love, We Are Not Islands the UK title track of their fourth CD written for the trio by Simon May, and the release's North American title track Remember Me, written by Phil Coulter.

 

The latter, a powerful, emotional and tear-jerking ballad was written a few years ago for servicemen fighting in the Spanish civil war who were remembering their loved ones," said Morris, "but for people like Donna, (Jackie Miller's daughter), it means something quite different."

 

The introduction for Angel of Mercy, written by Ronan Hardiman, almost brought the audience to tears. "Three years ago we were in concert at the National Theatre in Ireland and we saw Holly, a five-year-old girl sitting and smiling in the front row," said Gilsenan. "We learned she was suffering from a terrible form of stomach cancer...very serious. She had an amazing courage, strength of character and resilience. A few years later, we called her at home and sang Happy Birthday to her. Then we got the terrible news that Holly had died at age eight. "Holly was a most amazing inspiration to us," said Gilsenan, "just like Jackie Miller is an inspiration to us. Tonight, we're dedicating this song to Jackie."

On the new CD, Angel of Mercy is dedicated to Holly.

 

"We're absolutely thrilled to be back for Wellspring," said Nelson. "You're the reason we're here.

 

"It started here. Oakville is a very special place for the Celtic Tenors. We started our world touring in Oakville. This lady (Jackie Miller) single handedly is the reason why the Celtic Tenors are here. Alice Miller, thank you so much."

 

The Tenors are happy to be on their first major 50-city North American tours thanks to a talent agent and local resident Richard Mills of S. L. Feldman and Association being in the audience last year. The Celtic Tenors first performed here in May 2002.

 

The Tenors' Oakville appearance, part of their 50-city tour, was organized by The Friends of Jackie Miller, a small group of Wellspring volunteers who were friends of the late Jackie Miller who died of breast cancer in September 2001. She had found solace at Wellspring, described the centre as an "oasis in the desert" and volunteered there.

 

Upon listening to the Celtic Tenors' first CD - a gift from her son who was in Ireland on business - she found strength and invited the trio to perform a fundraising concert.

 

When she received the CD five years ago, Miller was on oxygen and morphine and confined to a wheelchair, but by listening to the music Miller felt inspired and invigorated with new life and was able to come off oxygen and morphine and 'ditch' the wheelchair.

 

She lived to celebrate her 65th birthday in May 2001 and died knowing the Celtic Tenors had accepted her invitation to perform a benefit concert for Wellspring.

Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to see the Celtic Tenors perform here, hence, all three Oakville concerts have been in her memory.

 

Soprano Donna Malone, also of Ireland, on her first major tour with the Celtic Tenors at age 18 - and her Canadian debut - performed Katie, a contemporary tune written by Jimmy MacCarthy.

 

Her parents, Enda and Patricia Malone, and 15-year-old sister Sharon, plus an aunt and uncle, were in the audience.

 

The Celtic Tenors first heard Malone, a child prodigy who's been singing since age six, about six months ago at a music competition. She was hired to replace Deirdre Shannon who is part of the Celtic Women tour in the United States.

Malone also sang Time To Say Goodbye, a love ballad made famous by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and classical soprano Sarah Brightman, All I Ask of You from the Phantom of the Opera as a duet with Nelson, and Nella Fantasia, originally written by Ennio Morricone as an instrumental piece for The Mission, a movie about a Jesuit priest going to Brazil during the 18th century - the lyrics were written later.

 

"World peace is a reoccurring them in our concerts," said Gilsenan. "This song is a prayer for utopia, hope for a world full of peace, all warm and fuzzy."

 

The concert, sponsored by Dr. Frank Invidiata, the Larry and Gerry Wilson Fund and Good Books, was preceded by a champagne reception where concertgoers who paid $100 each noshed on sushi, wrapped asparagus and barbecued shrimp.

Afterwards, the Celtic Tenors, Munro and Malone signed CDs.