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2006-06-03 Celtic Tenors mesmerise the capital

by By David Solomon
for the Oman Tribune
www.omantribune.com

 

MUSCAT All the beautiful and wonderful enchantment of the Emerald Isle, in other words Ireland, came alive when the Celtic Tenors held sway with an endless repertoire of passionate and soulful singing at the Barr Al Jissah Resort on Wednesday.

 

The famous group of Irish singers, the vocal trio that has taken Europe by storm, were here in what is probably their second visit to Muscat to do a charity programme. The proceeds of the sale of tickets will be donated to the Omani Association of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs.

Right from the word go, the Celtics were in sync with their audience. In wave after wave, their magic unfolded with their Irish folk songs, ballads and romantic love songs& it just went on and on. Their music and singing was evocative and seemed to transport you  to some faraway place that has a dreamlike quality and where time seems to stand still.

No wonder then that the Celtics kept the audience glued to their seats till the wee hours of the morning, 4am to be precise. Its amazing how no one seemed to notice the way the time had passed. There were quite a few people who wanted the programme to continue for a couple of hours more.

Besides the superb singing of the original trio  Matthew Gilsenan, Niall Morris and James Nelson  adding to the beauty and depth of the overall performance was guest soprano 18-year-old Donna Malone from Ireland. This is not the first time that Donna is performing with the Celtic. Previously, she had done a five-week tour with the Celtic Tenors to America and Canada.

Together the four of them produced absolutely great stuff. Three tenors and a soprano is quite a heady mix of harmonised vocals, perfectly balanced. They seemed like a choir of angels. Donnas voice with its perfect pitch and timbre has sufficient range, but when she sings in unison with the tenors, her voice proves to be the perfect foil and tonal balance to the rich tenor voices of the Celtics.

The very first number they sang struck a deep chord with the audience.

Everyone was clapping their hands and tapping their feet with abandon. While it was difficult to follow the words above the noise of the clapping and singing, the melody was lilting with an earthy charm and appeal.

Another number, a beautiful love song titled Do you remember the first time you smiled at me sent everybody into raptures. The beauty of this piece was that while one portion was sung in English in the style of a romantic pop song, the other portion was sung like an Italian operatic aria, giving it a very Neapolitan flavour and ambience.

Another song which had the audience singing along with the group was Alive, alive, o-o-oh; selling cockles and mussels; alive, alive, oh. This song was made popular many years ago over the radio by another Irish singer and actor Burl Ives, the man who has such unforgettable numbers as Pearly shells and The pub with no beer. And so they carried on and on from one song to the next, leaving everyone feeling on a high.

Theres no point writing about their singing because that can go on endlessly. So it would be better to talk a bit about the singers themselves and their past accomplishments.

Matthew Gilsenan is one of Ireland's most accomplished young tenors and has achieved considerable success singing in competitions across the length and breadth of Ireland.

His oratorio performances include Beethovens Mass in C, Symphony No. 9, Mendlessohns Walpurgesnacht, Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio, Handels Messiah, Dvoraks Mass in D and Mozarts Masses.

Niall Morris was born in Dublin. Upon entering the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, he won the Wolfson Prize, the highest scholarship. He completed his studies at the National Opera Studio. Morris first role in the professional world of opera was Nemorino (l'Elisir d'Amore) with English Touring Opera, which brought him to Sadlers Wells in London and took him throughout the UK.

He then took the role of Davey in Jonathan Doves Siren Song to great acclaim at the Almeida Theatre in London. After a yearlong tour with the DOyly Carte Opera Company as Ralph Rackstraw (HMS Pinafore), he was chosen by the immensely gifted composer Thomas Ades to create the tenor roles in his debut opera Powder her face again at the Almeida.

From Sligo, James Nelson is a BA, B.Mus (Hons) graduate from University College Dublin. His busy opera and concert schedule has taken him throughout the UK and Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Russia, Israel, Singapore and the US.

Nelson has performed more than 50 roles in opera and operetta including Pinkerton in Butterfly, Lensky as part of Onegin in Russia, Alfredo for Traviata in Como, Italy, Tichon as part of Katya in Lisbon and Porto, and Basilio in Figaro under the baton of Raymond Leppard for Scottish Opera.

Ballina soprano Donna Malone joined the internationally renowned Celtic Tenors on their current tour. Donna has been bringing joy to Ballina audiences since she was a young girl with her exceptional vocal talent, and it has come as no surprise to music lovers in the town that the wonderfully talented vocalist has received international recognition at such a young age.

Malone has been singing since the age of six, when her voice was first embraced by Lavinia Slater Gilmartin of St Cecilias School of Song in Ballina. She has won many prizes for her singing over the years. She has performed in many musicals, recitals and has appeared as solo guest several times with the Moy Singers as well as through her involvement with Rejoice Gospel Choir, St Muredachs Cathedral Choir and the newly formed Youth Choir.

An equally important member of the group is musical director and pianist David Munro.

Having started his musical life as a concert pianist, Munro turned his attentions to theatre, notably ballet and opera. He has worked for many ballet and contemporary dance companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Company and LCTD as musical director and composer.

In opera, he has musically directed a wide range of works from Rossini through Puccini to Janacek and has composed numerous works for the stage, which have been produced and broadcast throughout the world.

A prolific composer, his recent commissions from the British Broadcasting Corporation were nominated for a Tony Award. He is also a busy arranger and producer, most recently of the Celtic Tenors new album. Munro has been with the Celtic Tenors for three years now, having been lured away from the bright lights of the West-End show Chicago.

The Celtic Tenors, along with their musical director, have just released their new album, We are not islands with tracks featuring Brian Kennedy, Samantha Mumba and Air Supply. The tenors are loved for their versatility and for their wonderful and energetic performances.