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2006-12-14 Standing ovations, again and again, for Celtic Tenors

by Jan Findley
for the Sun Herald


I counted three, maybe four standing ovations Tuesday night at the Englewood Performing Arts Series concert featuring The Celtic Tenors.

That's a record, or close to it.

Generally speaking, the EPAS audience stands following the final number -- or the next-to-final number, in hopes of receiving an encore by the featured performers -- and perhaps one more time during the evening when performers have truly impressed the audience. The tenors not only impressed the audience, they wowed them.

The Celtic Tenors are all from Ireland. Matthew Gilsenan comes from North Meath, a little north of Dublin. James Nelson is from Sligo and Daryl Simpson from Omagh in Northern Ireland. All are classically trained as opera singers, and all sang top roles in various opera companies before they got together in 2000 and formed the present trio. Early on, they established themselves as the most successful classical cross-over group ever to come out of Ireland.

Since they got together, they have won audiences in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. They sang for Bill Clinton while he was president and for Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations.

Each has his own identifiable voice quality, proven as each sang solo sections during the evening. A large part of the Celtic Tenors' magic came in the melding of the three distinctive voices into a single entity, a single voice. Really, there is nothing more mesmerizing than good voices, well trained and singing a program that makes the most of their talents.

The males brought along soprano Deirdre Shannon, sister of Matthew Gilsenan, as guest artist. She, too, is classically trained and has an impressive background. She was the vocal soloist in Lord of the Dance and sang with that famous Irish dance company for four years, through the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. She also makes regular appearances on television.

Between them, they put on a thoroughly satisfying musical repertoire that went from the romantic to lively numbers like "Paddy McGinty's Goat" and "Whiskey in the Jar." Begorrah!

The Celtic Tenors and Deirdre sang 15 or 16 songs. (They could have sung 15 or 16 more; the audience would have loved it.) The proof of the musical pudding came with the singing of "Danny Boy," the gold standard by which any Irish singer is judged. They passed with flying colors -- that was the cause of one of the standing ovations. They followed that up with the American "Shenandoah," which they likened to their own "Danny Boy" in terms of the emotions generated by the words and music.

There was audience participation that came in the form of clapping in rhythm, and the singing along on several Christmas. The three tenors took over and did a powerful, bang-up job on Adeste Fidelis -- as I recall, that was earned a standing ovation, too.

I suspect The Celtic Tenors also set a record in the number of CDs that sold during intermission and after the show -- the albums were flying off the sales table.

Jan Findley covers community events and the arts for the Englewood Sun and weekly Herald. You can e-mail her at