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2007-04-27 Knox United Church, Calgary

reviewed by Kindah Mardam Bey
for Lucid Culture


Calgarians were treated to the sound of the dynamic triple threat of The Celtic Tenors featuring Deirdre Shannon on April 14th. The Knox United Church hosted the evening; with a crowded house, and stunning stained glass windows, this old brick building was a heavenly house to host some heavenly voices (and some biting humour...but we'll get to that later).

Before the quasi-Celtic-quasi-tenor performance, music of 1940s pelted out overhead and got everyone "In The Mood". As the crowd was enjoying the landscape and humming along to old favourites, seemingly out of nowhere, the Celtic Tenors started singing the official Irish Rugby Anthem. The audience was immediately spurred onto enthusiasm and a rather Irish-centric evening paired with classic Tenor songbook, with some pop and original songs thrown in to round off the eclectic evening.


I must admit to having a great bias, as I"ve seen the likes of The Chieftans, Carreras and Pavarotti, and I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Josh Groban in concert. So upon seeing a group that somewhat rolled all three into one, I was trepiditious; all too often doing too much can dilute any endeavour. I went in with high standards and high expectations, so imagine what a pleasant surprise The Celtic Tenors were when they exceeded my expectations and even could be considered on an artistic level equally as inspiring as The Chieftans, Pavarotti, Carreras and the Josh Grobans of the world.  The concert hall was intimate, up close and personal, which lent itself to the well controlled and strong voices of each of the tenors.  


James Nelson showed off his skills as a well trained classicalist with a controlled voice that would be the envy of any performer. Matthew Gilsenan sung with great enthusiasm, spirit and skill. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was Daryl Simpson, as James Nelson described his voice as "high and agile", which seemed to be a fitting description. It was also crisp and rich to boot.

"Caledonia" was sung early on; it was gentle and luminescent, which was followed shortly after by Offenbach"s "Tales of Hoffman", to which Deirdre Shannon lent her voice for the first time. All the tenors but Matthew Gilsenan exited the stage and he sang the new classic, "The Prayer" with his sister Deirdre Shannon as heard on her debut album released late last year. Some songs came from previous CDs of The Celtic Tenors, like "Something Inside Me So Strong", which was an upbeat and powerful rendition.


Truthfully, the songs seemed to be a cohesive collection, but not a traditional variety of songs simply promoting their most recent release. I found this to be a more interesting aspect to the evening as you never knew what song would be next but had a feeling you would enjoy it anyway. So, when The Celtic Tenors decided to sing a great American classic called Shenandoah, it was without reserve that the audience embraced the tune that sung like a gentle hum from the Celtic Tenors.


Just before the intermission, the song "Remember Me" was dedicated to the brave Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Post interlude was equally as pleasant as its predecessor. Anyone who was a sucker for Puccini (which I believe is virtually anyone whose heard his music is) would have enjoyed the classical crossover song "Ten Thousand Tears" which used the Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly as its background music, morphing old and new; tried and true with experimentation. The Celtic Tenors also took Puccini out for another walk further into the set with "Nessum Dorma", which would have been considered "done to my own Grandfather"s specifications." A slight smile rose to my face as The Celtic Tenors used audience participation for the Turnadot classic under the guise of "The Calgary Chorus", but what seemed like a pyrotechnic style show and light display of using the audience as a monumental sized but cheaply paid chorus. With that said, "The Calgary Chorus" sounded spectacular!


Deirdre Shannon showed up again for the song "Still By Your Side" and soloed her most prestigious and well-known version to date of "She Moved Through The Fair". Deirdre came to each performance in a different frock, each equally as stunning as she is.


Mind you, the evening wasn"t all opera and ballads, the pop classic revisited by The Celtic Tenors on their most recent CD, but originally performed by Air Supply "All Out Of Love" was a romantic addition as the Irish lads handed out roses to women in the audience, showing they may have been singing they were all out of love, but at least the lads put their hearts into it.


Then the Irish took over, songs like "There"s Whisky In The Jar" added an up tempo beat and all out hilarity ensued with the song "Patrick McGinty" and a humorous skit reminiscent of pantomime (or â¬Üpanto" as we say in England). In fact, on the whole The Celtic Tenors were interactive with their audience, pleasant, jokey and overall jovial beings. At times, The Celtic Tenors also sung in Gaelic, making them truly unique from the other Tenors performing today.

The Celtic Tenors showed themselves to have a great sense of humour (wickedly killer in some cases). On the flip side The Celtic Tenors also brought to the evening a great sense of trifecta harmony and a dedication to the quality of the sound that reverberated off the walls and ceiling, slowly encompassing their audience in musical excellence. They appeared on all accounts to be even better in person then on their CD.


The evening was concluded with the sweeping song "Time To Say Goodbye" for the finale. As they left the stage my heart sunk a little, realizing they had not paid homage to "Danny Boy", and as I previously stated in my CD review, was perhaps the best rendition of the song I have ever heard. As James Nelson, Matthew Gilsenan and Daryl Simpson took the stage one last time for "Danny Boy" sung acapella, I thought to myself, "No, this is the best version of Danny Boy I"ve ever heard." Catch The Celtic Tenors in concert if you can, it"s worth the trip to the box office.


A nice addition to the performance was a post show meet and greet with The Celtic Tenors for all the fans to get pictures and autographs and generally talk their ears off.


April 14th, 2007
Knox United Church, Calgary
4 1/2 Stars

For more information, reviews and interviews visit the Lucid Culture Website. It's worth a visit!