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June 2019
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2006-12-05 New tenor settles in so nicely

by Robert Cullen for the
Sligo Weekender


The Celtic Tenors need no introduction, especially to Sligo people. Currently on a hectic tour, the trio are coming back to Sligo in the new year. For those of you (and there are many) who love their live shows, then you will notice that they have a new member, Daryl Simpson. Here, Robert Cullen chats to their newest member and finds that the trio are busier than ever.


THE Celtic Tenors will return to perform in Sligo in the New Year and if you are one of the 300 plus likely to be in attendance, don't be surprised to see a new face in their ranks. Alongside Sligoman James Nelson and fellow founding member Matthew Gilsenan is Omagh tenor Daryl Simpson. Daryl joined the group in June as a replacement for Niall Morris, who took a break from the hectic Celtic Tenor schedule after many years of non-stop touring and performing. Already Daryl has performed with the Celtic Tenors in Germany, Holland and for two separate stints in the United States, where the trio continue to be one of Ireland's most successful live performers. "I joined the Celtic Tenors in mid-June," Daryl told GO magazine the day before the trio were set to return to the US. "My first concert with them was in Munich. At that stage I had been working in Zurich in the Opera House as part of their young opera programme.


I had met Matthew and James many years ago on the Gaiety stage when we were all doing Opera Ireland together. That was back in 1998 just before they took off as the Celtic Tenors. I had an approach from Matthew asking if I'd like to sing with the group. It was quite incredible in some ways because I flew over from Zurich to Dublin to rehearse then flew back to Zurich to do a few concerts and arias which I was committed to. I was learning Celtic Tenor songs, operas and recital repertoires 24 hours a day for three weeks. Although renowned now as one of Northern Ireland's brightest tenor talents, it was another talent, for soccer, which first brought him as a teenager to Sligo. Back when I was 17 I was signed to play for Sligo Rovers by the manager of the time Willie McStay. I ended up playing for the under 18s, the reserves and made a few appearances for the first team, but injury cut my career short.


Fortunately Daryl had a wonderful voice to fall back on. He studied singing with tenors Peter Alexander Wilson and Nicolai Gedda, and completed his Opera Masters Degree at the Alexander Gibson Opera School in Glasgow. Daryl joined Opera Theatre Company "Young Associate Artist Scheme", performing in many recitals and broadcasts. He furthered his studies at Zurich's Internationales Opern Studio, where he sang Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), and roles in Les Mamelles de Tirsias (Poulenc) for Opera Zürich. As well as performing worldwide on the concert platform, Daryl is also the Musical Director of the Omagh Community Youth Choir, which was set up in the wake of the Omagh atrocity to promote peace and reconciliation through music. The choir first performed in Sligo in October 2002 at the opening of the Sligo International Choral Festival. They will return here next week. I formed the choir after the Omagh Bombing, said Daryl. I am musical director of the choir, but my involvement is more limited. I try to get to as many rehearsals and performances as I can. Actually I was rehearsing with them recently for a performance in the Presbyterian Church in Sligo on December 10th.


Unfortunately, Daryl won't be there to see them. He will be performing in Statesboro, Georgia, with the tenors as part of their ten-date US tour which takes in concerts in New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. There is an awful lot of travelling with the Tenors. We fly out to the United States in two day's time. It will be the third trip to the States since I joined them in July. As an opera singer I am used to travelling, but not as intensely as the Celtic Tenors do at the moment. We normally travel two or three times a week, sometimes more. We have been to Germany and Holland recently as well as all over Ireland - North, South, East and West.


Last weekend we performed at the GAA Female All-Stars in Saturday night in the City West Hotel. On Sunday we did Lansdowne Road for the rugby (Ireland vs Australia) and at half time we bumped into the Taoiseach, Bertie, who was also at the All-Stars event. We were having a laugh about who is busier, him or us.

That evening we performed an acapella concert in Dalkey. It was a bit surreal going from performing in front of 50,000 to singing for four or five hundred.


The gloss of travelling and performing hasn't worn off for Daryl just yet, however. I am delighted at the variety of things we are doing. Sometimes we are performing with a full orchestra, sometimes with a band, sometimes just a small group of musicians. It is a great tribute to the lads that they have put a stamp on the music and that they can perform it like this, in these different formats.