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May 2020
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2002-03 The Celtic Tenors

from the Go Britain magazine


Not only fans of classical music are enthusiastic about James, Nelson, Niall Morris and Matthew Gilsenan - the Celtic Tenors. Their recipe for success: The combination of opera, Celtic tunes and modern elements.


Though three members of the famous Irish pop group Westlife come from Sligo - the hometown of James Nelson - he doesn't want to be compared with them. "I know how hard they had to work for their deserved success, but we are completely different".


Nevertheless, there are parallels. The three tenors from Ireland are very popular - especially with their female fans - although they play classical music combined with traditional Scottish and Irish tunes and no pop music. But their charisma is overwhelming and, at least on stage, they are very extroverted guys. James Nelson, Matthew Gilsenan and Niall Morris are known for performing classical music in an informal and modern way.


Leather jacket instead of dinner-jacket and tie


It is not unusual to see the Celtic Tenors performing in trendy designer outfits or even leather jackets. An evening with the three tenors who are completely different compared with their big idols Pavarotti/Domingo/Carreras, is absolutelly not boring. Sometimes they can't help making amusing comments. Their message seems to be clear: Tenors don't have to be boring. "We want to modernize Irish music the way Riverdance has done with Irish dance. We want to turn Irish music into something cool", James says.


They have achieved international success even long time ago: In Ireland their debut album achieved gold within only 4 weeks, followed by platinum. Two years ago, they toured through the United States. Not only music critics got enthusiastic.


But their success didn't came just by chance. James, Niall and Mattew have always had been infected by the "music virus" and became known as solo artists after their training - e.g. at London Guildhall School of Music, National Opera Studio and Universal College Dublin. In 1995, James and Niall founded their first band - the "Three Irish Tenors". They tried to put through their new style in the classic music scene. Two years later, the third member was replaced Matthew. Later the band's name was changed into the Celtic Tenors.


Their style is unique. James explains: "We sing what we like personally. Apart from operas or operettas, we perform Celtic tunes but also elements of the Beatles, Roy Orbison or Freddy Mercury. I am a big fan of Abba."