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June 2019
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2004-12-16 The Celtic Tenors

from De Stentor


When the three Irish tenors Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Niall Morris settle into the Holiday Inn Hotel in Cologne, they are immediately approached by a handful of thirty-something women who seem to be completely crazy about the three singers, who all have a cold. They claim that they would love to go on tour with the group, so that they can see their idols at work every night.


"That's what we have to deal with on a regular basis." James Nelson chuckles, after the fans have gone to a nearby table "Recently, I have received four letters with marriage proposals. This can be a little disturbing, because those women see something in us that isn't there."


"A woman once bombarded me with e-mails and erotic pictures of herself.


I was glad she eventually stopped doing so; something like that is just not funny anymore." says Matthew Gilsenan "We're simply kind to everyone, but some women immediately think that there's something between them and us."




The Celtic Tenors was formed five years ago. Until then, James Nelson and Niall Morris travelled the globe with several opera companies, whereas Matthew Gilsenan practiced the virtuous profession of engineer, and only sang in his spare time. Nelson: "When I started working with Matthew and Niall, I was the stereotype opera singer. I was much too heavy and really had to learn to act naturally on the stage. I started out by losing 70 pounds, so I didn't stand out quite that much anymore."


Gilsenan: "Initially, we were influenced by the three great tenors Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras, but we wanted to convert that to something typically Irish. We automatically ended up with the concept of Irish folk music with an opera style. At the time I thought: I'll just take half a year off from my work as an engineer, and then I'll see if I still like being with the Tenors. But five years later I'm still not tired of it, and the way it looks now I certainly don't intend to quit."


Despite their classical training, the tenors have always had a close affinity with the folk music of their country. "We have grown up with those songs. Our grandparents and parents have handed down that repertoire as a cultural heritage, and I think there isn't a classical singer in Ireland that looks down on these songs. For in the end, ever Irishman has grown up with it." After five years The Celtic Tenors have broadened their musical horizon. Gilsenan: "We have added a few Freddy Mercury and Roy Orbison songs to the repertoire, and have in addition to that made a show in which we tell the entire life story of the legendary Caruso. That is purely classic. In a way, you could say that we know no musical bounds."


Nelson lives in the town of Sligo and Morris in Dublin, but Gilsenan resides in a little farm on the Irish countryside. "When I return home after a tour, I immediately go back to milking the cows." he says, "When I'm on the stage, I'm a star, but at home I'm a regular farmer. It keeps my life balanced. My wife does actually have a little difficulty with that. She likes to travel, but when I come home, I don't want to go anywhere. That does lead to trouble every now and then."