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2007-04-26 The Celtic Tenors

The following appeared in the Pulse Niagara online edition.
April 26 - May 2, 2007
[ADAM GRANT]

 

As more and more music acts sign record contracts, it can become harder and harder to decipher who actually fits into a specific genre. Punk music went from the Ramones to Simple Plan, metal went from Slayer to Limp Bizkit, and opera went from The Three Tenors (Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti), to the likes of Simon Cowell's popoperatic Il Divo. Each format found a way to gradually shift from its honest, wellintentioned early days, to whatever can be easily contrived and spoonfed to the masses. But in the case of The Celtic Tenors, revolting against such an idea is what happens to set them apart. Being signed to a major record label in 2000 almost immediately after auditioning for EMI Music, The Celtic Tenors, Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson, began the new millennium on the right foot with the opportunity to showcase songs from their Irish heritage to the world. Considering the group already had a whole whack of shows beneath their belts, the trio managed to venture into the studio, and by 2002 release their debut offering, So Strong, which, fittingly, became stronger and stronger once it hit the shelves. The album went double platinum and reach number one in both Germany and Ireland, thus affording the group not only the opportunity to continue touring, but to produce more CDs for their expanding fan base. Four more albums would follow, but in the midst of it would come perhaps the group's greatest detriment, the arrival of Il Divo. Admittedly manufactured, this group of scouted singers began selling millions seemingly right off the bat that would sometimes lead casual operatic vocal group fans to compare The Celtic Tenors to their brand new counterparts. "There are some commonalities, we sing with operatic voices sometimes, and we sing some of that classical crossover music, but that's only a tiny portion of what we do and I think what drives us is completely different," believes Gilsenan, speaking from a crackling cellphone in B.C. "I think what Il Divo is driven by, perhaps I'm completely wrong, but what they seem to be
driven by is a marketing machine and money. "I think what we're driven by is that we just like singing and we like making music and doing it to the best of our ability," he continues. "We've been doing it now for about eight years and there is that element of doing what we really like. I actually read an article about Il Divo recently, a review of the show, and the guy said that they looked bored. You can't have this kind of life unless you really believe in what you're doing and get off on the music." In order to find some separation, The Celtic Tenors are attempting to use the passion they have for classical Irish tunes of past and present, not to mention modern rock hits, to set them apart from groups like Il Divo. For example, at each gig, these three gents pride themselves on changing it up as often as
possible. Whether that includes their rendition of tearjerker "Danny Boy," the crowdexciter known as "Whiskey In the Jar," or an operatic juggernaut, fans aren't just getting guys who can stand around and sing, they're getting Irishmen who like to keep their audiences on their toes. In order to do this at a greater level, TCT
have embarked on tackling songs by Queen, Roy Orbison, Air Supply and other such renowned music makers of the modern era. "We kind of say about the show that we're selfish, and that we sing songs that we like, and songs that we feel reflect what Ireland is about today, not what Ireland was about 200 years ago, so we bring something a little bit more modern," says Gilsenan. "We love our old Irish ancestry and our old Irish songs. We sing the folk songs from the past, modern folk songs that are popular at home at the moment and a ton of modern songs that we have written ourselves and have had written for us. "A few years ago for our latest album (2005s Remember Me), we actually met up with the lads of Air Supply and we just thought that they were nice guys, and the situation led us to a studio and
we did loads of stuff with them," he recalls. "We found that "I'm All Out of Love," really worked for us, for some reason. We (initially) felt, `is this for us?' It just so happens that it's one of the most popular numbers of the night."