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2002-05-09 The story of the three Celtic Tenors

Back in the last Millenium, in the days when I looked even more like a tenor, in 1995 to be more precise, Niall Morris, Paul Hennessy and myself made our Three Irish Tenors debut on RTE's Theatre Nights which was broadcast live from Goffs in Co Kildare.

 

There followed a nationwide tour, several sell-out shows at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, as well as numerous appearances on the Late Late Show, Live at 3, a make-over on Head to Toe and, with the help of a helicopter (my first trip in one), the interval act in the Rose of Tralee. During all of this I was still pursuing a busy career in opera, oratorio and concerts at home and abroad.

 

In 1998, due to his blossoming solo career and family commitments (a lovely little baby girl) Paul withdrew from the group, and the exciting young tenor Matthew Gilsenan seemed like the obvious choice as replacement.

 

Paul is now the lead male singer at the popular Burlington Cabaret as well as running a successful stage-school in his home town of Carlow. We still keep in touch.

 

In 1999, The Three Irish Tenors (Matthew, Niall and myself) had a sellout summer season at Clontarf Castle with Rebecca Storm (famous for Blood Brothers as well as many other West End shows), and under the musical direction of Andy O'Callaghan.

 

The show really had "something for everyone in the audience", operatic and Neapolitan favourites, hits from the shows, a stand-up comedian and a troupe of dancers  including us at times (Picture that if you will!).

 

Thankfully, we had an illness-free summer and performed 137 shows in a row (possibly 100 too many for me!).

 

In March 2000, we followed up with a highly successful tour of the American east coast, with concerts in New York, Chicago, Boston, and in less glamorous places like Schenectady, Agawam, Tom's River, Springfield, Rochester and what seemed like hundreds more!

 

Every day we sang to a sea of green with blue-rinse icing! Both of the above contracts were real tests of stamina, to put it mildly, but definite learning experiences.

 

By this time, the now Three (Young) Irish Tenors were fortunate enough to have been taken under the wing of Pat Egan - a man we owe so much to, in every sense of the word. Pat suggested that what we really needed was a record deal. Naturally we agreed, and he immediately set up several auditions.

 

We went first to Decca who offered us a contract there and then, pending permission from their principal tenor Big Luce (Luciano Pavarotti).

The same week as Decca and the big guy were deliberating we had another impromptu audition in a horrible low-ceilinged boardroom at EMI in London's Baker Street.

 

We went in to sing for the President, Vice-President and a few other daunting figures on their coffee break.

 

Matthew (having been an engineer) operated the remote control on the machine while we sang for 20 minutes using backing tracks as our orchestra, sort of like karaoke I suppose.

 

This audition is by now famous as it resulted in our three album worldwide deal and, as you may or may not know, we have just released the second. Pav had missed the boat, but it made for great press at the time!

Despite being the first trio of Irish tenors on the Irish musical scene, we were persuaded to change our name to a name that would have more universal appeal and obviously would avoid any further confusion. This was the birth of The Celtic Tenors.

 

At the risk of boring you, we now have a full diary of concerts and appearances all over. We just recorded a two-hour German TV Special (broadcast all over Germany on the NDR network).

 

This TV Special is being taken up by PBS in the US, so that all looks very promising indeed. A full tour of Ireland, the UK, Germany and the US are also now in the diary. So we are certainly kept going and let's hope it stays that way!