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2007-05-20 Sligo (James Nelson charity concert)

Charity Concert in Sligo for "Cheryls Childrens Home" at Dagoretti, Nairobi
reviewed by Beate

Sligo's Clarion Hotel is a beautiful, historically preserved building in gothic style, complete with its own former chapel, which still has church character, but was also a little transformed to be a meeting and gathering space. Very simple in style, the chandelier and the candles combined with the church interior and red velvet chairs definitely made it a fitting venue for the event!

David was accompanying all singers on the piano for the night, and he was giving a brilliant performance  plus, he threw in some side remarks that were simply hilarious. It was a special treat that the whole concert was acoustic, so there was no amplification and no mikes, just piano and the pure voices. What an experience!

James opened the concert with Granada, then continued with two Italian songs which, he explained, were both sad and about lost love. The first one was called "L'Ultima Canzone", the second one "Non t'amo piý". When he got towards the end of the explanation  one of the songs is about a man who vows to keep singing serenades under the window of the woman he loves, despite the fact that she is about to get married to someone else  David chipped in and said, in short words, the song translates to "Get a life". Which, in the course of the evening, they found out to be the case for a lot of opera arias!

Next was "Mattinata"  familiar ground from some Celtic Tenors concerts in the past. James was in absolutely brilliant form and had a tremendous presence in that little church, with his voice filling the space and reaching everywhere. Sadly, it obviously surpassed the person unwrapping sweets in the row behind me  can someone please tell me, why is there always the one doing this???

After "Mattinata", it was time for the first guest of the evening  as it happened, a member of†the Celtic Tenors'†very Yahoo Group, namely Grace Foley! Grace is a contralto with one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard. Like Donna, she is only 20 years of age, so watch out for that name, you will surely hear it again!

Grace did a song by Brahms called "Vergebliches Staendchen", and "O thou that tellest" by Handel. Both performances were breathtaking and I could have continued listening to her for hours!

Which, of course, does not mean that I did not want James back on stage  he returned with a song which, he said, meant a lot to his family, and therefore was consequently dedicated to a family member. The song's name was "Gortnamona" and it is by Percy French. It was so beautiful. I've looked it up on the net, and indeed came across the words:

Long, long ago in the woods of Gortnamona,
I thought the birds were singing in the blackthorn tree;
But oh, it was my heart that was ringing, ringing, ringing,
With the joy that you were bringing, oh my love, to me

Long, long ago in the woods of Gortnamona,
I thought the wind was sighing round the blackthorn tree;
But oh, it was the banshee that was crying, crying, crying,
And I knew my love was dying far across the sea.

Now if you go through the woods of Gortnamona,
You hear the raindrops creeping through the blackthorn tree;
But oh, it is the tears I am weeping, weeping, weeping,
For the loved one that is sleeping far away from me..

After that, it was time for guest number two  and, as far as I was concerned, quite a surprise! I'd surely met her before the concert and I could also clearly see her sitting next to David turning the music sheets for him  but my face was probably a picture when James invited the "page turner" onto stage to sing a duet with him. It was yet again another member of the yahoogroup: Maeve! Together with James, she did a perfect version of "Pie Jesu" and it was, most definitely, one of those goosebump moments which I will surely treasure for a long long time!

James continued with "Vesti la giubba", before he invited another guest on stage, Sligo baritone Jonathan Carter, who sang "Bring him home" and then the "Pearl Fisher Duet" together with James. This also concluded the first half.

The second half then flew by, with one personal favourite of mine following the other, and it's probably needless to say, I enjoyed it very very much and had the greatest time. It started of with James doing "The holy city". I've only ever heard the tenors do this once, at the Christmas concert in Sligo in 2005, and I was more than delighted to hear it again.

He continued with two songs by Grieg, which made me smile, given that Norway is where I will head for my holidays in two weeks' time. The songs were called "O jeg vil ha" and "En DrÝm", and James mentioned the link to Jussi Bjoerling, one of his favourite tenors. Next was "Star of the County Down", before the last guest of the evening was introduced.

Deirdre took the stage and, as her first solo, did "Song for Ireland". Again, I had not heard her do this in a long long time, but will always remember that that was also her solo at my first Celtic Tenors concert. Her second song was "Dream a little dream", and we were then treated to a duet by Deirdre and James, "All I ask of you".

charity concert
Maeve, Grace, Deirdre
David, Jonathan and James

James then continued with a rousing rendition of "Sit down you're rocking the boat", before Maeve joined him again for another duet, "We'll gather lilacs". I wish I could have taped that for everyone to hear!

Next was another song he dedicated to his family  and when he announced that this was a song he had recorded as a solo on the first Celtic Tenors album, I knew exactly what was coming: "Summer of my dreams". Need I say more?

His last solo song of the night was "Nessun Dorma" ("think of soccer"), before Deirdre joined him again for "Time to say Goodbye", coming from the back of the church and only starting to walk up the aisle when she was already singing.

Needless to say, there was a standing ovation for all participants, which was well deserved.. I can only hope that the night raised a lot of money for the Kenya project, and for the charity  but most of all, I will remember it as a wonderful concert and a very memorable event!

For more information on James' trip we recommend to read:

Nelsons Column