The Celtic Tenors in Doha

Irish singers on fame, fans and their unlikely hip hop ambitions

The Celtic Tenors in Doha

Pretend I’ve been living under a rock: what exactly do you do?
Matthew: We are an Irish singing group, trying hard to dispel the stuffy nature of the tenor idiom! We use piano, guitar, an old shaker and our voices, never backing tracks, but sometimes a symphony orchestra.
It is very difficult to label the Celtic Tenors, as we really just love music and sing songs we like to sing. We have not done very much hip-hop or rap as yet, or house and garage, maybe we should!

You started over a decade ago. How did that happen?
Matthew: I had just finished a five year stint in an engineering company in England and decided that I’d give the Music industry a try. I had fully expected to have a blast for 6 months and just return to my waiting job at Baker Perkins in Peterborough. I was wrong! I met with James and Daryl in an opera in Dublin [Strauss’ Die Fledermaus for Opera Ireland], James asked if I was interested in doing a little extra singing in a group he was involved with. I joined up and six months later after an impromptu audition for the top brass of EMI Classics in London we were suddenly an international recording act and I realised that my engineering career would have to wait. That was 2000, I’m still singing.

Right, so explain what Celtic, or Irish, music actually is?
Daryl: We like to take traditional songs from centuries ago and put our own contemporary spin on things, whilst we also enjoy taking the latest from the best songwriters around and performing them also.

You’ve spent a lot of that time on the road.
James: I still like life on the road. Sometimes North America can be difficult as it is so vast and there are weeks where we may have six shows and six flights in one week! But I still love it, performing for a living, singing for my supper, and meeting people.
Daryl: It teaches you amazing patience, because anything can and will go wrong. I once walked into a departure lounge and stood on a chair and asked for three tickets because our flight was cancelled, and we had a show in LA a few hours later. Lo and behold, people immediately offered us a spot, and we were eternally grateful for their generosity.

Wow. That’s awesome, if a little strange. What’s the weirdest thing that’s every happened while you’ve been on stage?
Daryl: We were performing with the Vancouver Symphony and in the middle of a dramatic pause in the music, a lady shouted out, ‘you can put your shoes under my bed anytime!’ The conductor and orchestra lost it and it took a few minutes before we could continue.
Matthew: Munich 2006, during an outdoor concert, three songs in a mini tornado seemed to touch down in the audience, turning the hospitality tent upside down. A miracle no one was hurt. The show was moved inside, where 1400 people were packed in. We gave our concert without microphones. Great end to a weird show night.
James: Many weird things have happened during Celtic Tenors shows, almost every night something happens—which may not be obvious to the audience we hope! But for me my weirdest thing was when I was a full-time opera singer. I was performing in Offenbach’s Grand Duchess of Gerolstein for Scottish Opera,
and my leading lady had seriously bad food poisoning! We had many scenes together, and on at least three occasions she had to run off the stage and get violently sick into a bucket at the side of the stage, leaving me to improvise alone to the audience until she came back wiping her mouth! It is funny now. . .

You’ve sold an insane number of albums—what makes you so popular do you think?
Matthew: One, we can sing, that might sound a bit trite but we can really tank out quality opera when we need to. We can also turn off the classical and be ballad singers, then we can sing a great pop or country song. We cross over very easily and in a believable way. Because we are involved creatively in every element of making our music, it’s just real and that stands the test of time.
Daryl: I think people like the fact that we don’t have any real airs or graces about ourselves and that they can readily identify us a lads from next door. We hope the music has an honesty to it and I think that people appreciate that. We can and often do laugh at ourselves!

So who listens to you?
Daryl: Everyone from my two year old niece and nephew, to octogenarians in Holland, to young college kids in the US. There doesn’t really seem to be any restrictions on it.
James: It used to be just an older crowd, but we find many young people now are surprised when they really enjoy our shows. Perhaps we are ‘cooler’ than we first thought!

So what are you guys listening to? What’s on your iPods?
Daryl: I listen to everything from opera to Ron Sexsmith, to Dr John to Bluegrass. I change mine up a lot, but I am currently enjoying listening to Paulo Nutini.
Matthew: All sorts. Getting into Mumford and Sons [right now].
James: Anything with lovely harmonies. And my colleagues will say that I also listen to ABBA, The Beatles, Meat Loaf, Queen and others. And they are right - I do!

What’s your guilty pleasure track? James has already been outed as an ABBA lover. . .
James: Probably ‘Thank you for the music’ (ABBA) or any of their other great classics!
Daryl: Hmm, probably U2 and ‘With or Without You’. A big old fashioned love song with all the emotion and angst that Bono can muster! Got to love it.
Matthew: Queen greatest hits. I don’t care. I just love it.
The Celtic Tenors come to the Giwana Ballroom at the Ramada Plaza on May 19. Tickets are QR350 including three course dinner and vino package. Doors open at 7pm, dinner and show start at 8pm. For tickets call 4428 1555

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