The Celtic Tenors‘ decision several years ago to expand a mainly classical repertoire by giving rein to their truly catholic (small ‘c’) musical tastes now sets them apart from other similarly accomplished, classically trained operatic groups of the genre.  

Drawn together by their (separate) refined training, the love of their native Irish folk music and jigs, of ballads (‘You Raise Me Up’, ‘Forever Young’), ports (little songs) such as the Scottish ‘Fionnghuala’, and even calypsos, are now as likely to feature in their performances as classics such as ‘O Solo Mio’, ‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘La Donna e mobile’.

Certainly, the enthusiastically appreciative audience enjoyed an eclectic vocal tour de force. It was delivered with the anticipated polished professionalism, as well as an easy informality, which made the occasion all the more pleasurable for this particular Rue Brother (who shall remain nameless) and the particular Mrs Rue in question (ditto).

The Celtic Tenors
Left to Right: Daryl Simpson, Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson

Successful performer-audience relationships are a partnership of one sort or another and if we know they don’t condescend while rendering ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’ and ‘Red-Haired Harry’, but genuinely enjoy delivering them, then we appreciate that sincerity, that approachability, and empathy – the invisible bond – is created.

Similarly, the less reverential approach to their classical range (lollipops and all) with the pre and post banter (and, for programme closer ‘O Solo Mio’, the accompanying touch of Latinate histrionics) brings an added anticipation and accessibility.

Less mute veneration, more vocal enjoyment . . .

James Nelson was, in 1995, a founder-member of the original incarnation of the trio – The Three Irish Tenors – who became The Celtic Tenors in 2000 when ‘Gilly’ Gilsenen replaced Paul Hennessey. Another member of the original trio, Niall Morrison, was replaced by Daryl Simpson in 2006 and these three (James, Gilly and Daryl, together for 10 years) not only still ‘enjoy the craic‘ with fantastic enthusiasm but lead fulfilling lives off-stage as well.

James is instrumental in housing and supporting AIDS children in Africa through the charity Kenya Build and teaches them music and singing.  However, he agreed with this Brother Rue that he will be extremely unlikely to find a tenor there.

A short, ruminative discussion ensued when James was asked why some countries appeared to produce tenors galore while others struggled to produce more than a few. In the case of Eire, James opined it could be linked with the heritage of the travelling poets and musicians (no mics then, so to speak) and, more specifically, in County Cork where the naturally high vocal pitch of the population (which he amusingly imitated in counter-tenor mode). Sadly, in the allotted interview time, such philosophical cogitations were necessarily curtailed.

James has been helped out in Kenya by Gilly as well as Daryl who, in 1998, founded the Omagh Community Youth Choir aimed at bringing young people together to promote peace and reconciliation through music. Daryl also brings his ‘musical arranger’ skills to the trio (not always appreciated, he whispered) and mentors young melodic talent.

The Celtic Tenors are in huge demand, criss-crossing the globe frequently, with performance venues and audiences as eclectic as their own musical tastes, selling over 1m albums and winning copious prizes and commendations.  It was a pleasure to meet this enormously talented, thoroughly natural and entirely disarming trio.

That they should have appeared once again at the (now) Radisson Blu Hotel Doha is testimony to the hospitality of GM Gordon McKenzie and his team of professionals. They are thoroughly in tune with the English-speaking expat community’s musical, entertainment and culinary tastes (the audience was treated to a sumptuous buffet, with beverages to match) while delivering excellent value for money.

Certainly the audience reaped the rewards, applauding and calling for encores at the end of an inspiring evening’s entertainment.

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