Celtic Thunder's Keith Harkin
Pack your umbrella as Celtic Thunder returns with their storm of talent.
They play in Manhattan’s Beacon Theater on April 1 before going to roll the dice at Foxwoods, in Mashantucket, Connecticut on April 3.
The brainchild of legendary composer Phil Coulter and Celtic Woman alum Sharon Browne, the show has been a staple of PBS telethons and sold out amphitheaters since its release last year.
Ryan Kelly, a 28-year-old from Co. Tyrone, plays the bad guy in the show, which he says is “always fun.”
“It’s also a lot of fun to portray a character, to bring that bit of theater to it,” he explains. “To be the first person to sing these Phil Coulter songs that he wrote for this show is an honor and very humbling, especially when you consider that he wrote them with me in mind.”
A qualified chartered accountant, he has a bachelor of science in accounting from Queen’s University in Belfast and a graduate diploma in advanced accounting.
It’s an unlikely path to stardom, but his love of theater led to him playing Judas in the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” where he was spotted by Coulter.
“I think he saw me in that ultimate bad boy role and it stuck with me ever since,” he says with a laugh.
I spoke with Kelly about what it’s like to be s Celtic Thunder member.
This show has released two albums in the space of a year. It looks like you guys are working hard to keep things fresh.
We try to freshen the show every time we go out. We’ve all agreed once we worked on a new set list that we wanted to up it a few levels, and this leg of the tour holds some nice surprises for the fans!
The show must be a dream come true?
It is. I suppose when I was younger I dreamt of living that lifestyle. From the first time you see that tour bus it is pretty impressive! There’s people doing stuff for you all the time, and you are in that bubble of a traveling show. The fans on the Web site have been there since day one. They are pretty fanatical about that, and it took a while to get used to it. But now it’s great!
What are the downsides of being on the road with such a big show?
Being away from home for long period of time, though Internet and Skype helps.
Everyone at home is behind us. It was great to be at home when the show visited Ireland not long ago.
There is quite a bit of travel and down time. You chill out a bit after the show with the lads and then you are back in a bunk. You wake up and look around these new cities, which is always great fun. We have been some places I thought I would never be.
Do the lads get along okay?
We’ve been really lucky in that respect. They took chances on all of us getting along. The chemistry between the five of us started in a house in Antrim. We sunk or swum there as we began recording the album.
Being on a tour bus together has gone smoothly, and I am glad there are no major fights. We’re five lads that enjoy the craic.
This whole Celtic theater show concept is a pretty crowded genre lately, with Celtic Woman, Druid, High Kings and yourselves. What do you think of the other shows, and what makes you stand apart?
I’ve seen the clips of those shows. Celtic Woman and Riverdance to a greater extent have paved the way for shows like this to be sure, but I think who we are as performers, the songs we sing and the way we look are very different.
A show like this can be a great springboard to a solo career. Have you thought of life after Celtic Thunder?
That’s always been a solo album. I am enjoying every minute of it right now, and the show has a lot of new songs in it now.
The second tour is wrapping up in May. I write songs and I hope to do an album at some point. I love folk music and a wide spectrum.
This is a learning curve for me being new to the big music business. Being in the studio with Phil is so valuable because you see a master at work. So, I am still learning by being in this show and I have a lot to learn before I do any solo work.