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The Celtic Tenors Christmas CD lends an Irish vibe to the sounds of the season

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The Celtic Tenors.
The Celtic Tenors.

I have a policy not to touch Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, yet the gorgeous delicacies found on the new Celtic Tenors Christmas disc are like trying to stop yourself from tearing into a plate of fresh-baked sugar cookies!

Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson have been weaving their voices for over a decade, thrilling a global audience along the way. This album, called "The Celtic Tenors Christmas," is an early Christmas present to their fans.

“We have recorded eight studio albums but since the beginning, I have been hassling the guys to do a Christmas album,” tenor Nelson says.

“A few years ago the Sunday Independent in Ireland asked us to record a seven-track giveaway CD for Christmas. That wasn’t a full CD, and after 14 years together we got it done!”
The lads took to Facebook and requested input from their fans as they created the track listing.

“In fact, ‘The First Noel’ was one we hadn’t really considered until it got thousands of Facebook requests. I am personally happy too that my favorite Christmas song of all time made it on -- ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter,’” Nelson said.

Nelson’s love of the song shines through in this tender ballad, with lush yet understated orchestration that could warm the hard heart of any of you Scrooges out there.

There are many of the usual suspects on there, like “Ave Maria” and “Oh Holy Night” and other classics, songs which they have sung every year and that the fans would expect to hear on a holiday disc.

You wouldn’t use the word “innovative” to describe the tired old “Silent Night,” yet the lads blend a gentle bagpipe melody with a soft flamenco guitar palette that blows an exciting Celtic cool to the tune.

“I think the music on this album represents each of our own church upbringings, but also hopefully in its textures and harmonies and arrangements fit into the overall hopefully-established Celtic Tenor sound,” Nelson says.

The Celtic Tenors have been playing to sellout crowds in Canada for their Christmas tour and look forward to returning to the U.S. for a few dates in December (check out www.celtic-tenors.com for a full list of dates).

“Of course, every act has a Christmas show or album, but while we sing things like ‘White Christmas’ in the shows, we strive for a unique selection which represents our past, our Classical roots, our signature harmonies, and songs which will make our devoted fans happy,” Nelson says.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without heading home for the holidays, so the tour will wrap up on December 21 in Limerick.

“Since my dear mum died, Christmas has kind of changed for our family,” Nelson says. “I now spend Christmas in Sligo with my sister Linda and her family, and my elderly dad now lives on the farm with them. I am lucky to have a lovely family in Sligo which means a huge amount to me.”

Nelson has what he calls a second family in Kenya, where he pours countless hours into charity work. He is touring Canada in conjunction with Save the Children – Canada – www.savethechildren.ca – and he will continue fundraising and building with Sligo’s Kenya Build before heading to Nairobi next summer for his 10th trip.

“I am hooked,” he says. “We are now watching kids there proceed to university and full-time jobs, and I have to say, while of course only a drop in the ocean, it is quite emotional to see the difference being made.”

Now if that doesn’t warm your heart for the holidays, I don’t know what will!

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