Celtic Thunder, the remarkably successful Irish touring group, and stage show, are back with a new album and a forthcoming U.S. tour
When tourists ask jaded New Yorker's how to get to Carnegie Hall we like to shout 'Practice!” It's an old joke but it's literally true for talented Celtic Thunder member Emmet Cahill who performed at Carnegie Hall in New York the day before St. Patrick's Day.
Celtic Thunder X, the new album named after the band's first decade, will also be airing on participating Public Television Stations - then the Celtic Thunder X tour schedule will be posted to the web on St. Patrick’s Day and tickets will go on sale for the autumn tour around Easter.
It's quite a busy year for the band and for Cahill obviously. Born and still living in Mullingar, County Westmeath, he's a graduate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music as well as Ireland's most acclaimed young tenor.
“I grew up in a musical household,” he tells IrishCentral. “My father was a piano teacher and my mother was a church singer, and we always sang and played music but I never thought about it as a career.”
One of the mega stars of the Irish singing group Celtic Thunder, Emmet Cahill is returning this weekend, March 24 & 25, just one week after his St. Paddy's Day Carnegie Hall debut. For tickets go to https://t.co/TImuVW7aYp#emmetcahill #symphony #orchestra #spacecoastevents pic.twitter.com/qJNzJoU0lK— Space Coast Symphony (@SpaceCoastOrch) March 19, 2018
For most of his teenage years he was more interested in football than singing, he says. His music career only really started to unfold though Celtic Thunder over the past five years.
“I was in college doing my thing like other people and through Celtic Thunder I got an opportunity to come to the States with the lads. That changed the course of everything. Since then it's been this roller coaster, which in turn has led to my solo career.”
The opportunities really have extraordinary for a young singer starting out, the most impressive of which was the opportunity to work with legendary Irish songwriter Phil Coulter, who wrote a song for Cahill on his first tryout.
“I auditioned when Phil was the director for the show and he wrote a song for me when I joined up. It was the first song I ever recorded in a studio, so it was a great experience. He's a legend at home and he has a massive following over here too.”
So does being in a band like Celtic Thunder give Cahill a new appreciation for the Irish songbook, all the classics heard around the world especially at this time of the year? “To be honest with you I was always an old soul in terms of music. I was listening to older music as a child, I was raised with classical songs and traditional ones. My background, to be honest, was never too current.”
Last night was like a dream I never wanted to wake up from.— EmmetIrish _ Tenor (@Emmetcahill) March 18, 2018
Thank you to every single person who has supported me on my journey thus far.
Making my debut at Carnegie Hall was an experience I’ll never forget.
Happy St.Patricks day from the Cahill family. 🇮🇪☘️ pic.twitter.com/Da6vyx2lwn
The thing that most surprised Cahill on joining the tour was the sheer significance of these Irish songs particularity in the States and Canada, and how deeply they resonate with people over here. “I think we don't realize at home how much these songs mean to people, or just how far they reach,” he explains.
“When I do shows with the lads in Celtic Thunder, or when I'm singing solo, I realize a song like Danny Boy means so much here, maybe even more than it does in Ireland. In many ways, it's an emigrants connection to Ireland. For them, a song like that can symbolize their parents and their grandparents or someone close to them and bring back powerful memories for them. It's a very powerful conduit to experience, it's so much more than just music and words.”
That part of his time, discovering just how vast the Irish experience actually is, has been his most enjoyable in Celtic Thunder, Cahill admits. “The significance of it has only really hit me from touring and bringing the music to people, he says.
There's 40 million people with Irish ancestry in this country who have a connection to Ireland by family, but there's many more with no Irish ancestry who just connect with the songs, he adds. There's very much a universal element to them, it doesn't matter who you are.
“Ireland as a country is a small island in the Atlantic ocean, but Ireland as a nation reaches the four corners of the globe and music is the one thing that connects them all, the whole global Irish family.”Celtic Thunder has been a great springboard for the band members own solo projects he admits. I signed up with Sony and released my own album last year, it was great to get a label release and I'm performing at Carnegie Hall next Friday night.
He enjoys working with the current lineup he adds. “Ryan Kelly was in the original show, Damien McGinty (who won a spot on the TV smash Glee when he was talented spotted by the producers) was also in the original lineup and is in the current one too, Neil Byrne was in the band originally and then came forward as a singer the year I joined in 2011, and now there's a new guy called Michael O'Dwyer who joined the current lineup two years ago.”
This is the first new show that the new lineup have all starred in together. “This is the first time in years that we're mounting a completely new show, so it'll be uncharted territory in terms of going out in the autumn and doing it,” he says.
Changing times means a blend of the traditional and the modern Cahill adds. After all Ireland has changed so much in the past two decades. It has a biracial gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister) it was the first country in the world to vote for marriage equality, and now women's reproductive rights are being addressed in a forthcoming referendum that will likely see the influence of the church further diminished in public life.
“People's perceptions of an Irish show was first shaped by brilliant acts like The Clancy Brother's, with their tweed hats and their Aran sweaters. That whole dancing at the crossroads approach really represented the Ireland of the time. But now with social media people see how easy it is to visit Ireland and they have a better sense of what the Ireland of today is really like, but I think it's very important to uphold some of the traditions the Diaspora would recognize as traditional Ireland.”
Cahill says he likes to keep that tradition alive with some of the older Irish songs he sings. “They have been passed on through generations of families, and we can see in performance that everyone that comes to see us knows the words, from the grandparents to the little tots.”
“In many ways I think it's our biggest selling point, that we're this mystical island, and people go to Ireland for that experience. The states are only a couple of hundred years old. Irish culture is thousands of years old.
Each of the lads has identifiable characteristics in the show, he adds. “We all know where we stand and what's expected of us. I sing the older more traditional songs and that's my thing and we all have found our niche, and we all come together for group songs like Danny Boy to Galway Girl.”
Concert goers need to know the new Celtic Thunder show will be dynamic, there will be a lot of new songs that Cahill believes will appear to a wide audience. “The show is bigger than any of us and it starts 21 September and runs to the 21 December and we can't wait to hit the road.
Meanwhile the new Celtic Thunder X album and DVD have just been released and he's doing station visits and public television appearances nationally to promote it. “Then I'm doing a solo show in New York at Carnegie Hall on Friday, 16. It's go go go,” he laughs. For tickets visit carnegiehall.org.