We haven’t even made our way through the best candy from our trick-or-treating -- could we really be talking about Christmas already? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, both at your local Costco and in the Celtic Tenors camp.
Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson of the Celtic Tenors have been weaving together an eclectic repertoire of Celtic, operatic and popular songs for audiences worldwide since 2000, and they are coming to the U.S. later this month to spread holiday cheer with a string of shows.
Their fantastic holiday CD, Christmas, was among the best things I heard all of last year. The disc is now available exclusively at their shows and on their website.
During the performance the Celtic Tenors will weave some winter magic by singing traditional Christmas songs, such as “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “We Three Kings.”
"These are the songs that over the years have filled our homes at Christmas time here in Ireland. We hope that everyone who listens catches a little bit of our Irish Christmas spirit.” says Gilsenan.
The group was signed this summer to Decca/Universal Records and just finished a new album with Charles Fisher, an award winning producer of hits in Australia who has worked with Savage Garden, the Hoodoo Gurus and Olivia Newton-John to name a few.
“Universal really loved how we push the envelope with our harmonies in unconventional ways in our shows,” Nelson explained.
“They envisioned a collection of big pop ballads from the sixties, seventies and eighties. We then came up with a track list of big pop list. We had Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey on the list. Dolly Parton, Martina McBride.
“There were four or five songs that they chose and it just worked. We had a short list of about 20 and we ended up with 13. I love it. The harmonies are right there, but I’m afraid Michael and Mariah were left on the cutting room floor.”
The pressure is on to name the collection. “I’ve been wanting to call the album Un-Celtified because it is really far away from where we have been,” jokes Nelson.
Nelson and the lads were careful to add their own personal stamp to some of pop music’s most beloved and well-known melodies.
“The one thing we don't want to do is imitate someone else in the tunes we chose,” he reasons. “There's no point of doing that in John Denver's distinctive voice.
“It was really a challenge to make our own harmonies for a Bee Gees song, since the Gibb brothers are so known for their harmonies. It's easy to fall into a puckered lower lip when you do an Elvis song, but I think we managed to avoid those pitfalls.”
They will embark on an ambitious tour behind the album that will keep them busy for most of 2015.
“We have Dayton Philharmonic scheduled in 2015, so I am really looking forward to working a big orchestra again,” Nelson enthuses. “We just want to work, fill our diaries, and share our music. A lot of the booking agencies have really caught onto this excitement around the four album deal we signed, so this is hopefully the start of something great for us.”
For now, the Celtic Tenors have hunkered down with a new musical director, Colum Henry, to hammer out their set list for the holidays.
“Realistically, only about a third of the songs are Christmas songs,” says Nelson. “We will be doing a lot of the songs from our Christmas CD. We might even seed in a track from our new album just to give people a taste of what’s next.”
The Celtic Tenors holiday tour includes stops at Newton Theater in Newton, New Jersey on November 28. I saw them there last year. Nestled into the center of a quaint town so far north in New Jersey that it might be close to the North Pole, it is the perfect backdrop to put you in the spirit of the season.
For a full list of dates visit www.celtic-tenors.com.