City Times meetsThe Celtic Tenors in person
On the early years of The Celtic Tenors:
I was a freelance opera singer based in London for about 10 years, going all over the world with companies like the New Israeli Opera. We started in 1995 almost as a tribute to The Three Tenors – Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras – and called ourselves The Three Irish Tenors. In 2000, we auditioned for EMI in London. They liked what we did but thought we should change our name.
On cheesy moments:
We recorded All Out of Love with Air Supply. They’re lovely guys, and I remember dancing at discos to Air Supply when I was at school, so it was surreal doing this quasi-operatic tune with them.
On the up:
Darryl has been in the group for four years, that’s the only lineup change we’ve had. We had a guy before called Niall who’d had enough of the touring. At that stage, we were with an agency who thought days off were a waste of time and money, so he got fed up with it. We stuck it out and now we’re doing fewer concerts in higher-profile places for more money.
Our management in Los Angeles recommended we do an American album. We recorded in the Hollywood Hills – it’s a nice name drop isn’t it? But for the next album we’ll probably be a bit safer.
On Barry O’Bama:
We’re in America for five or six months of the year, and the Irish festivals there never cease to amaze us. Everybody claims to be Irish! Even Barack Obama has relations in County Offaly – they’re calling him Barry O’Bama!
Without wishing to use a cliché, there’s something for everyone in the audience at our show. There’s so much variety in the programme, everything from Nessun Dorma right through to Celtic music and even a bit of pop.
Do the Tenors ever indulge in any rock star shenanigans whilst on tour?
That would be telling! No, given the opportunity to party obviously we do, but not when it’s going to expose or risk what we’re doing onstage. If you can’t get onstage because you’re sick, you’re letting everybody down. We try to eat healthily, and we probably carry more vitamins than most chemists!
How long does a typical warm-up take before your show?
Everybody’s different; mine’s about two minutes. I believe that once you’re on the road you’re permanently warmed-up. I do my serious practices – four or five hours a day – in my time off.
What’s the greatest reward of being in The Celtic Tenors?
For us, I think it’s the performing aspect. The three of us are happiest when we’re onstage and creating something. The live show is very different every night, and the audience has a different energy.
What kick-started your career in music?
I grew up wanting to play sport professionally, and had no interest in music apart from playing the piano. I played semi-professional football at 15 and international schools rugby, but then I ruptured my spleen and bowel playing rugby and the consultants said my career was finished. It was a hard tablet to swallow, but on the other hand I was about 30 minutes from not being here – it was very touch and go.
Looking back, do you think it was a blessing in disguise?
I think so. I went to college to study the piano and then by chance I took up singing at 19. I wasn’t interested in the slightest before, then I saw Pavarotti perform in Belfast and that cemented in my mind what I wanted to do. He was such a unique talent.
What made him stand out from the pack?
It’s just the sheer power of his voice – it’s the equivalent of a Ferrari. Everything is incredibly deluxe, and he has the definitive recordings of most operas.
Do you think larger people such as Pavarotti have an inherent vocal advantage over their thinner counterparts?
Absolutely not! When Pavarotti started he was quite a useful goalie. But he obviously started enjoying his lifestyle and eating a bit too much pasta!
Do you ever showcase your piano skills as part of the show?
Both James and I take the opportunity to sit down and play some piano, and I also play guitar in the show. He was also trained classically, and performs Come What May from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It’s one of the highlights of the evening.
“In the past we’ve always ventured into unchartered waters.
Pavarotti popularised classical music and opened the door for crossovers. We decided that although we’re opera singers, let’s sing folk music from our country as well.
People are always appreciative we’re trying to do something progressive. From day one, we’ve come from an institutionalised area of music, where you have to do it the way it’s always been done or become a pariah.
We’ve just said we don’t care. That’s the way new music gets developed: you try lots of things, and if one of them works that’s great. I think you become your own best filter.”