The Celtic Tenors have captivated audiences throughout the UK, Europe and the U.S. since their arrival on the music scene in 2000. What began just a few years ago as three very talented friends gathering on the operatic stage has since exploded into an international recording and touring phenomenon that transcends the trio’s classical roots and embraces folk, pop and various other dimensions of the musical spectrum.
Following an impromptu audition in London, the original lineup of tenors – Matthew Gilsenan, Niall Morris and James Nelson – was signed on the spot to an international record deal with EMI, an event so unprecedented that it soon became the talk of the music industry.
The Celtic Tenors’ eponymously titled debut album immediately soared to the No. 2 spot on the UK classical charts. It went to No. 1 in Ireland and Germany, and won the Echo Award (the German version of the GRAMMYS) for Best Classical Crossover Album of 2002. The Tenors’ full-length TV special, Ein Grosse Irischer Abend (A Great Irish Evening), filmed in front of a capacity crowd in Hamburg, was broadcast to millions of viewers in Germany regularly for more than two years. It was then released as a special on more than 260 channels in the PBS network in the U.S. In a short time, this combination of recording, touring and worldwide television exposure made The Celtic Tenors one of the most successful classical crossover acts of 2002, with an album in the top ten on the Billboard charts in the U.S.
So Strong, the 2002 followup to the trio’s auspicious debut, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and produced by the legendary Mike Moran.
Their first Telarc release, Remember Me, came out in February 2006, featuring four very special guest vocalists: Samantha Mumba (“You Raise Me Up”), Brian Kennedy (“We Are Not Islands”) and Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply, who lend a hand on an epic version of Air Supply’s classic power pop ballad of 1980, “All Out of Love.” The project was a no-brainer for Russell, whose first experience of the trio made him an instant fan. “’All Out Of Love’ was our biggest hit, and I wanted to re-record it,” he says. “I heard The Celtic Tenors on a visit to Ireland and I knew immediately that we just had to duet with these guys.”
The Celtic Tenors were invited to sing for former U.S. President Bill Clinton during his visit to Dublin Castle in 2002 as part of a fund-raising effort for the Northern Ireland Peace Fund. Clinton has since said The Celtic Tenors’ version of his favorite song, “Danny Boy,” is the best he’s ever heard. In 2004, the trio had the special honor of singing in a private audience for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife Nane during a trip to Ireland. The surprise recital in honor of Annan’s birthday was a personal gift to the couple from U2 frontman Bono.
The Celtic Tenors have appeared on numerous compilation albums, including True Colors, the Official Rugby World Cup Album 2003; and Harmony, the Official Classical Album for the 2004 Olympic Games. They also appeared on Another World, the huge selling 2005 recording by Liam Lawton. Total album sales worldwide, including compilations, have surpassed a million units, making them the largest selling classical crossover artists to come out of Ireland.
2008’s Hard Times, a self-released CD of works from the great Americana songbook was the first effort to include new member Daryl Simpson.
Their most recent Telarc release Feels Like Home [October 2011] features the RTE Concert Orchestra and the Omagh Community Youth Choir in Ireland. The Tenors add their gorgeous voices to beautiful pop songs like Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day” and Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” as well as traditional fare like “Sou Gan” and “She Moved Through the Fair.”
Matthew Gilsenan is one of Ireland’s most accomplished young tenors and has achieved considerable success singing in competitions throughout the island country. His oratorio performances include Beethoven’s Mass in C, Symphony No. 9, Mendlessohn’s Walpurgesnacht, Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, Dvorak’s Mass in D and Mozart Masses.
Originally from Sligo, Ireland, James Nelson is a B.A., B.Mus (Hons) graduate from University College Dublin. His busy opera and concert schedule has taken him throughout the UK and Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Russia, Israel, Singapore and the United States. From an oratorio repertoire of more than sixty works, highlights include Frank Martin’s Golgotha in Bern and Zurich cathedrals and L’Enfance du Christ alongside Katia Ricciarelli in Rome and Florence. Nelson has performed more than fifty roles in opera and operetta, including Pinkerton (Butterfly), Lensky (Onegin) in Russia, Alfredo (Traviata) in Como, Italy, Tichon (Katya) in Lisbon and Porto, and Basilio (Figaro) under the baton of Raymond Leppard for Scottish Opera. Nelson writes a column for the “Sligo Weekender”, and is part of an ongoing building project in Nairobi (Kenya) helping give AIDS orphans a second chance at life, as well as teaching them music.
Daryl Simpson, originally from Omagh in Northern Ireland, joined the Celtic Tenors in 2007. He studied singing with tenors Peter Alexander Wilson and Nicolai Gedda, and completed his Opera Masters Degree at the Alexander Gibson Opera Scool in Glasgow. Simpson joined Opera Theatre Company’s “Young Associate Artists Scheme,” performing in many recitals and broadcasts, and in Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea. Daryl furthered his studies at Zürich’s “Intenrationales Opern Studio,” where he sang Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), and roles in Les Mamelles de Tirésias (Poulenc) for Oper Zürich. As well as performing worldwide on the concert platform, Daryl is also the musical director for the Ormagh Community Youth Choir, which was set up in the wake of the Omagh atrocity (a car bombing in a crowded shopping area in August 1998) to promote peace and reconciliation through music.