Celtic Thunder in Australia
The lights around Sydney harbour sparkled upon the water in Jones Bay wharf , near Darling Harbour in Sydney . People were making their way home from work heading to Circular Quay and Central railway to catch ferries and trains . I was lucky not to be caught up in the frantic stampede of feet pounding concrete footpaths as I was on my way to see Celtic Thunder who were about to make their first performance in Australia at a venue called Doltone House near Star City Casino in Sydney .As I arrived at the venue I was welcomed by one of the promotional Celtic Thunder staff members .
This beautiful young lady pointed me towards a lift that brought me to the concert hall on the second floor of Doltone house .
As I made my way to the crowd of people gather ed on the balcony over looking Sydney harbour bridge a man approached with canvas food on trays and gratefully I accepted the finger food provided . Before I could swallow the tasty entrees another man walked among the crowd with bottled beer on a tray .I called to him and pointed to an imported Italian beverage .
The small select crowd was mixture of Irish media and other TV and radio presenters . There were other people there from various sectors of the music business to hear Celtic Thunder perform . The atmosphere was friendly and people were eagerly awaiting the call for the gig to begin .
A few more drinks and how do you do’s and it was on .
We were invited to enter the concert hall for the show was ready to begin .
As we walked through the numerous heavy glass doors that were decorated with Celtic Thunder Posters a table displaying a collection of Celtic Thunder CDs and DVDs had been put there for us as we walked past .
Almost every man and woman took at least two . Tall tables stood in spots around the small concert hall . We would not be a seated audience but that was good as it provided the opportunity to mingle and talk with others present I met Jim Clark and his wife who were from Belfast . Jim like myself presents an Irish radio program in Australia . We immediately struck up a conversation about who we were , what we did , where we came from and as fate had it he even knew my Mother who is a member of an Irish social club called the Penrith Gaels and also the group known as the Tir Na Oge .
Suddenly music erupted from the speakers on the stage and around the room as five tall men in grey kilts took to the stage . Celtic Thunder were warmly received and they began singing Irelands Call written by the Phil Coulter . This song was performed in vocal solos stages that highlighted the versatility of each of the singers in Celtic Thunder . Although each voice was unique , only when Celtic Thunder sang together that you could appreciate the overall compliment of their combined talent . Song after song was sung showcasing songwriters like Jimmy McCarthy , Jimmy Webb , Neil Sedaka and the driving force behind Celtic Thunder Phil Coulter .
The audience were entranced well over an hour and swept away by the magic of Celtic thunder . After the show we all the opportunity to meet the members of Celtic Thunder .
What a friendly bunch of lads they all were and one by one I spoke to each and every one
Keith was telling me about this one particular occasion when he and his Dad were sharing a pint in a pub in Derry . His Da told him about an audition that was taking place that afternoon and encouraged him to give it a go . His Dad even gave him the taxi fare to get there and as fate had it planned , after singing at the audition Keith was offered a place in Celtic Thunder .
From the age of four, Keith has been wowing audiences with his beautiful voice and musical virtuosity. As well as possessing a voice spun from gold, he is also an accomplished songwriter and guitarist. Keith has played at the Tavistock Festival in the UK and was the lead in BBC’s “Dha Theanga” in 2006 – also composing and recording songs for the show. Keith has shared his talents by opening for acts such as John Martyn and David Kitt in 2007. It was a serendipitous day when Keith returned from London one afternoon (where he is currently recording a solo album) and heard about the auditions for Celtic Thunder, as they were already in progress! He called into the auditions on spec just as they were finishing, auditioned and was very happy to be asked then and there to attend the final auditions in Dublin, and was ultimately selected as one of the five soloists for the Celtic Thunder show.
Ryan has been singing since the age of seven in various choirs but most enjoys singing Irish Traditional and Folk Music – and became singing champion at the SCOR competition in March 2007. Ryan finished second in the BBC television “Country Cool” competition in 2003, and performed alongside Westlife, Girls Aloud and Simply Red in the televised “Children in Need Live Charity Concert” at the Odyssey in Belfast to an audience of over 8,000. Ryan is actively involved in Amateur Dramatics and has played the lead in “Blood Brothers” and the role of “Judas Iscariot” in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”Auditioning for Celtic Thunder and being chosen as one of the five successful vocalists has taken Ryan’s passion for Traditional Irish Music to a professional level.
As a self-taught and accomplished musician, George plays guitar, flute, mandolin, bodhran, and banjo. George’s love of Celtic music stems from his childhood in Glasgow, where his main influence was his late father Bernard, who had a love and appreciation of all kinds of live music played from the heart. Nothing pleased his father more than seeing George becoming a successful musician and playing at his beloved Celtic Park in front of 65,000 fans at the opening match of the 2000/01 Season. George is a well-established singer in the vibrant Glasgow and West of Scotland Folk scene. He has recorded folk sessions for BBC Scotland and made appearances at Glasgow’s own Celtic Connections and the Glasgow West End Festival. To date, George has toured in America, Canada and Europe, and has developed a fondness for Germany, where he has a great following. He is looking forward to his travels with Celtic Thunder – marking his most exciting musical adventure to date.
Rounding out the group as the youngest member, Damian lives with his parents, and his brother and sister, and when he’s not singing he loves playing football. Damian began singing at a young age, winning his first music competition at the age of six. Currently, Damian is in a drama society and the City of Derry Choir, along with a local church choir that recently recorded a gospel CD. After winning a singing competition in 2006, Damian’s public profile was significantly boosted and he made appearances at various concerts: the Millennium Forum for Derry City football team, and for the Red Cross. Damian recorded a solo CD and sent a copy of it to Phil Coulter, who passed it to Sharon Browne. As a result, Damian was invited to audition as a singer for Celtic Thunder. Damian’s excitement and enthusiasm for Celtic Thunder is infectious, and after seeing him sing, there was no way he would not be part of this stellar group of young men.
Dublin born, Paul has been hailed as Ireland’s premier young tenor and it is easy to see why. Singled out at an early age as having a special vocal talent, Paul was encouraged to pursue his dream and began voice study and training at the tender age of seven. He studied under Dr Veronica Dunne, Ireland’s leading lady of opera and a renowned vocal teacher. A professional singer by his early teens, Paul recorded his first album as a boy soprano when he was 14. He released his album Velvet in Ireland in 2005 to great critical acclaim, placing him firmly at number two in the music charts. Since then, Paul has gone on to sell out concerts at the prestigious National Concert Hall in Dublin in 2006 and again in 2007, while also performing at major sporting events in Ireland and abroad. When the auditions for Celtic Thunder were announced, Phil Coulter contacted Paul and invited him to audition for Sharon Browne, and he was naturally selected as one of the five brilliant members of Celtic Thunder. “I am thrilled to be part of the Celtic Thunder project and to work with Sharon and Phil,” says Paul. “We had so much fun making the show, and it is very exciting to think about bringing it to US audiences.
When I asked Paul how it felt to be touring the world with Celtic Thunder and part of this hugely successful project and he answered .
“I never take it for granted because in this business nothing is guaranteed . Today we might be on a good thing but tomorrow it could all be over and we would be out there singing at weddings and funerals .“
I asked him if it was hard to get accepted in Ireland as a tenor and he replied ,
“Sadly I have to day its true . A lot of the time in Ireland more overseas and international performers are promoted rather than those of Irish origin “
Paul informed me ha had performed in operas at 14 years of age and now at 31 he still has regular voice training with a teacher . He explains , as the voice is using a muscle it is important to keep it in training , Imagine he said if you were a football player and you went out to play a game without having trained well God help you because it would only be a matter of time before you would be carried off .
Paul has also made it known that he will be soon pursuing a solo career and leaving Celtic Thunder . There already is a replacement for him so things will continue rolling for Celtic Thunder in his absence .
As the night was almost at an end people began to leave Doltone House .
The concert hall was slowly empting and so I joined them and left for a train at Central railway station that would begin my long journey home .
That evening and those songs linger with me still .
Next year in 2012 Celtic Thunder will make their return to Australia to begin a national tour and if their Canadian and American shows are anything to go by Celtic Thunder will surely become a force that will shake the world .
By Paul McCann