Northwestern Press

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Celtic Tenors' concert is Irish and more

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by KATRINA WEHR Special to The Press in Focus

If you think the Celtic Tenors' musical specialty is relegated only to Irish Celtic music, think again.

James Nelson, one third of the three-man group from Ireland, says a typical Celtic Tenors' performance includes everything from opera music to Bob Dylan covers.

"It's a bit of a cliché," he says, "but there really is something in our music for everybody."

For those who are excited hear some classic Irish music when the Celtic Tenors make their debut performance at Musikfest Café, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, don't fret. Traditional songs like "Danny Boy" will be included in the lineup, Nelson says.

While the popular ballad, written by Frederic Weatherly in 1913, is often one that Irish audiences yawn at, Nelson says the group always makes sure to play the song at U.S. shows.

"In America, we can't leave the stage unless we sing 'Danny Boy,' but in Ireland the reaction is more 'Yeah. Whatever,'" Nelson explains. "We do it a cappella, just the three of us."

The Celtic Tenors are promoting the release of their eighth album, "Feels Like Home," and they dedicate their title song to those who were affected by Superstorm Sandy, according to a press release. Nelson describes the album as "a lovely warm and fuzzy kind of album."

When the three singers are not travelling the world performing their music, Nelson says each member has his own personal hobbies. Usually during June and into July, the group takes a break, and Nelson uses that time to work with his charity, Kenya Builds.

The charity assists Kenyans in building orphanages to benefit children who are affected by AIDS, and Nelson has worked with the charity since 2007. He tries to visit Africa at least once or twice a year, he says, and he has recorded music with children there. Fans of the Tenors often end up on building teams, too, Nelson mentions.

Darryl Simpson, another member of the Tenors, who joined in 2006, started a peace choir that he works with during the group's downtime, and the last Tenor, Matthew Gilsenan, spends time with his family.

For now, though, Nelson says the group just focuses on enjoying their time together as the Celtic Tenors, often touted as one of the most successful crossover groups to come from Ireland.

The group looks forward to the Lehigh Valley show. Previously, in Pennsylvania, they've performed in Philadelphia and State College.

Nelson hopes those who come out to the Musikfest Cafe concert will enjoy the performance and not be mislead by their name and label.

"Sometimes, people can be alienated by the name. Sometimes, they think they don't like classical or Irish music," he explains. "We have fun on stage. Sometimes, it goes horribly wrong. We banter. We're lax on stage. I hope people will have fun, too."