The Celtic Tenors are one of a new wave of Irish vocal groups to emerge over the last 10 years and achieve worldwide success.
The three singers – James Nelson, Matthew Gilsenan and Daryl Simpson – are all classically trained but they are just as comfortable singing folk and pop songs as they are singing opera.
Their ability to flit effortlessly between different genres has been one of the factors behind their enormous success, which has seen them sell more than a million albums worldwide.
Early days as Three Irish Tenors
The group started out in 1995 under the name of the Three Irish Tenors. Their main break at that time was to appear on Theatre Nights, which was broadcast by the Irish TV station, RTE.
James Nelson is the only member of the current line-up who was involved at that time. The other two were Paul Hennessey and Niall Morris. Paul Hennessey left in 2000 and was replaced by Matthew Gilsenan.
Irish Tenors become Celtic Tenors
At this point, the group changed their name to The Celtic Tenors and signed an international record deal with EMI.
They released an album called simply, The Celtic Tenors, which was a major success in several countries including the US where it entered the top ten in the Billboard Charts.
It reached Number 2 in the UK Classical Charts and occupied the top spot in both Ireland and Germany. It also won the Echo Award in Germany for the best crossover album of 2002.
The debut album The Celtic Tenors was followed by So Strong in 2002. It didn’t quite have the impact of the first album but still cemented the group’s position as a major new force in the growing market for crossover music, blending classical, folk and pop.
Remember Me and Air Supply
The group released their third album, Remember Me, in 2006. It retained the successful mix of light classical, folk and pop numbers.
For many people, the stand-out track was their version of the 1980 power ballad, All Out of Love, originally recorded by Air Supply.
Members of Air Supply including Russell Hitchcock performed with the Celtic Tenors on the new recording.
Rubbing shoulders with world leaders
The group’s rising celebrity led to them being invited to perform at major state occasions in Ireland.
In 2002, they sang for the former US President Bill Clinton when he visited Dublin for a fund raising event in support of the Northern Ireland Peace Fund. Clinton reportedly described The Celtic Tenors’ performance of his favourite song, Danny Boy, as the best he had ever heard.
The group also sang for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan when he visited Ireland.
The current Celtic Tenors line-up becomes complete
Niall Morris left in 2006 and was replaced by Daryl Simpson. That gave us the current line-up of Daryl Simpson, Matthew Gilsenan and James Nelson.
In 2008, the band released Hard Times, the first album to feature new member Daryl Simpson. It featured songs by leading American songwriters including Bob Dylan and Stephen Foster.
In October 2011, the group released an album called Feels Like Home, featuring uplifting songs designed to bring a little positivity in the troubled times following the worldwide recession.