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Category: Asset 3Arts & Leisure

Asked and Answered

November 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

James Nelson

So give us a thumbnail sketch: where were you born and raised? What made you want to be a singer?

I was born in Sligo, the county town of County Sligo, famous for the poet William Butler Yeats, hence Yeats Country. My late mother, who came from Bangor in Northern Ireland, was an English teacher, and loved Yeats’ poetry. My father was a local businessman in Sligo. I learned piano from a very early age from Mrs Cole, and always loved music, and performing.

What kind of jobs did you do before finding steady work as an entertainer?

After I graduated with BA and BMus degrees from UCD, I was a Music and French teacher in secondary schools. When I eventually moved to London to pursue my singing studies with David Harper, I worked several part-time jobs. I sang full-time for about 10 years in opera, oratorio and concerts before finally signing up to be a founding member of the Celtic Tenors.

How did having grown up in a musical family shape you as a person? As an artist?

Well, even though many members of my family loved music, they were far from what might be described as a musical family. My late mother loved music, and had a pretty singing voice but never did anything with it at all. She did however introduce me to music from an early age, taking me to shows and

Concerts.

How has being a member of the Celtic Tenors changed your life?

What was a hobby (music and singing) has become a career, and that is kind of the ideal scenario for any human being isn’t it? If I stop enjoying the music and performing, I will give it up. It couldn’t be just a job for me.

What’s the best part of this experience? Any drawbacks?

Kind of answered this above. Drawbacks, I suppose, are that sometimes you miss big things at home. I was working the night my mother died, and would have loved to have been with her. “The show must go on” . . . that felt awful that night.

What kind of music do you listen to in your off-hours?

My tenor hero is the late Swedish tenor Jussi Bjoerling, who was also Pavarotti’s favourite tenor, and Matthew’s favourite! I also listen to choral music a lot. I was in so many choirs throughout my earlier years, and have always loved harmony, so choral music resonates with me hugely. Opera of course is my one true love! But secretly I also listen to ABBA, Beatles, Queen, Simon and Garfunkel, Meat Loaf, and many others.

Celebrity crush?

Celebrity Crush? Hmmm . . . When I was very young I used to have a thing about Miss Piggy… does that count?

Any hidden talents or unusual hobbies?

Many hidden talents, but far too embarrassed to expose them in such a reputable newspaper. I am addicted to an English TV Soap Opera called “Coronation Street” — is that unusual and embarrassing enough?

PC or Apple? Baseball or Soccer? Potato chips or Chocolate?

Oh gosh, out of my depth now: PC? Soccer. And chocolate (but not Hersheys, sorry . . .).

Care to reveal you most embarrassing moment on stage?

With Scottish Opera when I was singing Offenbach’s “Grand Duchess,” my leading lady had food poisoning, and kept running off-stage to throw up in a bucket! She left me several times alone on stage, improvising monolgues to the audience. Each time she returned, smelling awful and wiping her

mouth to continue the scene.

How many songs do you have on your iPod / in your music library? What cheesy one-hit wonder would I be surprised to find there?

I have hundreds, of our own recordings and then a very eclectic mix of many genres . . . but then again, isn’t that what you would expect from a crossover singer? I have always loved “Seasons in the Sun” (Terry Jack), so maybe you might not expect that.

What inspires you?

My late Mum was my biggest inspiration. These days, the children and adults I work with in the Kenyan slums, once or twice a year inspire me beyond all. My times there have changed my life. Every child I work with has the most horrific past, but great hope for the future. I call them “second-chance kids” ‘cos they are getting a second chance at life. One orphanage we work with is Cheryl’s Children’s Home, and to say that those kids inspire me would be an understatement. I LOVE my times there.

One thing you never leave home without?

My larynx? I have no choice. Other musicians keep their instruments in a box, but ours are in our throats. How scary is that?

Advice for someone contemplating a career in the music business?

“True Hell is the you, facing the you that might have been”. If you really want to do it, then go for it, and don’t give up til you get there. There is nothing more damaging in my mind than regret.

Of what personal accomplishment are you most proud?

I am proud that we have just recorded our eighth album “Feels like Home.” And I think the three of us agree that after seven albums, two PBS Specials, 11 years together, and thousands of concerts, we feel it is our best work to date.

 

Matthew Gilsenan

 

So give us a thumbnail sketch: where were you born and raised?

I was born in rural Ireland, into a farming family, near Kells, Co. Meath. I was raised with cattle and crops and a massive extended family.

What made you want to be a singer?

Well, I always loved music and singing and being a natural show-off, I just seemed to start singing as a kid and never really stopped.

What kind of jobs did you do before finding steady work as an entertainer?

I did a degree in engineering and worked as an engineer for 5 years.

How did having grown up in a musical family shape you as a person?

I didn’t really grow up in a musical family per se, we were just encouraged to do lots of things. It was that freedom that I believe helped me find what I liked and was good at. I did lots of things that didn’t work out like accordian, piano, even though I can just about get around a piano.

Tell me about your Irish roots?

Well being born and raised in the middle of rural Ireland, close to native speaking areas with all the music, dance and craic that that brought to bear it was a pretty varied childhood. Steeped in the most Irish of music but also only a few miles from Slane castle where some of the greatest rock bands on the 20th century played influenced me in a very uniquely irish way too.

so a day could stretch from singing old irish songs with my sisters and brothers to going to a David bowie or Queen concert on the same day. that was pretty unique i suppose.

How has being a member of the Celtic Tenors changed your life?

I don’t know honestly! well I’m not a practicing engineer anymore so I guess that is something.

But it has been a part of my life for the last twelve years and now I don’t really know any different.

Everyday I am allowed to think about nothing but music.  I guess it is just my life now.

What’s the best part of this experience?

Traveling the world and having the close contact with people of so many different cultures, all the while singing songs I love. Also, the comaraderie between the group has remained remarkably positive

and good. James for instance, was my best man at my wedding ten years ago. We are all good friends.

Any drawbacks?

Pressure cooker of being with your best friends 24/7!  Also, on a more serious note, being away from my family. Although Skype has saved my life, I really miss them all.

What kind of music do you listen to in your off-hours?

I love singer/ songwriter stuff and am currently listening to Beck, Ron Sexsmith, Declan O’Rourke as well as great bands like The Villagers, Tom Petty and greats like bob Dylan, Johnny Cash. Of course, I am a pure opera junkie – so that takes up every other music moment.

Celebrity crush?

Catherine Deneuve – then, now and always! A timeless beauty.

Any hidden talents or unusual hobbies?

I am, what Americans term, a gear head! I simply love rebuilding engines and gearboxes.  I have been doing this with my Dad since I was a nipper.

Care to reveal you most embarrassing moment on stage?

Suffices to say, got my words mixed up and they came out really, really rude . . .

How many songs do you have on your iPod / in your music library?

About 10,000!

What cheesy one-hit wonder would I be surprised to find there?

“St. Elmo’s Fire” . . . And I stand by it!

What inspires you?

Great singers and great singing. But, probably more than that, my family.

One thing you never leave home without?

My passport.

Advice for someone contemplating a career in the music business?

Don’t let anyone have control of your money except you. And understand every deal, right down to the last penny. It seems a shame to say this, but the industry is not for the fainthearted.

Best advice anyone ever gave you?

My friend, It is a much greater risk not to take that risk.

Of what personal accomplishment are you most proud?

My three children, Sean, Grace and Rose.

 

Daryl Jon Simpson

 

So give us a thumbnail sketch: where were you born and raised? What made you want to be a singer?

I was born in Craigavon, Co Armagh but raised in Omagh, Co Tyrone. After I saw a live performance of Pavarotti live, I decided that I would like to become an opera singer.

What kind of jobs did you do before finding steady work as an entertainer?

I was an eternal student, in fact 9 years between degrees, post grads and masters. My aim in life was to find a way of not working, but ocassionally I moonlighted as a lifeguard, piano bar entertainer, bar man (not a very good one) and a Marriage/Death Registrar.

How did having grown up in a musical family shape you as a person? As an artist?

My family all had a huge appreciation of music, although no one played instruments as such. My parents decided to let me play whatever instruments  I wanted, beginning with piano, violin, double bass, trumpet, flute and guitar. I think people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr John and Harry Connick Jr. were all big influences on me in my earlier musical life.

Tell me about your Irish roots?

I was born into Simpsons on my dad’s side and Duncans on my mother’s. They both came from rural farming communities and had a fantastic work ethic and love of life, people and community spirit which I hope has rubbed off on me.

 

How has being a member of the Celtic Tenors changed your life?

The biggest change was taking me home from Zurich to be based in Omagh again and obviously the increase in travel. I had always traveled a lot but the amount of travel increased dramatically as the tours rolled in. Something I have always enjoyed and always look forward to.

What’s the best part of this experience? Any drawbacks?

The best part for me is going on stage and winning a crowd over. Sometimes people maybe a little skeptical, but it is a great feeling when people really get what the live experience is like. Drawbacks are the long hours on the road, sometimes travelling 500-600 miles in a day.

What kind of music do you listen to in your off-hours?

Everything from Jonny cash to Bruno Mars, Pavarotti to U2. I’m quite easy about what I listen to as long as it is a high quality.

Celebrity crush?

When I was a kid I used to watch “Dallas” and had a little crush on Victoria Principal.

Any hidden talents or unusual hobbies?

I have no spleen, not sure if its a talent but a great excuse if I dont feel well!

PC or Apple? PC. Baseball or Soccer?

Soccer. Potato chips or Chocolate? Chocolate.

Care to reveal you most embarrassing moment on stage?

I ripped the seat of my pants perfectly out, in the encore of a show.

How many songs do you have on your iPod / in your music library? What cheesy one-hit wonder would I be surprised to find there?

I have 1000’s of songs, albums etc. — no cheese though, well maybe “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin. Love it though!

What inspires you?

People with talent, positivity and people whose actions speak for themselves.

One thing you never leave home without?

Cell Phone.

Advice for someone contemplating a career in the music business?

Be prepared for every eventuality, and be aware that it could take many years to have any level of success.

Best advice anyone ever gave you?

Lionel Ritchie once told me “Money cant buy you love but it can buy you happiness.” He had just divorced his wife at the time!

Of what personal accomplishment are you most proud?

Forming the Omagh Community Youth Choir in the wake of the Omagh Tragedy in 1998 to bring young people together from both sides of the political divide. The choir is now in its 13th year and growing from strength to strength, which has been a blessing to all of us involved.

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