By Áine Ní Shionnaigh
Chatting to Emmet Cahill earlier this week is like catching up with a long lost friend. He has a hint of an accent which I strongly suspect is from the Midlands. As Emmet describes it himself, ‘I’m from the middle of the country”, which technically has two meanings: he lives in a rural area which happens to be located in the Midlands of Ireland outside Mullingar, County Westmeath. I ponder on what it is about the Midlands that has an affinity for producing world-renowned tenors: Count John McCormack, Frank Patterson and now my interviewee, Emmet Cahill. Perhaps it’s the peat? Just as peat is a natural resource generously given to us by nature in this part of Ireland, nature has also given an amazing gift to Emmet which he has cherished and nurtured with the help and support of his amazing parents. Emmet continually refers to his parents during our chat and attributes his success to them. All I can think is that they have done a beyond amazing job, raising someone who has nurtured and developed his talent and who also manages to be the nicest, most down to earth person one could chat to.
Emmet Cahill is currently one of Ireland’s most recognized tenors who sweeps listeners away with the emotion of his singing. He is natural and relaxed, two words that consistently come up during our conversation. He is very unassuming, his life on stage is simply a progression of what he has always done growing up: singing and playing music. Emmet displays that typical Irish trait: on the surface, an extremely laid back attitude which totally belies the tremendous talent and courage he has. Emmet is well known for his renditions of John McCormack, another name that comes often during our chat. In 2010 when Emmet was attending the Royal Irish Academy of Music studying opera and theater, he was awarded the ‘John McCormack Bursary’ for the most promising young tenor. He was also named the most promising young singer at the Academy. He has been a multiple prize winner at the National Feis Ceoil singing competition. In 2013, the Irish American Music Association awarded him with the title “Tenor of the Year’ in recognition of his work on stage here in the United States.
That is where our paths first crossed. The first time I heard Emmet perform was in the Beacon Theatre on Broadway in 2011 where he was lead singer with the renowned Irish Music Show; ‘Celtic Thunder’. The opulent Beacon Theatre was very fitting for Emmet’s first US appearance on stage as he seemed to be following in the footsteps of the most renowned tenor in the history of our time, Count John McCormack who himself had performed on Broadway almost a century earlier and who also hailed from County Westmeath. On first hearing the pureness of his mellow tones, I was struck by his depth of feeling. I sat entranced as he sang the beautiful haunting melody; “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears”. Observing the emotion etched deeply into his handsome face, I was never so proud to be Irish, Emmet is as his performances: eloquent, charming with an underlying depth and a maturity that totally belies his young age. I had an image of him growing up, with perhaps a grandfather who enjoyed playing dusty 65”s of John McCormack on a wind-up gramophone. I was pretty close, he was raised listening to some of his Dad’s John McCormack vinyl’s on an old record player. Perhaps the mellow tones of McCormack somehow diffused into his young soul and created this depth of expression and feeling that now speaks to souls all around the world.
During our chat I am amazed at what Emmet has achieved in the past 4 years, from being chosen at the age of 20 to join world renowned ‘Celtic Thunder’ where he became an immediate hit with the fans. Becoming the lead singer on this show put him in the spotlight and almost immediately he found himself touring many continents and countries including America, Canada and Australia. Now four years later he is just about to launch his first American tour of his solo career.
When did Emmet first start singing and playing music? For Emmet there was no start date, it was simply a natural progression from growing up in a home surrounded by music and singing. His Dad is a music teacher and his Mom is a singer. Therefore music and singing is as intrinsic to the family home as the concrete walls that sustain it. From the age of four, Emmet began to play the piano, guitar and violin and sing. He and his siblings were all classically trained and often accompanied their Mom to local weddings where she was the professional singer. His siblings all play and sing also. Perhaps that’s why Emmet keeps coming back to the fact that he wants his new solo show to be natural, he wants people when they come to his show to feel like they are dropping over to his home for an impromptu sing song and music session. He wants it to be more about an experience rather than listening and watching a performance.
The success and recognition that Emmet has enjoyed as lead singer of Celtic Thunder over the past four years would be enough to absorb for most, but Emmet knew deep down he had to keep going, to be truly authentic to his own original talents he had to do it solo and that is what he is preparing to do right now. In less than two weeks, he will hit the shores of the US and is doing a whirlwind solo show that will take him cross country from St Louis, Missouri, across the plains to Indiana, Ohio back to what he charmingly refers to ‘as a little circle around New York’ which will take in cities from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Cleveland to Chicago and many many more. The full itinerary is outlined at the end of the article with website details.
I finish with one of my favorite topics, the issue of being Irish in America, Again Emmet has an interesting insight: “In Ireland you are just yourself, you don’t think about it. Americans are more invested in the idea of being Irish and all that that entails”, he says. This is fascinating as Emmet already has a huge fan base here in the US who have no Irish connections but when they hear him sing, it resonates with something deep within. If being Irish is connected with listening to this amazing tenor Emmet Cahill, I strongly recommend everyone should become Irish at least for one night. Book your tickets for a memorable night, enjoy the show and I will keep you updated on the album which will be out later in the year! For New York fans, see you all in Rory Dolans on June 6th.
Tour Dates: http://www.emmetcahill.com/tour-dates/