Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Celtic Tenors

Matthew Gilsenan    James Nelson    Daryl Simpson
The Celtic Tenors – The Irish Songbook Tour.  Presented by Duet Entertainment and Sport at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, April 17 / 18, 2018.


Matthew Gilsenan    James Nelson    Daryl Simpson

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 17

The strength of The Celtic Tenors’ performance is not so much in the quality of their singing – which ranges from high opera to pure folk – but in the sense of community they quickly establish with their audience.  They found the level just right for Queanbeyan’s The Q, the locals and the busful from Ulladulla, Moruya and Batemans Bay, silver-hairs among the golden harmonies.  It was not long before everyone was singing the chorus parts – from yodelling in John Denver’s Calypso to aaahing in Nessun Dorma.

In two 50-minute segments, 21 songs from bawdy Irish humour in Finnegan’s Wake (nothing to do with James Joyce!), to sad songs critical of the sending of young men to war (especially Eric Bogle’s All the Fine Young Men) and even of the transportation to Botany Bay of the young Irish farmer, for stealing bread to feed his wife and family in the potato famine (The Fields of Athenry which was written in the 1970s by Pete St. John).

A social conscience is a central concern in The Celtic Tenors’ songbook, about the plight of the homeless or about the crucial role played by carers for those ageing with dementia.  Yet the show is leavened with a sense of humour, often improvised in direct fun with us, and songs of homecoming like Song for Ireland (by English folksingers June and Phil Colclough).

After the expected Nessun Dorma by Puccini to conclude the show, when the audience demanded an encore, came a wonderful highlight – the traditional Danny Boy sung a capella without microphones. 

I’m not so sure about the presenters’ expertise in sport, but Duet certainly provided excellent entertainment, which continues at The Q for one more night before moving on to Tasmania at the Theatre Royal, Hobart, on Saturday April 21, and in Victoria in Traralgon April 22 and Frankston on the 24th to complete their first tour of Australia.

My only disappointment was that though we were told the name of the terrific young pianist / musical director, my silver-haired aural memory is not up to scratch.  I have not been able to find out who he is – he deserves acknowledgement as much as the singers in my view.  Nor could I find details of the technical team, whose lighting and especially sound mixing was equally excellent.