The room went dark as the Celtic Tenors took the stage for the program “A Celtic Tenors Christmas” in McCain Auditorium on yesterday. The vocalist group, comprised of Daryl Simpson, James Nelson and Matthew Gilsenan, all of Ireland, featured their classical music education in an innovative and genre-bending fashion.
It was their first time in Manhattan and they began by treating the audience to some Irish folk songs. In between songs, the group would take time to talk about the next number they were going to perform and, as a running joke for the night, poke fun at their pianist.
The beginning of the show had a few slow songs, but the Tenors soon got into some songs that had the audience slapping knees, clapping hands and tapping feet as the group urged those in attendance to join in.
The group finished the opening segment with a rendition of “Oh, Holy Night” followed by “Silent Night.” During their performance of “Silent Night,” they sang the three stanzas in English, their native Irish and the original German.
“The harmonies were amazing,” said Lou Williams, associate professor of history. “‘Feels like Home’ was my favorite of the bunch. I had heard some of their work on TV, but I only watched a little so I didn’t spoil the show for myself.”
Many of the pieces the group performed not only went across genres, like their reworked version of Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally,” but also spanned multiple languages, such as “Gaudete,” a medieval hymn entirely in Latin.
“I enjoyed it very much,” said Jerry Weis, former K-State faculty member. “I’ve been looking forward to the show since I heard they were coming. They have a good mix of music, so it was very enjoyable.”
When the Celtic Tenors came back from intermission, they led off with “The Holy City.” They followed up with some more religious themed works, and a few personal tidbits on growing up in country that has two religions. Ireland is both Protestant and Catholic.
Later on, during a performance of “Spanish Lady,” the audience was treated to the group’s river dancing abilities. In the middle of that, singer Daryl Simpson did his version of the moonwalk, which was met with great enthusiasm from the crowd.
“It was great,” said Steve Scofield, Manhattan resident. “I’m glad we didn’t miss it. A couple of the numbers were worth the price of the tickets by themselves alone.”
Scofield was not the only resident of Manhattan who shared these sentiments.
“I loved it,” said Jennifer Shakespeare, Manhattan resident. “This was the first time I’ve seen them perform. I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was really fun.”
Before one of their pieces, the Tenors stopped to relate a band story behind one of the songs they were about to perform. The story follows that they had done a tour of Canada and were set to leave from the airport in Regina, Saskatchewan. However, a blizzard had struck, leaving them and other passengers stranded for the night. At the request to sing, they chose “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by Bob Dylan. This tied into some of the ways they have come to incorporate other genres in their shows.
At the end of the show, the Tenors were set to end the evening with “The Road That Will Take Me Home.” In response to the standing ovation at the end, the group came back out and sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” That, too, received a standing ovation from the McCain Auditorium crowd and the Tenors came back again and finished with “I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas.”
After the show, the group met fans out in the lobby. When asked what number they themselves like performing the most, James Nelson said “Nessum Dorma” by Puccini was his favorite.
“It is really fun piece for tenors to perform,” Nelson said. “In Latin, it means ‘Nobody sleeps.'”
The Celtic Tenors’ next show is in Lincoln, Nebraska, before returning to Kansas with shows in Lawrence and Salina. For more information about the Celtic Tenors, visit their Facebook page or celtic-tenors.com.