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The Celtic Tenors



In June 1995, James Nelson, Paul Hennessy and Ronan Tynan – “The Three Irish Tenors” – gave their debut performance in Carlow Cathedral. Following the debut concert, Ronan left the group.

In October 1995, the new line-up of James Nelson, Paul Hennessy and Niall Morris made their “Three Irish Tenors” debut on RTE’s “Theatre Nights” live from Goffs in County Kildare. There followed a highly successful nationwide tour, several sell-out shows at Dublin’s National Concert Hall, as well as numerous TV appearances on “The Late Late Show”, “Live at 3”, “Head to Toe” (for a makeover!) and “The Rose of Tralee”.

In 1998, due to his blossoming solo career and family commitments, Paul Hennessy withdrew from the group. The young Meath tenor Matthew Gilsenan seemed like the obvious choice as replacement. In 1999, “The Three Irish Tenors” (James, Matthew and Niall) alongside Rebecca Storm had a sell-out summer season at Clontarf Castle (137 shows in all!), and in March 2000 there followed a very successful tour of the USA.

By this time “The Three (Young) Irish Tenors” were fortunate to have been taken under the wing of Pat Egan who set up an impromptu audition in the EMI boardroom in London’s Baker Street, which is by now famous as it resulted in the group’s worldwide record deal. Despite being the first trio of Irish Tenors on the Irish music scene, the boys were persuaded to change their name to avoid any further confusion. This was the birth of “The Celtic Tenors”.

The Celtic Tenors" debut album immediately shot to Number 1 in the classical charts, and retained a healthy position in the pop charts. It became ‘the first Christmas Number 1 Classical album of the New Millenium’ in Ireland! The 3 boys successfully took the concept of 'the tenor' into cool new territory by essentially breaking the tenor mould a little! ‘Celtic Crossover’ had become another new genre. A prominent Irish musician once said that “The Celtic Tenors do to Irish tenor singing what ‘Riverdance’ did to Irish dance”. The Celtic Tenors’ distinctive use of their own three-part harmonies set them aside from other tenor trios. The Sunday Independent described their sound as "a thoughtful fusion of opera and trad...their a capella 'Danny Boy' quite literally breathes new life into a tired old standard and serves to illustrate the sheer innovation of 'the Celtic Tenor sound''s a breath of fresh air to see real talent nurtured by a big label." (Sunday Independent, 8/10/2000)

The Celtic Tenors’ first album went on to achieve double platinum status in their homeland, Number 1 in Ireland and Germany, Number 2 in the UK, and won them the “Echo Award” for ‘Best Classical Crossover Act’ in Germany.


A full-length TV Special “Ein Grosser Irischer Abend” was broadcast to millions on German television, and then released as a coast-to-coast TV Special on PBS in the USA – “Celebrate with the Celtic Tenors”. There swiftly followed a second album – “So Strong” – recorded at Abbey Road Studios , produced by the legendary Mike Moran, of Queen and Freddie Mercury fame. Their third album – “The Irish Album” – was recorded at home with those legends of Irish folk – The Dubliners. Their latest album, produced by David Munro and Calum Malcolm (Blue Nile), features such guests as Samantha Mumba, Brian Kennedy and the 80s super-group Air Supply, and has already reached Number 4 in the Canadian Charts, and the Top Ten in the US Billboard Charts. This album was released on the Dara label in Ireland under the title “We are not islands”, and on the Telarc label worldwide as “Remember Me”.

The Celtic Tenors were invited to sing for former US President Bill Clinton during a visit to Dublin Castle, and later in a private audience for Secretary General of the United Nations – Kofi Annan, and his wife Nanne - at the request of U2’s front-man Bono. With a total album sales worldwide, including compilations, of over one million, and a full international touring schedule, The Celtic Tenors continued to move from strength to strength.

The second change of line-up officially came in June 2007 when Niall Morris, after a year’s break, finally decided to leave the group to pursue other interests. Daryl Simpson, from Omagh, who had been standing in for Niall, turned down a lucrative offer from one of Europe’s leading Opera Houses in order to immediately accept the position left vacant by Niall.

The Celtic Tenors have all had classical training, sung leading roles with top opera companies, performed in oratorio and concerts worldwide, and continue to show great flexibility in melding their voices to suit the appropriate Classical, folk, Irish and pop genres. Matthew Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson combine their unique voices, character and wit to provide live shows overflowing with vitality and variety from start to finish. Come see one…soon!