Matthew Gilsenan, one of the Celtic Tenors, called the Peninsula News Review from Dublin, one hour before they were due to perform at the Church of the Three Patrons. Fellow tenor Daryl Simpson forgot his suit at home, and spent much of the day trying to secure one.
“We’ve been to a Catholic priest and three or four husbands of people organizing the event tonight, and that is going to be a large part of the show tonight,” laughed Gilsenan.
Gilsenan, Simpson and James Nelson are returning to Sidney as part of a two-week tour of Canada and the United States. Gilsenan said that the lush greens of the West Coast remind him of Ireland, where “the grass grows over the ditches.”
“Of all of the places I’ve been to in the continent of North America, your neck of the woods gives me a sense of not being so far away, even though it is.”
The group just finished an extensive tour of Germany, including a stop in Weimar. Gilsenan said the group does find time to explore the places they’re in, but Weimar is notable for being close to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Though the other members wanted to go, Gilsenan did not think he could bear it, but the group’s German driver encouraged him, saying that every German schoolchild had to see it for themselves.
“It was a life-changing thing for me.”
Gilsenan said the group picks songs they love and that resonate with them.
“If something really resonates for a performer, it translates to an audience on a deep level, so we sing songs that are relevant to us right now,” he said.
As an example, he brings up one song, “The Dutchman,” made popular by Steve Goodman. It is about a wife who cares for a husband with dementia, which has a special significance for Gilsenan because it affected his own family.
Gilsenan says they sing the “meat and potatoes” of any Irish act, including songs like “Whiskey In The Jar” and “The Irish Rover,” but the audience can also expect some operatic hits and Christmas tunes. This year, the group decided to be “on the hymny, more religious side” for the Christmas selections, though Gilsenan said that happened organically.
To keep it fresh, the group keeps adding new songs to the mix. Their set list is “a constantly living organism” because he said they could never play the same list over and over.
Gilsenan, who has three children, will tell their father if a song’s getting a bit tired, so he said they serve as “quality control” for the group.
“We don’t take ourselves terribly seriously. It’s a lively show, it’s not stuffy in any way. We try to have a lot of interaction with the audience and get everybody singing.”
The Three Tenors are performing at the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m.