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Matthew Gilsenan answers the burning question: Why is it Celtic with a hard “c” sound for the Celtic Tenors, but with a soft “c” sound for the Boston Celtics?

“A mystery indeed!” he responded. “We all grew up in Ireland where everyone says ‘Keltic’ for Celtic unless we are talking about Boston Seltics or Glasgow Seltics or some sports teams.”

Gilsenan even did a bit of research on the Internet on the consonant sounds and discovered the original word was coined by the Greeks with a hard k-type sound.

“Wow! People seem to even get a little hot under the collar about this,” he discovered. “We have opted for the hard K sound for our group. We would be laughed off the stage here in Ireland if we were the Seltic Tenors. People would expect to see us run onto the stage in stripy white and green socks and football shorts and jerseys!”

That’s not the attire the Celtic Tenors – Gilsenan, James Nelson and Daryl Simpson – will bring to the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday. What audience members will experience is the broad appeal of this type of music, Gilsenan said.

“With the massive emigration from the Celtic nations to your continent, those people brought their cultures with them,” he said. “A big part of that was music and to a degree, dance. The melodies have a big range and much Celtic music uses the pure pentatonic scale which can be seen influencing Appalachian, bluegrass.”

Gilsenan clarified the tenors sing a wider range of music than just Celtic.

“Our show is kinda like a party with great songs from many genres,” he said. “We sing songs from folk to American, to grand opera.”

The trio takes their lead directly from the three great tenors, Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras, Gilsenan explained.

“They were so inspirational and it seemed a great idea to earn a little extra in the financially tight Irish opera scene,” he said.

But this developed into much more than an income bolsterer, Gilsenan added.

“The concept of three singers of the same voice type, creating an exciting sound is not new though,” he said. “Right through music history and even plays, three characters create not only a uniquely exciting sound, but the rapport and relationship on stage really transfers to an audience.”

Visit the Celtic Tenors website and you’ll see the three vocalists in a pub with a beer. Gilsenan saw ale as an important attribute of the trio.

“We do love our beer and the pub is a stronghold for Irish music, particularly in the traditional sense,” he quipped. “In truth though, we are not serious drinkers! The touring schedule that we live by means that we have to be on top vocal form at all times. This means plenty of water and only an occasional tipple.”

Certainly the Irish song “Danny Boy” is among the most requested, Gilsenan acknowledged.

“Danny Boy is the biggie where we haven’t been before and strangely enough, ‘I’m All Out of Love’ by Air Supply – who we were lucky enough to record this hit with – for audiences who have seen us perform in the past,” he said. “We have a strongly interactive show and the audience’s requests are almost always granted.”

The Celtic Tenors’ second PBS special in conjunction with Maryland Public Television will debut this month. In the meantime, the trio is creating its eighth record in Ireland.

“We believe it is going to be our best album yet, with a great mix of Welsh/ Scottish/ English and Irish songs,” Gilsenan insisted. “It will be a true Celtic creation!”


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