Singing up a storm
The boys from Ireland will bring the thunder tomorrow when they perform at the Cairns Convention Centre.
Screaming fans, sell-out concerts, and double platinum discs.
When Celtic Thunder hits the stage at the Cairns Convention Centre, there are many reasons for Irish eyes to be smiling, but especially those of Ryan Kelly.
The singer, who I spoke with in late November when he was touring Canada with Celtic Thunder, was more than happy to be back on the road again.
“Tomorrow night will be our 61st of our 67th show to date,” Ryan says, with his speedy northern Irish brogue.
“When we started off, we never thought we’d get to the end.”
But he did finally, and had a couple of acoustic gigs ahead with one of the other performers before heading back “for the turkey dinner” to Ireland.
It was likely a year that Ryan was happy to put to bed.
He had an accident in June and hit his head, which resulted in a hospital stay in a coma.
“It was very serious and wasn’t looking good at one stage,” Ryan says. “But I was oblivious.
“A lot of prayers were said.”
Ryan, 34, is therefore more grateful than he would usually be for his tour of Australia.
With Celtic Thunder since its beginning in 2008, he credits the reason for getting the audition as having played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, and that Phil Coulter, who was the then musical director of Celtic Thunder, had also produced the first touring production of Superstar in Ireland.
“He called it the dark character when he read my biography,” Ryan says.
Ryan believes Celtic Thunder, consisting of Ryan, Emmett Cahill, Keith Harkin, George Donaldson and Neil Byrne, is more than a concert but a platform for the cast to bring a variety of songs to life, and to act them out as much as sing.
There’s also some choreography in which the five engage, but Ryan’s response to my question of do they dance is “not exactly”.
The singers have different styles so there are no arguments when it comes to choosing songs for each to sing, whether it’s traditional Irish fare or modern covers with a Celtic twist.
Ryan is a Christy Moore fan and so two of the numbers he sings in the show are Ride On, and Black is the Colour.
The concert for the tour of Australia will be a nostalgic one, with a “greatest hits” type look at the group’s most popular numbers, and will include an ensemble version of Ireland’s Call, the rugby song that has become their anthem.
Ryan is also a songwriter and individually has penned an album. Last year may have held some really tough times for him but there were also some highlights, with the group playing for Barack Obama at the White House for St Patrick’s Day and later in the year at the Pentagon.
“It was incredible,” Ryan says.
“Michelle, the first lady, said they were big fans of the show.
“Playing the Pentagon was indescribable too.”
Coming from a chartered accountant background, Ryan couldn’t be more grateful for his career.
“Music has always been a massive part of my life,” Ryan says.
“When I was a chartered accountant, I was gigging on weekends.
“Now it’s lovely to wake up with a smile on my face – not a lot of people can say that.”
The only Scotsman in the troupe, George Donaldson, is also seemingly enamoured with his life, having arrived in Australia and being ensconced in Sydney for a few days catching up with friends before trekking north to the tropical heat of Cairns for the first gig of the tour.
“It’s just phenomenal to do what you do and then to see such world icons like the Sydney Opera House and the harbour bridge,” he says on Wednesday.
With “a shadow of a doubt” cast on his appearing in Australia at all due to snow in Glasgow, he is even more grateful than usual to be enjoying the sunshine.
A coach builder by trade, 43-year-old George came to Celtic Thunder after 25 years of performing in folk groups and bands around Scotland.
“Basically I was who they wanted, a 6ft 2 inch (187.96cm) Scotsman who sings Celtic music,” he says.
Now George enjoys the best of both worlds, working with the best of sound engineers and producers on the big tours of America and Australia with Celtic Thunder, and playing the smaller venues such as Jinty McGinty’s Irish bar in the west end of Glasgow during his time off, where he sings numbers from his solo album, The White Rose.
His only daughter is his biggest fan and tells him although she misses him when he is away that he has the coolest job in the world.
George’s favourite numbers to sing in the Celtic Thunder show are The Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, and Phil Coulter’s The Old Man.
“There is such a diversity of songs from Seven Drunken Nights during which we act out the number and Galway Girl, but I do love the solo numbers; the emotional ones during which you could hear a pin drop,” George says.
“When I sing The Old Man about someone who lost their father, I think I get more of a response for that one than for any other song.”
Celtic Thunder performs live at the Cairns Convention Centre on Wednesday, January 23, at 7.30pm. Tickets on sale now from Ticketlink and Ticketek. Celtic Thunder will continue their tour to Townsville Entertainment Centre on January 24, Brolga Theatre Maryborough on Jan 26, Gold Coast Convention Centre on Jan 27, and Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Jan 29 and around the country. For more venues and dates, visit www.ticketek.com.au or www.celticthunder.ie
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Celtic Thunder takes to the stage tomorrow at the Cairns Convention Centre.