The Celtic Tenors

Tenors banter on stage

NANAIMO - The Celtic Tenors performs at the Port Theatre Friday (Nov. 20).

Celtic Tenor James Nelson was three years old, standing in front of a church congregation, singing a solo when his voice cracked on the high note.

“I got really upset and ran to my mother,” he said.

It took several years before he ventured into the world of singing again. It wasn’t until university when he did a rock opera based on the Lord of the Rings.

“Somebody said you have a great voice, but you need it trained,” said Nelson.

That prompted him to go to London and seek out a voice coach.

Since then, Nelson has had more than 50 opera and operetta roles, besides being a member of The Celtic Tenors, a trio that also includes Irish singers Matthew Gilsenan and Daryl Simpson.

The tenors have garnered a global fan base through their witty onstage chitchat, voices and friendly demeanours.

Nelson said part of the reason for the group’s success is not taking itself too seriously. The three have fun bantering back and forth between songs during performances. The members are also a close-knit group, like family.

“We know each other intimately at this stage,” said Nelson. “We know everything about each other. We are like brothers.”

It also comes down to the wide range of styles the trio sings on stage that appeal to a wide audience. They sing everything from classical to ’60s hits by Simon and Garfunkel to new songs by Dolly Parton.

During his off time from touring, Nelson is involved with the Kenya Build project, which helps give children who have been orphaned by AIDS a better life by building accommodations and educational facilities. When the tenors take their touring break, Nelson heads to Kenya to help.

“These are kids who have literally been born into a living hell, but it’s giving them a second chance at life,” he said.

During the Nanaimo performance the tenors will sing songs from their 12 albums, including from the group’s newest album, Timeless.

The Vancouver Island Symphony hosts The Celtic Tenors’ performance at the Port Theatre Friday (Nov. 20) at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $38 to $67.50 or $18 for students and are available by calling 250-754-8550 or online at

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