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Music / Celtic Thunder

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Celtic Thunder, the original lineup. L-R: Damian, Keith, Paul, George and Ryan.
The 2014 lineup. L-R: Neil, Ryan, Keith, Emmet, and George. Not Pictured: Colm
Ireland, Ireland
Together, standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's Call
— "Ireland's Call", the traditional closing song of their shows

The Spear Counterpart to Celtic Woman.

Formed in 2007 by producer Sharon Browne, Celtic Thunder is an all male ensemble comprised generally of five members. (The number has fluctuated a bit over the years, but currently sits at five.) Their first show was performed at the Helix in Dublin and sold as a DVD. The show was aired on PBS and all subsequent productions have done so, usually around St. Patrick's Day or during pledge drives. The music varies from traditional Irish music to folk songs to contemporary. One show, "It's Entertainment," focused more on pop hits. Until 2011, composer Phil Coulter was the musical director for the group and often composed original pieces for the group or its members to perform. They are incredibly popular in North America, with a larger following than people may suspect. They have constantly topped the World Billboard Charts.

The shows (and their corresponding CDs) are:

  • The Show (split between two CDs, Celtic Thunder and Act II)
  • Take Me Home
  • Storm (filmed in 2009, not released until 2011)
  • It's Entertainment
  • Christmas
  • Heritage
  • Voyage
  • Voyage II
  • Mythology
  • Christmas Voices
  • Very Best of Celtic Thunder
  • Legacy (two discs and DVDs, Legacy 1 and Legacy 2)
  • X, the 10th-anniversary show

Storm is different than the other shows and has never toured. Comprised mostly of original music by Coulter, it is the only show so far to have a storyline. It tells of a clash between villagers and the gypsies camping outside their village, with three main subplots. The Gypsy King argues with the villager known as the Highwayman who is also romancing the king's sister. At the same time, the highwayman is locked in battle with a young villager who wants to prove he's an adult. In the third plot, a lost noblewoman catches the eye of the landowner's son, who the chief hopes will marry his daughter.

The current members of Celtic Thunder are:

Neil Byrne: From County Wicklow. Ascended Extra, in a way. Neil started as a guitarist and percussionist in the band, also providing backup vocals. He slowly was given solos and was promoted to principal singer in 2011.

Ryan Kelly: From the County Moy, Northern Ireland. One of the original members, Ryan has some theatrical background and tends to play the "bad boy."

Emmet Cahill: From County Westmeath. A classically trained singer, Emmet joined the group in 2011. On January 13, 2014, Emmet announced he was leaving Celtic Thunder. He came back as a guest a few months later to pay homage to George, who had passed away. He returned full-time in late 2015 when Colm departed.

Damian McGinty: From Derry, Northern Ireland. One of the original members. Joined Celtic Thunder at the age of 14. Went from singing pop songs like "Puppy Love" to songs like "Home" as his voice lowered. In 2011, he participated in the first season of The Glee Project and eventually won along with Samuel Larsen. He played Rory on Glee during Season 3, causing him to resign from the group. Damian rejoined as a guest singer for the Very Best tour in 2015, and rejoined full-time for the Legacy tour in 2016.

Michael O'Dwyer: Joined in 2016 to replace Keith. From Carrick on Suir in County Tipperary.

Former members of Celtic Thunder include:

Paul Byrom: From Dublin. A classically trained tenor, Paul tended to play the romantic one of the group. He resigned after the 2010 Fall tour to focus on his solo career.

George Donaldson: From Scotland. One of the original members, George has covered several songs from ballads to pop standards. On March 12, 2014, George passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 46.

Keith Harkin: From Derry, Northern Ireland. One of the original members, Keith has covered songs ranging from folk to rock. He departed during the 2016 Legacy tour to spend more time with his new wife.

Colm Keegan: Fresh off his audition, Colm was asked to perform with Celtic Thunder in their Atlantic City engagement July 2012 while Ryan Kelly recuperated. Colm stayed with the group until late 2015, when he took a break to finish his studies.

Emmett O'Hanlon: Replaced Emmet Cahill in 2014, before departing in 2016 to focus on his opera career. Notable as the only member of the group not from Scotland or Ireland; he is Irish-American.

Other members of Celtic Thunder:

Daniel Furlong: Young winner of Ireland's Got Talent, Daniel joined Celtic Thunder on its 2011 Fall Tour.

Tropes Related to Celtic Thunder:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Pretty much Ryan's entire onstage persona (see the duet "That's a Woman" for a definite example.) In "Storm," both the Gypsy King's Sister and the Noblewoman are drawn to the Highwayman (Keith) for this reason. The Noblewoman even sings about it. Averted in the end as the Noblewoman ends up with the Landowner's Son (Paul)
  • Audience Participation Song: The audience is frequently encouraged to join in during the Signature Song, "Ireland's Call"
    • George throws the "Da-da-duh-duh"s out to the audience in "500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be)"
  • Boy Band: Not that they consider themselves one, though it's easy to give them the moniker. The original lineup almost fits the boy band line up, with either Paul or Keith as The Heartthrob, Ryan as The Bad Boy, Damian as The Cute One, and George as The Older Brother. Neither Paul nor Keith fits The Shy One, though; Paul's persona was more suave and debonair, while Keith's was casual and friendly.
  • Cousin Oliver: Averted. Daniel got no more time on stage than any other member and was genuinely liked by the fans.
  • Cover Version: Pretty much all of "It's Entertainment." The other CDs/shows are filled with examples of this.
  • Drunken Song: "Seven Drunken Nights." Especially if you watch it on the DVD!
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: If anyone goes back now to watch "The Show," they'd be surprised. A full orchestra? Neil looking like that? Damian's so short! And his voice so high! Also, "Ireland's Call" appears toward the middle of the show while "Caledonia" ends it.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Everyone plays an instrument during "Galway Girl" even if it's just a wooden box.
  • Fanservice: Considering their default is Sharp-Dressed Man, this is to be expected.
    • Keith Harkin has a habit of appearing shirtless in behind-the-scenes footage and photos. He also suffers from an escalating case of Form-Fitting Wardrobe, especially his increasingly fitted trousers.
      • In the promotional material for Keith's solo album he is seen in his skintight wet suit.
    • Let's not forget Man in a Kilt
      • Paul Byrom had a habit of taking it up a level by lifting his kilt to show more knee and winking at the audience.
      • The choreography of "Ireland's Call" includes the fan-dubbed "kilt twirls", quick spins designed to make the kilts fly up and out showing more leg.
  • Genre Shift: George. In the first show, he sings mostly ballads that play up the fact he is the oldest member. As the shows have gone on, George's songs have gotten more upbeat and rock-n-roll.
  • Grief Song: "The Old Man," sung by George about the death of a father. Emmet also sings "Kindred Spirits," though this is more about the love between parents and how they are reunited in death than the singer's grief. Neil's song "Noreen" may count, though it is more about the singer being parted from his love rather than her death. Until you consider the fact it was originally written for actress Natasha Richardson...
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Neil and Ryan. In between Celtic Thunder tours, they go on tour as a duet. They also tend to perform together more than any other two members. Neil plays guitar when Ryan sings "Ride On", they start "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" together before the rest of the band joins, Ryan is the first to join Neil on "Hallelujah", and they duet on "Whiskey in the Jar", among others.
  • Hymn to Music: "Doo Wacka Doo" sung by Paul. It's an ode to the music of the Roaring 20s.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Given Paul's and Emmet's classical background, they do get long notes to sing. For examples, watch Paul sing "You Raise Me Up" and Emmet sing "My Irish Molly O." Keith also gets a few. And it seems every group song ends with one.
  • Let's Duet: "A Bird Without Wings," "That's A Woman," "Whiskey in the Jar," "Baby, It's Cold Outside".
  • Man in a Kilt: And the audience is not complaining.
  • Mythology Gag: On the Very Best Of tour, where Damian came back after several years away, the band would start playing "Puppy Love" for him before he sang "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do".
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: While from Ireland (and Scotland), the group is notably more popular in North America (possibly due to the fact that they use a certain amount of Irish charm that the actual Irish are probably immune to.) They are also building a rather strong fanbase in Australia.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: In "Storm," the women are put in corsets (with the exception of Haley Jo). Dancer Caroline Torti also wears one in "It's Entertainment."
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted in Emmet and Emmett, although they generally were not in the group at the same time.
  • Scot Ireland: George, who is often asked about Ireland. For his part, he's a good sport about it and answers their questions. He then gently reminds them that he is Scottish. Interviewers have made this mistake as well.
  • Sixth Ranger: Neil, Daniel, Colm is now the new guy, so he fits.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When a member leaves on short notice, their replacement tends to take their role almost exactly at first, with the same solo songs and the same spots in group songs. (Example: on the Legacy tour, Michael solos on "Dutchman", "Now We Are Free", and "I Wanna Know What Love Is", which had all been Keith's songs.) After their first tour, they generally branch out into something more uniquely themselves.
  • Team Mom: Producer Sharon Browne
  • Temporary Substitute:
    • Early 2011, the lads did a promotion tour around Australia and PBS stations around America. At the time, Damian McGinty was supposedly grounded until he improved his grades and finished his studies. Now it's believed to be a cover story to explain Damian's sudden absence due to The Glee Project. Though Paul's resignation had been effective as of the end of the 2010 tour, he stepped in and did the publicity. When performing, either Emmet or Neil took on Damian's parts.
    • In 2012, Ryan Kelly was injured and unable to perform, and Colm Keegan stepped in at the last minute to replace him. Sharon Browne's blogs indicated that Ryan was aiming to go on the 2012 Tour and made no further mention of Colm's future with the group. Eventually averted, as Colm stayed until 2015 before returning to his studies.
    • After George's death in 2014, Emmet came back to help get the group through their next tour.
    • Damian came back as a guest singer for the 2015 Very Best Of tour, before returning full-time for Legacy.
  • True Companions There's even a song about this, "The Celtic Thunder March"
    • Although none of the group are technically related, they act as family.
    • Several of the members, including Damian himself, have mentioned in appearances and interviews how the older members of the cast (and crew) raised Damian on tour.
  • Updated Re-release - upon the group’s 2015 switch from Verve records to legacy recordings all the albums recorded for Decca Records/Verve Records were re-released with all titles (except for Storm) receiving a re-recording of 1-3 tracks (both group and solo) to reflect the change of members (Colm Keegan and Emmett O’Hanlon)
  • Vocal Evolution: Damian. The first shows were before his voice broke, and he sang the high parts. After puberty hit, his voice dropped down, and while he has an excellent range, he now carries the lowest notes. It's especially obvious on "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir", where he sings the bass part.