Bringing the Thunder11/26/2014
Since the group’s inception in 2007, Celtic Thunder’s calling card has been a live show with an eclectic, wide-ranging sound and sweeping theatrical look. This is largely possible thanks to the age ranges of the band’s component members: Celtic Thunder’s producers have always allowed talent and personality to trump age, and through its life the group has featured members ranging in ages from 13 to 40. This huge range in age and experience helps keep the group’s shows fresh and dynamic.
“What they’re looking for when they’re replacing someone is hard to pin down,” said 25-year-old Colm Keegan, who has been with the group since 2012. “This isn’t a Broadway show. We’re not playing characters.”
“When I was brought in, the first thing I was asked was to just be myself,” Keegan continued. “You’re not trying to replace someone else, you’re trying to bring your own unique sound to the show.”
The bulk of the responsibility for taking these talented individuals and getting the most out of them in an ensemble setting falls to the creative team behind the scenes — most notably producer Sharon Browne and musical director David Munro.
“(Munro) is an exceptional musician, and you learn something from him every day on the road,” Keegan said. “He knows our voice and musicality better than we do sometimes.”
“My background in music was very cathedral-based,” Keegan explained. “Standing in a choir in a church is very different than standing under a spotlight with 5,000 people looking at you. I would have found that transition very, very difficult without David Monroe. His first assurance is always that he saw something in you, and why he chose you to be in the show.”
Munro’s confidence in his performers — and the confidence that he instills in each of them through the rehearsal process — plays out on stage through each featured singer’s performance. As Celtic Thunder’s touring show changes, great care is taken to make sure the next show puts everyone’s best foot forward, which is why any given show will feature music with a good mix of genres, styles and time periods.
“The one thing we try and get across is honesty,” Keegan concurred. “When you’re bringing out new material, it’s about getting across who you are as a person. We’ve got five or six different personalities and tastes in music. That’s why it has succeeded so well as a family show.”
And therein lies Celtic Thunder’s biggest reason for success: The group reaches across the aisle, to steal a political term, and appeals to just about everyone. Young or old, you’re likely to find something at a Celtic Thunder show that gets your toes tapping.
The group’s members are deeply cognizant of that fact, so the act of putting together songs for a new show often becomes a balancing act between keeping the songs light enough to keep the group’s mass appeal while still keeping Celtic Thunder’s members interested and challenged.
“It’s a matter of bringing your suggestions to the table — along with management and the producers — and narrowing it down from there,” Keegan explained. “If you don’t like singing a song on the first day, I promise you’re going to hate it six months from now. But there are always two sides to performing in a show.”
That act of compromise and balance is made easier by how well the group’s members get along, and their shared passion for performing and entertaining audiences the world over.
“There’s something very rewarding about getting to present a show that you’re proud of to a room of new eyes,” Keegan concluded. “I genuinely get excited every single night to sing the songs.” CV