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Confessions of a Celtic Music Fan

My preferences in music are very weird. I love what everyone hates. I listen to songs that are played by only a few. In short, I am not under the influence of Pop!

However, this does not mean that I do not listen to the songs of Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Bon Jovi. I am a big fan of Cheryl Cole of Girls Aloud, Bruno Mars and even One Direction.

A few years ago when Susan Boyle became an overnight sensation, I was a bit obsessed with American anthem “Star Spangled Banner”. I logged on YouTube to watch different performances of the great song.

I also checked on videos of the hit Les Miserables song “I Dreamed A Dream”. This West End anthem became more of a pop when Boyle used it as her audition piece on Britain’s Got Talent.

I came across a video of a young soprano from New Zealand singing the Les Miz song. The young performer has a warm voice and angelic face. She is Hayley Westenra, my all-time Classical music favorite. I think I am her biggest fan (or maybe the only fan) here in the Philippines.

I downloaded more than a dozen of her songs and watched tens and tens of her videos uploaded to YouTube. The lady is a year older than I am. She sings praise songs and popular folk melodies like “Danny Boy” and “Shenandoah”. More importantly, she sings live and no auto-tune is needed to sweeten her voice. She is completely a singer.

Westenra is also a UNICEF Ambassador, because of her child-friendly image and numerous achievements. In fact, she sang the theme song of Disney’s Mulan 2 Here Beside Me. Every classical music artist she encounters bows to her humility and singing prowess. 

Recently, she collaborated with Italian composer Ennio Morriconi to make her album “Paradiso”, which was nominated for Best Album during Classic Brit Awards. Her first international album “Pure” is dubbed as the fastest selling debut album of all time in classical music.

Hayley joined a girl group called “Celtic Woman” which came to my senses with spectacular effects. The group from Ireland really impressed me. I believe they are better than Spice Girls or even Girls Aloud, except that they only sing Irish tunes and American classics. Hayley was just an installment to the group; she left afterwards to perform with Il Divo.

Nowadays, Celtic Woman is composed of three female vocalists, an astonishing fiddler, a big huge choir group and a set of musicians playing the violin, drums, piano and some Celtic instruments.

Anyone watching the Celtic women perform surely stops and concentrates to identify if these angels are really live. They belt out high notes solemnly and touch every ear listening to them. Among their best songs are “You Raise Me Up, “My Lagan Love”, O America”, Noctourne”, “Black is the Colour” and a handful Celtic native tunes. Their collaboration with Lady in Red singer Chris De Burgh for the song “I’m Counting on You” is simply perfect.

The group has been touring the world. They went to the United States and sang in front of the Irish settlers there. Barack Obama was not there though. They are a hit in Japan also, singing the theme song of Princess Toyotomii.

I learned that a few people in my circle also listen to Celtic Woman. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was only me who was tuned in to this group. Among the people around, I know three who love the group. One even dedicated the group’s single “A Soft Goodbye” to my friend who passed away months ago.

I asked an office mate to hear Celtic Woman’s version of “You Raise Me Up” and her first reaction was like “is that a live show and are the girls singing live?”. I cannot blame her.

A friend suggested listening to other Celtic groups as well. I first listened to Celtic Thunder, and I found myself being charmed by this group of male vocalists and their repertoire. Their music is a bit jollier and their style of singing is more contemporary. My favorite member of the group is Ryan Kelly. His “Heartbreaker” performance is show stopper. He is seductive- I really mean it, when he is singing. He is as hot as Republican VP wanna-be Paul Ryan.

Celtic Thunder is Billboard’s Top Artist. Now it seems that the group is falling apart. I believe that Keith Harkin has the potential to be a pop artist because of his X appeal and versatile voice. Among my favorite songs from the group are “Noreen”, “Isle of Hope/Isle of Pain”, "Desperado", “Whiskey in the Jar” and some contemporary classics.

What I love about the group is that the men are very charming. George Donaldson, who is the oldest in the group, has an affectionate fatherly voice. Keith is a cool guy who always receives the loudest applause from the audience. And I think the hottest thing about these guys is that they wear kilt during some segments of their show.

Now, I am listening to High Kings, an all-male group from Ireland too. Sometimes, the group performs acapella. The members have got powerful vocals. Their voice sounds too folk that I feel at home when I play their music on my phone at night.

The group’s rendition of “Parting Glass” is I think the best version of the Celtic song. I also love their “Rising of the Moon”, a very jolly song that I wanna hear while drinking wine with my friends. They sing happy and brotherhood songs.

I do not know where this obsession will lead me. Maybe, to the green fields of Ireland.............

Christian is a Marketing Communications practitioner in Quezon City. He is an Igorot from Sagada, Mountain Province. To get in touch with him, please shoot an email to christianaligonow@gmail.com.


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