Celtic Thunder Heritage: A New Traditional

Celtic Thunder’s newest DVD release “Heritage,” pays homage to traditional songs of Ireland and Scotland. Their latest video successfully combines aspects from their original show, “The Show,” that stormed across the nation,  and their previous release “It’s Entertainment,” which acknowledged other musical styles that have influenced their unique style.

This blog is about the songs that make Celtic Thunder debuts in “Heritage.”  These traditional songs have been “Thunderized,” by the remarkable Phil Coulter and Dave Cooke. Most of these songs I knew before Celtic Thunder did them, but seeing and hearing how they changed them is astonishing. They have added a breath of fresh air to the old songs and make them seem brand new.

Keith Harkin does an incredible job telling the love story between Margaret and her man. The Dutchman may be growing old and forgetful, but Margaret remembers the good times they shared and she won’t let life interfere with the memories. Keith’s pure voice, his beautiful guitar playing and the simple sounds of the band adds an elusiveness to the song that fits perfectly with the lyrics.

The strong, upbeat tempo of Black is the Color heralds the coming of the “Bad Boy” of Celtic Thunder to the stage. As soon as Ryan Kelly comes on, he blows the earlier performances from the audiences mind. He truly shines in this song; his energy and love for performing are apparent in every note and gesture.  His presence on the stage enthralls the audience (just see the clip of the young child). He’s singing about his complete (possibly obsessive) devotion to one woman  (of course he could be stalking the poor woman to death). One can’t help but sigh in relief and dismay when Ryan leaves the stage.

Home from the Sea shows the guys amazing talent as a group. Neil Byrne successfully takes a lead singing position in this song, while also accompanying the voices with his marvelous guitar playing. The thunderous Home from the Sea tells the story of what so many men throughout history must have thought while sailing the seas; all they want is to be carried home safely from the sea to their awaiting families.

Just a Song at Twilight is an unexpected duet between Paul Byrom and Damian McGinty. Despite the fact that I love these two guys, this song seems to lack their usually talent, since the words are frequently incomprehensible. However, it is fun to watch the expressions of these two as they sing

Gold & Silver Days is a fantastic duet by Ryan Kelly and George Donaldson. These two men sing longingly of memories of days gone by and how they were happy, even though they weren’t wealthy. They had love and friendship and nothing else was (and still isn’t) important.

Neil Byrne (without a guitar in hand) follows Gold & Silver Days, with the heart wrenching Noreen (or Noirin, mo Stoirin). Neil’s enchanting voice leaves tears in the eyes and warns you to cherish what you have, because it may too soon be gone.  While this is not a traditional Irish song (Neil is the first to record it), Noreen has the spirit of many traditional song, and therefore maintains the essence of “Heritage.”

When George Donaldson takes the stage to sing Skye Boat Song, he becomes the only person in the show to have 2 solos. (To my delight George sings the most songs in this show, counting ensemble pieces he’s in a total of 8 songs) George holds the fascinated audience spell-bound as he sings this traditional Scottish song about Bonnie Prince Charlie. The bagpipes, played beautifully by Brendan Monaghan, add the perfect feeling of Scotland to the song.

Keith Harkin is joined by Neil in an incredible rockin’ version of Whiskey in the Jar. They duel with flaming orange guitars and flashing lights to leave the audience craving for more of their contagious fun. This duet is a fantastic addition to the show.

Paul Byrom finally gets his turn to wow the audience, but the song My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose lacks the power or energy that all of his previously recorded songs contain. Instead, Paul sweetly serenades the audience with this love song and leaves them breathless.

Like Whiskey in the Jar, the last song Celtic Thunder sings is pure fun. A Place in the Choir is a light-hearted song that everyone can enjoy. The guys are completely charming in this humorous song. Their dance moves are completely unexpected and add a distinctly Irish flair to the song. The friendships that have developed between the guys are quite evident and adds to the merriment of the song.

Heritage” is by far the best show Celtic Thunder has performed to date, and I haven’t said that about each of their releases like some people. This is one show that should not be missed. If you would like to see it before you buy it contact your PBS station and ask them when it is airing during the March/June  pledge drives. To see the show live this fall, keep watching Celtic Thunder’s website for tour dates, or contact your PBS station to see if they are selling tickets for the tour. Celtic Thunder is a fabulous group; the live performances are more outstanding than the DVD, so if you can, see them live!

The lyrics from the CD that accompanies the “Heritage” album can be found here.

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