By John Benson
When Colm Keegan joined international touring act Celtic Thunder last year, he admitted to being a bit naive regarding not only the group’s success around the globe but also the impact of Irish music in America.
“I hadn’t really thought about it until the tour when audiences were singing songs I never knew were popular here,” said Keegan, calling from Concord, N.H. “That really took me aback. It’s still one of the things I haven’t gotten over. In fact, some of the songs were sung in Irish, and yet you have American and Canadian spectators coming to the show and singing along.”
Something else that completely boggled Keegan’s mind was the fact stateside Celtic Thunder audiences were filled with multi-generational families. On the surface, one would expect this to be a common sight in Ireland, but Keegan suggests otherwise.
“That’s never been the case for me at home in Ireland. I would never think about going to a show with my parents, and certainly not grandparents,” Keegan said. “But it’s a show here that everyone seems to take something from us.”
What Celtic Thunder fans are singing along to now is the sextet’s latest CD/DVD, “Mythology,” which was released earlier this year and includes popular tracks “My Land,” “Turning Away” and “Rocky Road To Dublin.”
Keegan said the Celtic Thunder ante was definitely upped by producer/creator Sharon Browne and musical director David Munro on “Mythology.” Specifically, Keegan points to the latter as writing what he calls spectacular arrangements of classic Irish songs such as “Carrickfergus,” “She Moved Through The Fair” and “The Isle of Innisfree.”
In essence, the new material also finds Celtic Thunder returning to its original sound heard on its 2008 self-titled debut, which introduced the act to the world. Just like the group’s first effort, “Mythology” was recorded live at Dublin’s The Helix venue.
“The thing is, when you’re making a new show, you have to make it fresh and have to think what’s next,” Keegan said. “That’s why I guess the producer wanted to go back to Dublin, go back to the very roots of Celtic Thunder and then have a new outlook.”
The “Mythology” tour has been described as the perfect blend of entertainment, ideology and Gaelic spirituality with a modern twist on the old Celtic storytelling tradition. Specifically, Celtic Thunder live shows are known for the use of dramatic effects via lighting and choreography, as well as a stage set resembling an ancient stone pathway drawn from Celtic lore.
“Throughout the show you have a huge roller coaster of genres and emotions that are coming across,” Keegan said. “I suppose that’s one of the reasons why it goes over so well. It’s almost like taking people from whatever city we’re in and bringing them to an Irish pub and letting them experience a bit of an Irish culture.”
Something else Celtic Thunder audiences enjoy are surprise covers from, say, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel and even The Police. What’s next, a Celtic Thunder Jay-Z cover?
“We’ve certainly done a lot of versatility in the past,” Keegan said, laughing. “So you never really know.”