Sharon Browne and Phil Coulter established Celtic Thunder as a male counterpart to the Celtic Woman project, with which Browne was associated. Celtic Thunder performed its first concert at The Helix in Dublin in August 2007. Following the Celtic Woman blueprint, a CD and DVD emerged from the Dublin production, in March 2008. They were very popular.
Celtic Thunder started touring North America, and regularly released new material. Billboard named the group Top World Album Artist in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Such was their popularity, that the group opened the 2009 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC. For their live extravaganza’s, the members perform solo, as a group, and, as in the video, as duos.
What a sublime performance of The Sound of Silence by Colm Keegan and Keith Harkin! The members of Celtic Thunder are selected for their voices, so the quality of the singing isn’t surprising, yet the way Keagan and Harkin build the intensity, especially when the full orchestra kicks in, is truly impressive. The song was recorded for the group’s 9th TV special and was released as Mythology (CD & DVD, 2013). It was recorded at the Helix Theater in Dublin, where the Celtic Thunder journey began.
So what does Celtic Thunder sound like when all the principals sing? Can they cut it without the power of an orchestra behind them? The next video is an acapella take of the 18th Century hymn, Amazing Grace, recorded for the DVD Celtic Thunder Christmas (2015). Sadly, before the release George Donaldson, the group’s principal singer, died at home of a heart attack in March 2014. He was 46 years old. Fittingly, it is Big George, as he was fondly known, who takes the last solo on Amazing Grace.
For some die-hard fans of Celtic Thunder, the group’s career can be divided into two: the period up until Phil Coulter resigned as music director in 2011, and the tenure of David Munro thereafter. David Munro was music director when the above videos of The Sound of Silence and Amazing Grace were recorded. Mythology, which contains the former track, was his first recording with Celtic Thunder.
Under the heading Good But Something Missing, one fan has commented “Mythology is different because they have a different Musical Director, David Munro. I am a long time, loyal fan of Phil Coulter who was formerly CT’s Musical Director and Composer and there is the difference. With Phil Coulter there was the magic of an almost spiritual, melodious sound that was IMO like no other.”
Both Coulter and Munro are classically trained musicians who have worked with the Dubliners and Sinead O’Conner, but whereas Munro established himself by his work with ballet and contemporary dance companies, Coulter cut his teeth writing and arranging pop songs. Coulter’s songwriting partnership will Bill Martin is particularly noteworthy. They wrote Puppet on a String, Sandie Shaw’s winning 1967 Eurovision entry, and between 1967 and 1976 they had four UK chart-toppers and numerous other hits.
Whichever era of Celtic Thunder you prefer, the videos of The Sound of Silence and Amazing Grace demonstrate that David Munro is an extremely talented arranger and director. Six of his albums with Celtic Thunder have taken the number one spot on the World Music Album charts of Billboard, iTunes, and Amazon. That is impressive!