Arts

Ex-Celtic Thunder tenor Paul Byrom plans to take north by storm

Dubliner Paul Byrom has enjoyed a successful singing career in the US – now the tenor, who boasts Phil Coulter as his father-in-law, talks to Jenny Lee ahead of his first gig in Northern Ireland

Byrom will be performing a solo concert at Belfast's Lyric Theatre on September 25

FROM Percy French and Thomas Moore through to modern day greats such as Van Morrison, Paul Brady, Christy Moore and his own father-in-law Phil Coulter, Dublin tenor Paul Byrom will be treating Belfast audiences to a set of Irish classics when he performs at the Lyric theatre later this month.

Although an established star who has sung for US President Barack Obama in the White House, performed anthems for Barcelona FC and Ireland, had hit albums as a member of the singing group and stage show Celtic Thunder and been shortlisted for a Grammy with his album This is the Moment – this will be will be his first solo performance in the north.

The Dubliner recorded his first album The Golden Voice as a boy soprano aged 14. Then, debuting in 2007 in Dublin, Celtic Thunder, with which Byrom was a soloist, took the United States by storm, their first three albums reaching the top 10 in the charts.

"When [musical director] Phil Coulter asked me to join I was reluctant.When he mentioned five guys in a band I had visions of Boyzone. We were five very different singers of different ages, ranging from Damian McGinty, who was 14 at the time, up to George Donaldson who was in his 40s. I was with them five years and it was an incredible experience, selling out the likes of New York's Radio City Music Hall three nights in a row.

"I got to the point I thought it had taken me as far as it could and I went solo. It's been great since, including a couple of number ones in the States," adds the 27-year-old who has just been named Irish Tenor Of The Year by the Irish Music Association.

The Great Irish Songbook will take audiences on a historical journey of the great Irish writers and composers.

"This shows tips the hat to all the great songwriters that have come out of Ireland. It comes from being away and growing a greater knowledge and respect of all the talent we have," he says.

The perfect title for a new album perhaps?

"The title has piqued a few people's interest but I'm just excited to get on stage and perform these great sings and tell some stories behind the songs."

As well as the story of Phil the Fluter's Ball, written by Percy French when he was an engineer in Cavan, Byrom finds the story of Christie Hennessy "the most heartbreaking" of all.

"A great songwriter from Kerry, he tried to make it as a singer but didn't sell many albums and went and worked in the mines for a number of years. He released another album 21 years later and it outsold U2. He died shortly after as he developed lung cancer which largely resulted from working in the mines."

As well as singing some of Hennessy's songs, Byrom performs Van Morrison's Have I Told You Lately That I Love You? and his dad-in-law's The Town I Love So Well.

"Songs like [Paul Brady's] The Island and The Town I Love So Well are such poignant songs that tell of a very difficult time in our history. I think it's important to acknowledge that," adds Byrom who has just celebrated his third wedding anniversary with Dominique.

The pair met when Byrom performed at age 21 on a cruise Coulter organised, but it wasn't until they met seven years later, again on a cruise, that they formed a relationship.

"Phil has been nothing but supportive. As a father-in-law he cooks a good Sunday roast but he's also been very generous with his talents," Byrom says.

Coulter wrote and performed the couple a new song for their wedding day and has written Byrom two songs – Christmas Morning in Donegal and Rio Serenade.

"[The latter] is a light-hearted throwaway song about meeting a woman in Rio – Phil said he wrote it with my personality in mind. What does that make me?" the singer laughs.

:: Paul Byrom – The Great Irish Songbook, Sunday September 25, 8pm, The Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Lyrictheatre.co.uk

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