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Celtic Thunder Performers
Posted by CelticThunder on Feb 12th, 2012 11:14 PM
Keith Harkin


Keith Harkin comes from County Derry in Northern Ireland, where he started performing for the public at the tender age of four, wowing audiences with his beautiful voice and musical talent. Now at 25, Keith has played to audiences across Europe the USA and Canada. He has performed at the Tavistock Festival in the UK, and at the Glasgowbury Festival in Northern Ireland for the past three years and has composed and recorded songs for the BBC show Dha Theanga. Keith is also an accomplished songwriter and guitarist and has opened concerts for acts such as John Martyn, The Undertones and David Kitt and has recently been signed to the newly helmed David Foster Verve Music Group, and is readying his forthcoming solo debut CD while he continues his integral role in Celtic Thunder. He describes his musical likes and influences as “anything with a bit of heart and soul, Tom Waites, Neil Young, The Beatles, Bon Iver, Fleetfoxes. Keith is also an avid surfer, and spends his time catching waves on the West Coast of Ireland when he is not songwriting or touring with Celtic Thunder.

Keith is a guitar fanatic, and appreciates a rich sounding acoustic tone, a mellow jazzy blues feel, or even a rock and roll distorted twang that he can blast through his Fender amp. His inability to pass a guitar shop means that his collection of guitars grows every time he goes out on tour!

On returning back to Derry from a recording session in London in 2005, Keith heard about the auditions for Celtic Thunder that were underway and decided to chance calling into the auditions, just as they were finishing. He auditioned and was invited then and there to attend the final auditions in Dublin, and ultimately selected as one of the five soloists for the Celtic Thunder show. Self-described “singer-songwriter-surfer” Keith does not fit into any particular role in Celtic Thunder. “I’m just doing what I’m doing, being myself,” he says. “I don’t really have to play a part. I just get up there with my guitar, and I get to perform. In Voyage Keith performs the solo numbers The Dutchman and his original song All Day Long, as well as joining the others for the powerful ensembles Dulaman and the rousing Irish ballads Galway Girl and The Clancy Brother’s Medley.

Emmet Cahill


2010 was a very exciting year for Emmet Cahill; he was awarded The 2010 John McCormack Bursary for the most Promising Young Tenor, was named the most promising young singer at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and was a multiple prizewinner at the National Feis Ceoil singing competition in Ireland.

Emmet is 21 years old and hails from Mullingar in County Westmeath in Ireland. His musical journey began when he was just 5 years old and began learning the piano. By 7 Emmet had begun voice training and he went on to win a music scholarship for high school in Mullingar. Emmet spent the next 5 years intensively studying and playing music. At school he furthered his studies in piano, organ and violin and vocal training, however singing has always been his true love. He continued his education at the prestigious Royal Irish Academy of Music where he received a university degree in Music Performance.

Emmet has been in many stage productions in Dublin and has performed on stage at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin and as a soloist at the National Concert Hall. He is an avid sports fan and has performed twice at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, in front of crowds of 90,000. He has also performed for the President of Ireland Mary McAleese and has sung at several international rugby games in Dublin’s new Aviva Stadium. Emmet also sings regularly at the Mullingar Cathedral.

Emmet attended auditions for Celtic Thunder in June 2010 and was thrilled to be asked by Sharon and Phil to join the show. Emmet Cahill is the newest member of the Celtic Thunder family and he started his Celtic Thunder journey in Heritage with his rendition of a Phil Coulter song Kindred Spirits which Phil wrote especially for him. In Voyage Emmet also performs solo number “This is the Moment” from the musical Jekyl & Hyde along with the lamenting Irish ballad Isle of Hope Isle of Tears. Emmet picks up the tempo joining the rest of the soloists with his fiddle during their rendition of Galway Girl. He also steps up to join Neil, George, Ryan and Keith in the fast-paced traditional classic song Galway Girl in the same show.

Neil Byrne

Vocalist, Guitar, Percussion

Music has always been a major part of Neil Byrne’s life. The son of a professional musician, Neil by the age of 5 was instinctively drumming on anything in front of him. He began learning the guitar when he was 7, and also began playing piano from an early age. This skill was to become a positive writing tool for him in the future. By the time he turned 11 Neil, had started a band, performed regularly at school concerts, and won an All-Ireland Music and Arts competition beating out over 33,000 participants. Neil’s band also appeared on Irelands national television station RTE and played numerous open-air summer festivals around Ireland.

At 15 Neil began playing with his father’s band, and the following year Neil’s father retired from the music scene and handed the reigns over to Neil. He was fortunate to be playing (and studying) alongside one of Ireland's most renowned jazz bass players, Frank Hess, and Frank began teaching him about musical arrangements. At the same time Neil was playing base guitar and lead vocals of a retro funk band, performing a lot of American classic 70’s music, from artists such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder and George Benson. He performed at O2 in the Park Festival in Dublin to an audience of 100,000 people. He has had his songs play listed on Irish radio in the Top 10 in the Irish Charts.

A mutual friend invited Neil to play at a function for one of Ireland’s most renowned songwriters and producers, Phil Coulter. He began working with Phil and was honored when asked to play bass guitar in his backing band. From here Neil was picked to record backing vocals for the Celtic Thunder debut DVD, and subsequently play lead guitar in the live show. Since then he has toured America and Canada extensively with Celtic Thunder and has now stepped forward to join Keith, George, Damian, Emmet and Daniel as a lead vocalist. In Voyage Neil performs the contemporary Irish hit Past The Point of Rescue, and joins with Ryan and Emmet in the beautiful a cappella number Lagan Love, while joining the ensemble for the Maid of Culmore, Song for the Mira and Dulaman.

Ryan Kelly


Ryan comes from The Moy in Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Although he studied accountancy at Queens University, Belfast and is a qualified Chartered Accountant by trade, music and theater have always been Ryan’s true passion. He first began singing in public at the age of seven and has won many accolades and awards for his performances, including SCOR 2007, a national Irish Singing Competition, and the BBC’s Country Cool competition in 2003. In his solo career to date Ryan has performed alongside Westlife, Girls Aloud and Simply Red at the televised “Children In Need” Charity Concert. He also released his solo debut album In Time in October 2011 to great critical acclaim and was nominated for an Irish Music Award in the same year. Ryan’s love of musical theatre has also let him to perform the lead role in the Willie Russell musical “Blood Brothers” and the role of Judas Iscariot in “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Ryan is also a fanatical sports fan and has also played Gaelic football and basketball at national level. One of the highlights of his Celtic Thunder journey so far was the opportunity to stand in the Bank North Garden in Boston and sing the US National Anthem to open a game for his beloved Celtics.

Ryan’s love for drama made him the perfect pick for the role of the “rogue” or “Dark Destroyer” in Celtic Thunder Shows. Nothing could have prepared Ryan however for the momentum surrounding Celtic Thunder. “It’s great fun being the bad guy,” said Ryan. “For me, there’s no better role, and they’ve given me great songs to do it with. Besides, thankfully I’m a much better singer than I was an accountant!”

In Voyage Ryan performs the Garth Brook hit Friends in Low Places, as well as the dramatic Black is the Color, he joins with Emmet and Neil for the a cappella rendition of the Irish classic love song Lagan Love and picks up the tempo and the tin whistle on the ensemble number Galway Girl.

George Donaldson


Born and raised in Scotland and a bus builder by trade, George Donaldson is the Scot in Celtic Thunder. He is a self-taught and accomplished musician, who has mastered guitar and flute and is currently being taught to play the fiddle by his daughter Sarah. George’s love of Celtic music stems from his childhood in Glasgow, where his main influence was his late father Bernard, who had a love and appreciation of all kinds of live music. One of George’s greatest thrills was performing for his Dad and 65,000 other fans at the Glasgow Celtics opening match of the 2000 season at Celtic Park in Glasgow. Now at 42 years of age, George is a well-established singer in the vibrant Glasgow and West of Scotland Folk scene, and he released his first solo CD in 2011 entitled The White Rose. George was also nominated for an Irish Music award in 2011. His musical influences are Harry Chapin and Jim Croce, and the Scottish group The Proclaimers. George has recorded folk sessions for BBC Scotland and has made appearances at Glasgow’s own Celtic Connections and the Glasgow West End Festival.

George has toured as part of Celtic Thunder in America and Canada and as as soloist in Europe, and he has a very special fondness for Germany, whose language he continues to attempt to master. He has also performed (alongside the other soloists in Celtic Thunder) at the St Patrick’s Day Parades in New York, Boston and Chicago in the US.

George was cast in Celtic Thunder is the “steadfast” one, and he carries the distinction of being the sole Scotsman in the show, as well as the only married family man of the group. Although George misses his wife and daughter when he is on tour, he enjoys the easy camaraderie on and off stage with the other members of Celtic Thunder. He sees the new direction his life has taken with Celtic Thunder as being the most exciting of his musical career to date and feels he has best of both worlds, a rich and supportive family life at home and a fun and challenging job that allows him to travel. In Voyage George pays homage to one of his musical heroes and performs the Harry Chapin classic Cat’s in the Cradle. He also performs the fan favorite Red Rose Café and of course joins the rest of the soloists in the ensemble numbers

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