Celtic Thunder redux

Today I am writing this, I hope, my last blog about Celtic Thunder.  I just cannot seem to get away from them, in spite of my wish to, at least as a group.  I will be adding parts of a letter I wrote and sent to one or more of them recently, and also most of three blogs I wrote about them in the last year on MySpace.  I believe the blogs are still up in MySpace, but I quit writing blogs on MySpace because the computers here in this apartment complex no longer allow me to get into MySpace, calling it an “adult site”.  It will be very long, the length perhaps of a short story, which it sort of is.  Read it or not, as you please, or as time allows.

I have only this to add to what I am going to copy.  I have had my crushes, or “loves”, with music “heroes” before, when I was in my 20s and 30s.  Among those, but not limited to, have been Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five, Eric Burdon of the Animals, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (he died very early), Robin Gibb of the BeeGees, KC of KC and the Sunshine Band, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and the whole of the group that sang “Silence is Golden”.  I never, in my wildest dreams, ever believed I would ever hook up with any of them.  That is the same kind of “love” I have found for Keith, Paul, and Ryan of CT.  It was never real – I am way to old for any of them anyway – and were just crushes.  I am afraid, though, that way too many women, who believed themselves in love with members of CT, especially Ryan, have taken themselves too seriously, and I think that is partly why CT lost Ryan.  But I digress.  Following are the excerpts I promised you.

7 March 2011

Confession time!  My name is Carol Stepp, …………

A year ago, your group Celtic Thunder came to my attention in a big way.  I had already seen one performance on PBS, but you were never known in the Austin, TX, area until Spring 2010.  Then we got It’s Entertainment on PBS, and when I looked you up on the Internet, I discovered the phenomenon, in the United States and Canada, that you had become.  I decided to jump up and see what I could do for you.

You see, I have been involved in music all my life, in one form or another, from singing to playing instruments to teaching dance, and in the past twenty years, with Celtic music, a form in my blood because of my Irish grandmother.  I even produced my first radio show, titled In Tune With Keltia, when I was 54.  Through that show I met Wendy Newton, the owner of Green Linnet Records, who invited me to an Irish Music Festival in November 1995, in New York State.  At that festival, I interviewed, for my show, Martin Harris, Tommy Sands, Johnny Cunningham, and members of the Kips Bay Ceili Band, and met many other singers and instrumentalists, from Ireland and Scotland.

Other interviews have been with Dick Gauguin and the Battlefied Band.  I stayed with the show until sometime in 1996; I then turned it over to another producer and was on the verge of opening my own agency for musicians when I was laid low by an unexpected bout of depression – it took me a long time to come back, but come back I did and have been mentally stable for well over ten years.

But I never quite got over that wish to be involved in the music world, so when I “discovered” who and what Celtic Thunder was, I decided, on my own, to promote you through the Internet in every way I could.

Thus, at the age of 69, I opened a MySpace account, started collecting musician friends, and started writing blogs about Celtic Thunder and the individual members.

I wrote to Sharon, asking to get you to Austin, which has a huge Celt-loving fanbase, and was told you would be in Austin on May 18 (2010), though not for a concert.  I wrote and asked if I could take you to lunch, but she told me you would be too busy.  I asked if there was any way I could meet you, but I had no reply.  I had hoped to get a feel for you lads in an individual way, but I’m sure she thought I was just another fan.  I did not try to enlighten her.  I did figure out the PBS connection thenabouts, and broke the news in a blog.

I wrote her one other time to ask if she minded my mentioning several of you to people I knew about other appearances, and was told you all were free to talk to anyone who approached you about other work.  I suspect she was afraid I would be trying to get paid for what I was doing freely, just because I wanted to and because I thought you were worth it.

Keith, you and Paul were my first big individual single interests.  I quickly learned, though, that while I could write good things about Paul, he was already in the public eye for what he had already accomplished, and that I probably would not be of much use for his career.  You, on the other hand, seemed to be young enough, and new enough to the business, that maybe I could be of some use to you.  Besides, you brought back my 20s to me, when it was all long hair and surfer dudes and the “Brit Invasion”, which all came at me just after the Kennedy assassination, when people of my age needed that, and I’ve long faced it, I am still just a product of that world, even at the age of 70.  Your first song that really grabbed me, in retrospect from IE, was The Island.  Much of that was a result of Vietnam, and the Ireland of the 70s, on up through the mid-90s.  I met, here in the States, people who were involved in both sides of that conflict, and was just about to meet Gerry Adams, who was scheduled to speak at the University of Texas, until the US cancelled his Visa.  And when I discovered you were a fan of the late Jim Morrison, I knew you had to be someone I would like very much.

I wish my interest in you had stayed intact as it began.  But it seems like the bulk of fans I started mixing with on Facebook, which I finally opened several months after I started writing about CT, were Ryan fans principally, particularly one woman I met here in Austin.  I am afraid I let her, and them, influence me so much that I turned from watching you to watching him.


Well, after giving CT my all for nearly a year, it is time for me to move on.  Not to another band right now because I haven’t found another one I want to invest myself in.

With the loss of Paul, and the very real probability that Damian is going to lose several months from the immediate view of the very fickle fanbase that Americans usually are, you are simply no longer the group I cared as much about.  Perhaps Phil will be able keep Damian in the public eye.  I think he would be a great “Sinatra”.


I have very much enjoyed this past year, and getting to shake hands with you all, and getting my photo with Ryan.


Great good luck to you all, Paul, Keith, George, Neil, Ryan, Damian, and Emmet.  I will follow all of your careers most interestedly.

Subject : What a kerfuffle!!!!!

Posted Date: : May 12, 2010 8:12 AM

Well, yesterday was quite a day.  Poor Sharon.  She got quite an earful from some of you fans.  Did anyone write any ugly letters to Phil, too?  I even got a share for commenting to Sharon about a wise business move, and did I really think the lads are a commodity.

Well, yes, in a way they are.  It is grand that Sharon, and maybe Phil, retained ownership of the name Celtic Thunder.  They do not, however, own the names of George Donaldson, Paul Byrom, Ryan Kelly, Keith Harkin, Neile Byrne, or Damian McGinty.  She may have them on contract, but she does not own them, nor their names.

Did one of them really tell a fan that he wasn’t being paid enough?  Somehow, I doubt that.  It would be unethical, and I can’t see any of the fellows being unethical.  I think gossip is just way too often taken as God’s truth.  Anything that has been said, especially if it has a viciousness to it, is nothing but gossip, unless one can prove what they are saying.  I will not listen to it on purpose, and if I hear it, I pretty much try to ignore it unless it really affects me personally, and then I might chase down who it was started by, or where it came from.  In the meantime, I don’t write gossip.

Here’s the truth.  Performers sign contracts to perform in a venue for a specific amount of time.  When that contract is up, if the performer is offered a renewal, it is up to the performer to decide if he or she wants to continue.  What these guys did in becoming a part of Celtic Thunder was a smart business move.  For themselves.  For their careers.  They did not do it out of the goodness of their hearts for Sharon or for Phil, or for the fans for that matter.  Yes, we love them.  Yes, we will miss them if they leave the show.  I, for one, plan to continue to follow most of their careers, or at least buy recordings they make, on an individual basis.  Leaving Celtic Thunder does not make them pariahs in my eyes.  And I don’t know that they are leaving CT, or Sharon and/or Phil.  But they did each have individual careers before they became Celtic Thunder, and having been a part of Celtic Thunder, they can only have enhanced their own careers.

Would George have gotten a label if he had stayed obscure in Glasgow?  Would Damian have had a chance to audition for Glee, and having done that, been so popular that a voting campaign for him would have broken out on the internet?  Would all of you have been so quick to vote for him as an individual, or passed the news on to everyone else to vote, if he had not been a part of Celtic Thunder?  How about Ryan?  He was, if not happy, at least content to be a chartered accountant and do his theatrical work voluntarily for the rest of his life.  But now he has come to the attention of everyone, and has a real shot at doing musical theatre in London or New York.  He might have stayed in obscurity for the rest of his life, labouring from nine to five.

Paul was already well known, both in Ireland and the US.  But look at him now.  He could just about write his own ticket in the opera world, or the musical comedy world, or again, in musical theatre.  He was already making recordings, but I bet the number of them being sold has risen sky high.  And Keith – well I don’t really know about Keith so much.  His love of surfing, and his love of 60s music, tell me he is not as ambitious as the rest.  But he certainly does welcome the love.  And maybe he will now be better able to decide what he wants to do with his music, if anything.

I certainly think he will continue to write, and to produce his sister’s music, and possibly his own.  He can sing, and he should not let that go fallow.  But he also now has a background in production, and a studio, if he chooses to write for others, and just produce their music.  Frankly, I think he would have a bigger career if he sang the Irish tunes than the 60s music he loves – I think most of his fans would be in the over 50 set if he wants to revive the music of my youth.  But I can not, and will not, tell him what to do with his own talents, even if he is my favourite beach blonde.

So, there will be new singers under the banner of Celtic Thunder.  Perhaps there will end up being three sets of singers under the banner of Celtic Thunder, touring at all times.  Who says they won’t be equally talented, or equally good looking, as the group in its present form?  Why not give them a chance?

As for those who threatened Sharon with thoughts of how much money you spent, that was a choice you made.  No-one forced you to spend that money.  I haven’t had the money to spend, but when I see them in Houston in November, I plan to take a good bit of money to buy a lot of their stuff, just because I want it.  And CDs and DVDs remain a source of entertainment to me, even if the group is no longer as it originally existed.

Hey, I still listen to the Beatles, and never once (at least not that I remember) did I ever blame Yoko Ono for breaking them up as a group.  They would have broken up, whether Yoko came along or not.  They all wanted to take their music in a different direction.  It is the fan who does not let them die, and I believe the fans of today’s Celtic Thunder will not let them die either.

Or have all of you who wrote so many harsh comments decided you will never buy another Paul Byrom, or Ryan Kelly, or George Donaldson recording again.  Are they useful to you only as a group?  Or do you appreciate each of them in their own right.

I have no doubt the group I will see in Houston is the group that I now know and love.  I also think they will continue as a group for at least another six months, maybe longer.  I think it depends on the fans.

Carol Stepp

Subject : Don’t think stagnant

Posted Date: : Jul 2, 2010 3:43 PM

Once more, I have run across a couple of people who are griping about new CT touring groups, and losing our original lads.

We (I) want more of their music while they are a group.  However, I would feel it was really selfish of me to want them to stay part of the group.  They are all, individually, too good to lose themselves in a group.

I really want to see Ryan do more musical theater, and I want to hear more of Paul in duets with people like Renee Fleming or Sarah Brightman, and doing some more of his style of music himself.  He has too good a voice to be continually lost in harmony.

I also think that Damian could prove to be the greatest “star” of them all (not the best, just the one who will eventually draw the most attention, sort of like Justin Timberlake or this new Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers).  Damian has the potential to be another Frank Sinatra, what with singing and acting and appearing in night clubs.  I just hope he doesn’t go the way of the Sinatras with the drinking and partying.

George and Keith, I don’t really know about.  I still think George will eventually be happier staying close to home and family, and singing in his local arenas.  But I hope he gets a good recording contract, and does a little touring on his own.

Keith, I think, still needs to find his voice, what he is best at and not what he wants most to do.  He really needs to do a little maturing, so if anyone of these singers stays with Sharon, it will most likely be him.  Perhaps anchoring another whole group who will be touring in areas where there are no PBS television stations.

I even concede that Ryan and George may want to stay if they don’t have better offers.  If they are on a contract, a five-year contract, which is my theory, then that can be enough to give of themselves if they are seeking more things than forever being lost in a group.

Don’t want to hold them back.  They are much too good as individuals to try to do that to them.

I love them too; having said so, I want what each of the lads thinks is best for himself.


Subject : Back to CT

Posted Date: : Oct 11, 2010 1:57 PM

I have been reading the reviews, good and bad, in the Forum about Celtic Thunder’s present tour.  I have noted some folks being a little unhappy, about reserved crowds, and plenty of lavish praise.  Having not yet seen them live, I take it all in.  And I have a few comments to make.

For the young lady who wanted them to sing all the old stuff, and was disappointed they didn’t.  I understand this.  Not having been in at the beginning, I have been better prepared to see the changes in them.  Just last night, once again, I watched The Show, and while it is still highly enjoyable, I can definitely see signs that they lads are “growing up” (or a better word is maturing in their performances.  It can be a bit scary to watch, especially for someone who has been there from the beginning, because it begins to look as though the personae that are so loved are disappearing, and we don’t want that.  Sometimes we never want things to change, and change is difficult to accept.  Just let them stay the way we fell in love with them.  Sadly, life and experience do not let this happen.

For Paul, I am sure he is ready to get on with his own life, and his own music, and stop the touring bit.  He has paid his dues over and over and over, and he wants to get on with his own professional, and probably personal, life.  I wonder if he and Dominique are serious about having lives together, and if his touring might be interfering with a decision.

As for Damian, he is getting so good, and so mature, in his performances, I can only see him getting better and better, and becoming more and more well-known, and in demand for numerous projects.  I cannot possibly praise him enough.

And George, I suspect he might be ready to stay home, in Scotland, with his family, more than he gets to now.  Or perhaps he would like to do some touring himself.  But, I notice that George still gets a laugh, or a smile, at the antics of his “younger” cohorts, so I think he is still having a good time.

Carol Stepp

About carolstepp

Music is about the most important thing in my life, and I follow a large number of musicians, particularly Irish, Scots, Classical, Crossovers of any of these. I was writing a blog about Celtic Thunder regularly on MySpace, and now I have left them after a year, and will start writing my blogs here. I am 70, retired, living on Social Security, and have a lot of social network fans.
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