Monday, October 24, 2016.
In just a matter of months, Michael O’Dwyer has gone from being a college student in Ireland to a starring member of an international concert tour.
“It’s a wild story,” says the 24-year-old and newest member of Celtic Thunder, the smash Irish singing group that boasts a global following.
The singer and musician woke up one morning during his Easter break at Cork School of Music, he says, to see an email from a friend, who was also close with Celtic Thunder’s musical director.
Celtic Thunder was auditioning at that very moment for an open spot in the group’s upcoming North America tour, the message stated.
O’Dwyer had 45 minutes to decide if he wanted to audition, his friend added.
“I thought, ‘What is going on? Yesterday was normal,’” O’Dwyer recalls with a laugh.
Three hours away from the Dublin auditions, he negotiated an audition via Skype.
“I set my laptop piano up in my little college room and I sang them a song and they seemed to like it,” says O’Dwyer, who plays several instruments and has starred in local musical productions. “Now here I am in Minneapolis on a tour bus, which is pretty crazy.”
He is one of roughly 30 members in the large-scale production touring nearly 80 cities. It helps him feel at home that the entire singing group hails from Ireland, and performs traditional Celtic songs alongside contemporary hits.
“We’ve grown up around a lot of these songs,” he says.
He is particularly excited to sing “The Dutchman,” popularized by Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers, who are from his hometown of Carrick-on-Suir.
“It’s nice that I have that connection. I’ve heard that version lots of times,” he says.
Still wrapping his mind around the whirlwind of touring, he says he’s astounded by the number of fans who follow the group from city to city.
Many even sing along to songs that aren’t in English.
“I didn’t realize the scale of how big Celtic Thunder is,” he says. “When you hear that Barack Obama is a fan and they’ve played for him, it puts a bit of pressure on.”
With the tour bringing him to the U.S. for the first time, O’Dwyer has taken in many sights with the group, including white water rafting in Minnesota and taking a train into New York City.
He’s looking forward to a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon when they reach Las Vegas, he adds.
“I might spend a bit of money in the casinos,” he says. “I have the luck of the Irish on my side.”
He isn’t alone in enjoying the taste of fame. Another Celtic Thunder member, Damian McGinty, recently appeared on several episodes of the hit show “Glee,” an opportunity he landed after winning a reality TV show.
This has boosted the group’s exposure, O’Dwyer notes.
“There are a lot of fans who love to see him, and he loves to see them,” he says. ”It’s great having someone who’s done something as big as that on the tour.”
O’Dwyer hopes to continue performing with the group once this tour ends, he says.
For now, he’s just enjoying the ride.
“Really this is a massive experience,” he says. “I’m trying to take each day as it comes and drink it all in.”
Celtic Thunder will perform its “Legacy” show at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 7 at The Smith Center. For tickets and more information, visit: www.thesmithcenter.com/event/celtic-thunder-legacy/.
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