Celtic Thunder's Emmet Cahill brings solo tour to San Diego

At 28, Irish tenor Emmet Cahill admits he’s an old soul, at least musically.

“A lot of opera,” he responded when asked what type of music he listens to. “I’m working on a lot of opera repertoire right now, so opera’s definitely at the top of the list. Of course, I listen to traditional Irish music. I’m a bit of an oldie at heart — Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the old jazz and swing music of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Cahill, principal vocalist for the popular Irish singing group Celtic Thunder, this week embarked on a North American tour that kicked off in Vancouver, British Columbia, and comes to La Jolla’s St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church on Saturday, Feb. 16.

What can we expect?

“Let’s just say it’s Irish music meets Broadway meets church hymns,” Cahill said by phone from Seattle, where he was on a layover en route to Vancouver.

The Ireland-based singer — he was born in Mullingar in County Westmeath in Ireland — credits his music-loving parents for his passion for music.

Piano lessons started early. He was only 5 when he began playing the piano. Two years later, vocal training followed.

“My dad was a piano teacher, and my mom was a church singer,” Cahill said. “I grew up learning music from an early age.”

His fascination with music continued well into adulthood — so much so that he eventually received a bachelor of arts degree in music performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music. While there, he earned many accolades, including “most promising young tenor” and “most promising young singer.”

Music “has always been a part of my life,” said Cahill, whose debut album, “Emmet Cahill’s Ireland,” came out in 2017 and topped Billboard’s world music chart. “I certainly never really planned to make a career out of it, but music’s always been a big part of my life. So it all just worked out.”

In 2011, he began touring with the six-member Celtic Thunder — performing around the globe, from Australia to Canada to the United States. In 2016, Celtic Thunder hit the road for a world tour that visited 75 cities. When that tour ended, Cahill launched his own tour, one that took him to Carnegie Hall last year.

On this current North American tour — there are 31 cities this time around, ending in Greensburg, Penn. — Cahill promises a concert filled with songs that Celtic Thunder fans will appreciate — everything from “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” to “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel.”

“It very much has that flavor,” he said, “but it’s just me singing, not the group. It’s a varied program with a little bit of opera, some pop and some classical — songs that people will appreciate and recognize.

“But I take music that I grew up singing and make them my own in a style that suits my vocal training,” added Cahill, who tours with pianist Seamus Brett. “We’re also respectful of where we’re singing — sometimes we’re in a concert hall, sometimes we’re in a church. We know what will work in a certain space and what will resonate with our audience.”

For Cahill, the audience is an important part of each performance.

“There’s always a little bit of nerves for each concert,” Cahill said. “Not only for myself but rather for the audience. I always hope that the concert meets people’s expectations. … In a way, you hope people will come along your musical journey for a couple of hours. I try to tell stories and make the evening a very personal experience. I’m hoping they will personally connect with something I say or sing.”

Making that connection is a priority.

“If I can make them laugh or cry,” Cahill said, “my job is done.”

Emmet Cahill

When: Concert: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. Doors open at 7 p.m. Meet-and-greet: 6 p.m. Doors open at 5:45 p.m.

Where: St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect St., La Jolla

Tickets: $30 for concert only (with $2.50 fee). $45 for concert and meet-and-greet (with $3.25 fee)

Online: emmetcahill.com

Twitter: @outdoorlivingsd

michael.rocha@sduniontribune.com

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