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Sunday, 30 March 2014

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A master of entertainment

Never before have Sri Lankan music lovers experienced and enjoyed a fabulous show performed by Daniel O' Donnell with Mary Duff and his band. A true showman and truly a great personality, he swept the audience off their feet, singing the Irish classics, country hits and music of the 50s and 60s and other gospel and old-time favourites, his amazing dances across the stage and his uncanny art of spining Irish humorous stories which kept the jam packed audience in stitches.


Daniel O Donnell

The show presented by DK Promotions was a great success, so much so that to reach out to the packed audience at the back of the stretching hall whom Daniel O'Donnell termed my fans 'sitting in Kandy'!

He went around acknowledging their presence without a break in his singing. His interaction with the audience was plus, plus and he treated them like he knew them for years.

Favourite

With an impressive opening sequence, Daniel O'Donnell moved in from the shadows singing 'I Need You' and what followed thereafter was an unbroken line of favourites which included 'A White Sports Coat', Take Good Care of Her, Roses are Red my Love, Hello Mary Lou, Release Me and the all-time favourite Irish Eyes.

Mary Duff made her entrance singing 'Rose Garden', Pick Me Up and then went into duets with Daniel O'Donnell singing You're My Best Friend, Whispering Hope and an umtempo Hey Good Looking.

The spotlight switched back to Daniel who entertained the audience with more of his favourites such as Thank You For Loving Me, Footsteps and Galway Bay with an interesting video presentation. There were many other favourites including Sweet Caroline, Is This The Way to Amarillo.

What was evident in their presentation was the slick presentation with no glitches and gave the impression that it was all impromptu, but knowing their professionalism a lot of planning must have gone in to it to ensure there were no hitches.

After the interval there were more attractive favourites such as Can You Feel Our Love, I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen, a Jim Reeves medley which included - I Know That I Won't Forget You, Anna Marie, Adios Amigo, He'll Have To Go and an Elvis Presley medley comprising That's All Right, She's Not You, Love Me Tender, I'm All Shook Up.

Mary Duff gave us the benefit of appreciating her big hit 'A Single Yellow Rose' which sent one member in the audience we know into raptures and she joined Daniel O' Donnell for their other major hit "Some where In Between'. Danny Boy, Tipperary by Daniel and many other favourites moved the show towards the end. The encore was Beautiful Sunday but the audience didn't let him go. They surged forward to shake hands with him, to get his autograph or get a photograph taken with him on their cell. He stalled them by agreeing to do all three after the show, if they were not in a hurry to get home and ended the show for sure with his rendition of How Great Thou Art with audience participation and with the happy promise that he'll return for another show in our country.

Before the concert we were fortunate to have a pleasant, relaxed interview with him.

Question: Last year was significant according to reports you celebrated your 30th anniversary in your career. What were the special programs you did to mark the event?

Answer: The 30 years was the 30 years of recording. I started recording in 1983. I actually started my career with my sister in 1981 in her band and I travelled with her for three years. To celebrate the 30 years we did a television show in Ireland and with it was wrapped up my 50th birthday. We released an album in 1984. The TV show was the main thing.

Q: You have come thus far with overwhelming success together with awards of recognition, when you started off in 1981 was it smooth sailing for you or did you counter difficulties?

A: No matter who you are or what you are, you want to achieve instant success which is something that happens to very few. I left my sister in 1983, made my first record and was at home desperate to play. Disco had come in very strong and the music I enjoyed singing, there was no place for it, no market. I love Country music and Irish folk. Then in 1986, all of a sudden, just like switching a light on, things seemed to have come together over a couple of months. People started coming to the dances which were popular in Ireland. We then started doing shows in the UK and we began doing concerts. The radio in UK and the television, the radio especially started playing a lot of our records. 'I Need You' was the first song - it got a lot of attention. A lot of it was word of mouth. Because the type of music we do is not aired on every radio station as it is not pop music, it's not Lady Gaga or whoever. It's on specialised stations I suppose. A lot of people started coming to our shows - it took us a long time to get where we are today.

Q: How and when did Mary Duff join you in your shows?

A: Mary Duff joined in 1987. She started singing when I started doing concert tours. My manager felt I needed somebody to open the show. He had known Mary through a talent competition. She came and auditioned. It was a foregone conclusion. We've been together since doing shows.

A couple of years Mary formed her own band and toured herself. And then in 1994 she came back permanently. Ever since it's been a great combination for both of us. We didn't start singing duets till about 1992. Our first duet was 'Somewhere Between.'

Q: Your latest album 'A Picture of You' does it contain new material by you or cover versions?

A: A few new songs. I haven't written any new songs. There are lots of covers. Right from the beginning I never limited myself to originals.

I love the old songs. I have a list of songs from years ago which I like and every time I look at it, it gets longer, it doesn't stay the same. 'Picture of You' was a hit in the UK for Joe Brown, Walk Tall by Val Doonican, Love Letters in the Sand - that's the type of songs that are on the album. Maybe I'll do a couple of new songs at the show.

Q: Andy Williams and his singing style, was it an inspiration for you?

A: I used to go for his shows in Branson, Missouri. He was a wonderful performer. I met him a few times. After he passed away I thought I should not forget him, so I paid a tribute to him at our concert at Branson.

Q: Loretta Lynn we understand is your favourite singer and that you admire her?

A: I love her. When I hear her voice I believe what she's saying and I feel connected with the show.

A number of times in as recently as September last year, I stayed at her house for a couple of days when she was doing a show. She's really nice.

We had a great time. I just love her voice and that of Charlie Pride's too. I've always been a fan of Cliff Richard.

At the same time even though I know these singers and get the opportunities to relax and be away from music, I'm always a fan of their music as well. So I go to see them at concerts and enjoy as much as I never met them. I see them on the stage as performers and each one has a charisma of their own.

Changes

Q: The members of your band, have they been with you since the inception or have there been changes?


Daniel O Donnell and Mary Duff

A: We had a couple of changes. One of them is not with us on this tour. Ronnie, John, Tony and myself, we have been together since March 6, 1986 - 28 years!

The drummer joined us five years ago. I suppose its incredible and it allows us to have a relaxed show, so that we can do a lot more than if we get a band that I just got together for a tour. Really, if somebody called out a tune, I know they can play it.

Q: Do you enjoy performing live more than recording sessions?

A: Live is my favourite. I got used to it. The interaction with the audience is comparable to nothing. Recording was necessary and I have got much more used to it.

But at the beginning I felt I wasn't as good as I was in a recording studio as I was live. But over the years I got more comfortable with recording and I enjoy it.

Q: Has the thought of slowing down ever occurred to you or are you thinking of celebrating a golden jubilee?

A: As long as I could sing and people come to see us which ever one goes first - then that would determine it.

But I would not like to be singing when somebody comes and says 'oh he was great in his day'. I don't like that.

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