Irish tenor Michael Londra, who was a solo performer in the popular musical Riverdance, celebrates the spirit of Christmas in Ireland with his new CD, Beyond the Star. Londra recently spoke about his music and his work with the charity Concern Worldwide.
Londra was a solo singing star in Riverdance, a boisterous celebration of Irish dance and music. He is also known for his rendition of the classic Danny Boy, which has had nearly two million views on the Internet site YouTube.
Londra now lives in Chicago, but he came from a town called Wexford on the southeast coast of Ireland. He says the town's population of 18,000 people swells each fall, when it hosts a famous opera festival.
"There is a fascination with light opera and grand opera and musical theater, and there is a lot of choirs. So once I reached around six [years of age], I was dragged down by the ear and sent to do Sister Mary's singing class. And I guess, because I come from a very musical family, I had no choice, and I guess I was kind of good at it," he said.
From his childhood years, Londra performed on stage, but he was past 30 when he had his first paying professional engagement.
He was singing in Dublin when Bill Whelan, who wrote the score to Riverdance, asked him to become the solo singer for the show's first national tour. Londra later sang the lead in the Broadway version of the show. That exposure boosted his career as a successful solo performer.
"And I have been able to build a reputation as a recording artist, and I get to tour all over the world, and this year spent some time in Korea and in China for a month, and I was in Spain and France earlier this year. So I get around. It is great," he said.
In his latest album, Londra celebrates the Christmas he remembers from his youth in Ireland, with songs that include the traditional Wexford Carol.
The CD also includes the Christmas classics Silent Night and O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The singer's travels have taken him to Haiti, where he saw firsthand the work of the Irish-based charity Concern Worldwide. The new CD package contains a DVD that chronicles one of Londra's trips to a small Haitian community on La Gonave island. The island's residents must walk several hours each day to get fresh water, and the charity has provided relief by installing cisterns to collect rainwater.
Londra says Haiti is just one of 28 countries where Concern Worldwide works, and he is doing what he can to raise the group's profile. "I am not going to set the world on fire and raise millions. I think I have a responsibility as an artist just to be able to harness the audience that I have, either in a concert hall, or the people who buy my albums just to get a message out," he said.
The singer speaks at his concerts about the problems he has seen in Haiti, and says he hopes to reach out to others through his new Irish-inspired holiday CD, Beyond the Star.