The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Tenors do justice to Irish music
By Barbara Zuck
Dispatch Senior Critic

Ohio eyes were smiling last night as a capacity Ohio Theatre crowd turned out to welcome the Irish Tenors on their first trip to Columbus.

The tenors' plentiful local fans could not have been disappointed by last night's show, which was sponsored by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts. The Celtic trio -- Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan -- sang a delightful, varied and often impassioned program that lasted more than two hours.

Performing many of the tunes that -- with the help of PBS -- have made them famous worldwide, the singers offered a magnificent demonstration of the timeless appeal of Irish music and the powerful traditions of Irish singing.

True tenors, historically, have been hot commodities. In contemporary times, though, it's taken the global grasp of television to bring more widespread appeal to the rather unnaturally high male voice.

The Three Tenors -- Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras -- were first. Now Ireland is making its bid, and it's a strong one.

The Irish tenor is known for unabashed emotionalism coupled with a particularly brilliant high range, and these wonderful qualities the Irish Tenors have in abundance. Their broadcasts since the trio was founded less than two years ago have become the most popular shows from the Emerald Isle since Riverdance, and it's quite possible that no one has done more for Ireland (since St. Patrick) than PBS.

Performing with a touring orchestra conducted by Frank McNamara, the Irish Tenors' music director, the trio alternated medleys with solos. Each tenor has his own style and sound; each is unmistakably Irish.

Arguably, Wright has the most mature and consistent voice, Kearns has the most beautiful and purest instrument and Tynan performs in the most exciting and emotional way. All have the agility and vocal nimbleness for an Irish tune, habitually infused with hops and leaps.

Kearns' lovely rendition of Bantry Bay on the first half and The Old House on the second surely allowed the radiant lightness of his voice to shine through. Wright's performance of The Isle of Innisfree and later South of the Border proved he can handle a variety of styles and a big vocal range with ease.

But it was Tynan's touching performance of Scorn Not His Simplicity, about a handicapped child, and near the end of the program the incredibly stirring The Town I Loved So Well that made the concert much more than an evening of sentimental melodies about the Old Country.

All three tenors are gifted and worthy of adulation. Tynan makes the whole package a very special commodity.

The concert built steadily toward the big, dramatic numbers at the end -- after The Town I Loved So Well, the anthem Ireland, Mother Ireland showed the trio at its most compelling. With the crowd on its feet cheering, the singers had no choice but to go on, and go on they did.

With all due respect to the tenors from the Continent, for whom concerts before 30,000 spectators have become just another day at the office, the Irish Tenors sing their big hearts out -- and seem to have a good time doing it.