Columbus Dispatch
Saturday 1st December 2001

By Barbara Zuck
Dispatch Senior Critic

For a trio of tenors to open a concert singing We Three Kings would seem to suggest an outrageous level of self-confidence, even for tenors.

Yet, when the Irish Tenors began their Christmas Spectacular last night with this well-known carol, that image was not realized. Even now, at the height of their fame, the Irish Tenors remain as earnest and unspoiled as ever.

Which is good news, because sincerity is a good measure of their charm.

For the second straight holiday season, this hearty Celtic trio -- Anthony Kearns, Ronan Tynan and Finbar Wright -- brought a program of Christmas favorites to Columbus, and for the second straight year the Palace Theatre was sold out to greet them. This year, actually, the tenors kicked off their current tour here.

That fact may have been noticeable to the practiced listener. Singing a new, and considerably more difficult, program than in their past appearances locally, the tenors avoided embarrassment at several junctures primarily because they have such an attentive conductor. With James Cavanagh, the trio now has an exciting and skilled maestro on the podium.

The program seemed aimed at engendering the holiday spirit as well as playing to Americans' renewed sense of patriotism. Interspersed with famous Christmas fare from around the world were selections particularly popular in America, like the Christmas Song, Mary's Boy Child and to close -- with red, white and blue lights blazing -- The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Making the concert considerably richer from the musical standpoint was the tenors' new penchant for singing in two- and three-part harmony. Where once they engaged in the "stand-and-deliver'' school of unison singing, the trio now harmonizes and embellishes. (Perhaps they have a new arranger. Even the orchestral selections were improved.)

Each Irish tenor has his strength. Wright is an heir to the mantle of John McCormack, with his typically Irish style. Kearns has the strongest classical technique, used with impeccable taste in his inspired singing of The Lord's Prayer. Tynan is the trio's answer to a pop star.

When the Three Tenors sing, it tends to be about opera. When Andrea Bocelli performs, it tends to be about . . . Andrea Bocelli.

When the Irish Tenors sing, it's about great music honestly sung. Hallelujah, indeed.