The Christmas Charm Of Irish Tenors
By GARY E. FRANK
Special to The Courant
|The secret to the popularity of the Irish Tenors
may be more in what they
are not than in what they are.
Ronan Tynan, Anthony Kearns and Finbar Wright are not merely an Irish
version of the Pavarotti-Domingo-Carreras trio fondly (or notoriously) known
as the Three Tenors. They lack the camera-hogging charisma of their Latin
counterparts, and therein lies their charm. Instead, the Irish Tenors'
earnestness and utter lack of pretentiousness give an impression of
listening to three genial blokes from a local church choir - a prodigiously
talented choir. Backed by a full orchestra, the Irish Tenors gave their fans
a sincere and winning performance of Christmas favorites at the ctnow.com
Oakdale Theatre Wednesday night.
The Irish Tenors' musical program was solidly uncontroversial, featuring
robust renditions of religious and secular Christmas carols such as "We
Three Kings," "Silent Night," "O Holy Night," "Winter Wonderland" and "Santa
Claus Is Coming to Town," along with more generally religious numbers such
as "How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace," the "Pie Jesu" from John Rutter's
"Requiem" and Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus." They also added a sense of
patriotism to the proceedings with stirring performances of the "Battle Hymn
of the Republic" and "God Bless America."
But there was levity amid the solemnity, as evidenced by a puckishly clever
rendition of Shane MacGowan's "Fairytale of New York." Because "Fairytale of
New York" starts with the line, "It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk
tank," and goes downhill from there, the Irish Tenors substituted some of
the song's lyrics. Still, the song's raucous energy and occasional
absurdities, such as a police choir singing "Galway Bay" on Christmas Eve,
managed to tickle the audience's collective funny bone.
Oddly enough, the Irish Tenors didn't perform much traditional Irish fare,
with the only truly Hibernian melodies heard during "Along the Little Road
to Bethlehem," "Danny Boy" and the haunting and lovely "Wexford Carol."
Kearns' exquisite solo performance of "Wexford Carol" was one of the
evening's highlights. The gentle lilt of Kearns' brogue infused the song
with a sense of both the romance and tragedy of Irish history, as expressive
in its own way as a cry of anguish in a Delta blues.
Although the audience was equally appreciate of each of the Irish Tenors
whether performing solo, as a duet or as the full trio, it seemed especially
fond of Tynan. The balding, bespectacled Tynan resembles a young Peter
Boyle, and watching him perform a few awkward dance steps during the calypso
carol "Mary's Boy Child" was truly inspirational. Born with a lower limb
disability, Tynan's legs had to be amputated below the knee after an auto
accident 20 years ago. When he sang "I'll Be Home for Christmas" it
certainly sounded like a promise he fully intended to keep.