Taken from an online publication of the People Newspaper

Colm Lambert talks to /*young Kiltealy man*/ Anthony Kearns, one of the three Irish tenors who featured in one of the top-selling videos in the country at Christmas. 

A tenor of note 


THERE AREN'T many people who make it all the way to the top of their chosen profession by the time they reach 30 years of age, but Kiltealy's Anthony Kearns is already well on his way. Still just 27 years old, Anthony is one of the three Irish tenors who featured in one of the top-selling videos in the country this Christmas, and is already one of the top names in musical circles in Ireland. He has performed in many of the top venues at home, in Britain and further afield, and is currently preparing with the other two tenors, Ronan Tynan and John McDermott for a major tour of the USA that will include a TV gala concert on St Patrick's Day which will be broadcast coast-to-coast. It's all a long way from the Fleadh Ceoils around County Wexford where Anthony began his singing career back in the early eighties, and he freely admits that he doubted for a long time whether he would ever be able to make such a journey. `I always enjoyed singing, but for a long time I didn't think I'd ever be able to make a living from it,' he says. `It's not exactly something you'd be encouraged to do at Career Guidance in school! But I always had a sort of confidence in myself that I was good enough, and I was prepared to put in the work, and now thankfully things are working out as well as I could ever have hoped for. I'm delighted with how things are going, because singing is all I ever really wanted to do.' It was during his school days at the FCJ in Bunclody that the singing bug really bit the Kiltealy man. `I used to play the trombone in the school orchestra, but I could have been chewing it rather than playing it, I was so bad!' he jokes. `And everywhere the orchestra went to play, all I really wanted to do was get up and sing. I used to look at the way that the conductor Gearoid Grant used to be able to work the audience at the shows, and marvelled at the power and control he had, and I wanted that for myself. I suppose it's a form of seeking attention really, but that's part of every performer.' Anthony began to sing at school masses and musical productions, before sitting his Leaving Cert in 1989. `Then it was out into the real world, just like everybody else,' he says. He studied catering at Cathal Brugha Street college in Dublin before gaining employment at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow, where he worked for almost four years. `But still every time I got the chance, I would get up and sing, especially at all the wedding receptions that would be held in the hotel,' he recalls. `I got to know all the bands that played regularly at the receptions, and they would always invite me up to lash out a few songs; I became known as the singing barman. Sometimes it was cabaret, sometimes Country & Western; I liked it all, and it always went down well.' Hitch-hiking It was during this time that he began to put in the donkey work which started him on the road to where he is now.He had to hitch again. `I was in Arklow the night before, so I ended up getting up at six in the morning to try make my way to Dublin!' he remembers. `When I got there, I wondered what I was after letting myself in for. All the other finalists were fully-trained tenors, and I had never sung tenor before. But I got up and sang `The Impossible Dream' and then `Danny Boy' for an encore, and ended up winning the competition.' An appearance on `The Late Late Show' followed, before Veronica Dunne, one of the adjudicators in the competition and the person generally acknowledged as Ireland's top singing teacher, approached him. `Basically, she said `get yourself over here now, we have work to do!',' Anthony says. `I ended up spending three years working with her, and she really brought me on a lot. She's a powerful woman who instilled a lot of drive and initiative in me, and I was lucky to get to work with her at all because she doesn't take just anybody.He participated in competitions all over the country, usually hitch-hiking to get there and then back to work again in time to pull more pints. `I hitched all over the place, down as far as Kerry and up as far as Belfast,' he says. `But it got to the stage where I was usually confident of coming first or second in the competitions, and there was often good prizemoney that came in very handy at the time! I didn't mind the hitching at all, and I enjoyed myself everywhere I went.' His big break came through one of the competitions he entered around this time, when the Gay Byrne radio show held a contest `Ireland's Search for a Tenor' in conjunction with the launch of the new ten pound note in October 1993. `I was working in sales in Dun Laoghaire by that time, and decided to enter it one day while on a break. I had to sing over the phone in the first round of the competition, and a few days later got a call back asking me to come to the next round of heats. I got through that too, and eventually I got a call asking me to come up for the final, which was to be broadcast live on the radio at 9 a.m. from North Earl Street.' Anthony moved to Wales to continue his training at the College of Music in Wales in late 1996, but not before giving one of the performances he remembers most fondly: Croke Park on All-Ireland Hurling Final Day, 1996. `I was the only Wexford man playing at midfield that day who never touched the ball!' he jokes. `Seriously though, it was a great time, and it was great to be a part of the day in some way. Singing `Boolavogue' there in front of so many Wexford people on such a special day is something I will always remember. `I was thinking afterwards though that I should have worn a Wexford jersey underneath the ordinary shirt, and showed it off to the cameras when I was finished singing!' he adds. He was in Cardiff last year when he first heard of the project to put three Irish tenors together. `Basically, I just got a few phone calls saying the thing was being put together and that my name had been mentioned a few times,' he says. `I came back home for an audition, and the people behind the project liked what they saw and heard, so I was selected. We began work straight way, and selected a mix of contemporary material and traditional Irish songs, and then staged the concert in the RDS in October where the video was filmed.' The concert was a great success. `There were over 3,000 people there, and you could tell they all thoroughly enjoyed it,' he says. `We enjoyed ourselves on stage too, and that's just as important. Thankfully, the video has been a big seller - and the CD is coming out soon,' he adds, getting in a quick plug. He is looking forward to the American tour. `There's a huge market over there of people of Irish descent, and to go coast-to-coast on television on St Patrick's Day is maybe the best exposure you could ever wish for. Any one of us could probably make big money there if we just concentrated on that and toured around singing Irish songs all the time, but that's not for me just yet. Money isn't the be all and end all, as far as I'm concerned. I want to keep up doing a mix of the Irish stuff as well as opera, and really my ambition is to be remembered rather than to be rich. I would love to eventually be known as one of the great Irish singers.' Overall, he says he couldn't be happier with how his life and career has gone to date. `Sometimes I think about it all, and find it hard to believe,' he says. `I mean, I'm still only 27. Some people are 57 before they've done all I've been able to do already. I'm doing what I love, and have been to all sorts of places I would never have been able to see if I was in an ordinary job. I suppose I might have been lucky in some ways, but I was prepared to put in all the work too, and thank God, it's all paying off.' He adds later in the day however that there is one aspect of his life which could be improved upon. `You could write that I'm single and available and open to offers!' he laughs.