Times Leader, Northeastern Pennsylvania

The Irish Tenors to perform at arena
March 17, 2000
Times Leader Correspondent


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Not even a year has passed since The Irish Tenors' "Live at Belfast" performance first aired on PBS, but already they have become worldwide superstars, selling millions of CDs and selling out concerts around Europe and the United States.

Even Anthony Kearns, one of the singers in The Irish Tenors, who perform tomorrow night at the First Union Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township as part of an East Coast St. Patrick's Day celebration tour, finds it hard to believe just how quickly the rise has occurred.

"It has happened very quickly," said Kearns, 28, of rural Ireland. "I mean, I would go so far as to call it a meteoric rise. Clearly, we owe a lot to PBS, because the show was a huge success. We caught a lot of attention."

Accompanied at their concerts by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and performing a bonny mix of Irish airs, lullabies, love songs, anthems and parlor songs, Kearns and his partners, Finbar Wright and Ronan Tynan, tap into every emotion during their shows, Kearns said.

Clearly, the formula has worked wonders. The tenors themselves have become practically as well known as the songs they perform, which include standbys such as "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "Danny Boy."

When asked if the pace of their ascendance has been overwhelming at all for him, Kearns gave a good Irish chuckle.

"Not yet," he said. "It's been quite nice, actually. Things are moving at a nice pace. It has been sudden, but I don't worry because this act can develop. We keep shooting up a level in terms of performance, so really it's been nice and steady."

One change savvy fans may notice is the replacement of original tenor John McDermott with another well-known Irish vocalist, Wright.

The reason for the change is that McDermott's mother died in January, just a week before the Irish Tenors were to begin rehearsals for the tour, and McDermott didn't feel he could devote the required energy. As a result, Wright stepped in for the spring schedule.

McDermott still appears in concert with The Irish Tenors occasionally, but scheduling conflicts will prevent him from doing so here.

Owing mostly to their status as famous tenors, the singers constantly find themselves compared with the "other" tenors -- Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. Kearns, while flattered by the thought, questioned the usefulness of such a comparison.

"We have a different repertory," said Kearns. "There's more of a personal, human approach with us. More relaxing perhaps, more 'fun.' I'm not taking away from them. They're legends, and I'm a big fan myself, of course, but I think perhaps we're more accessible to people."

Kearns, who first caught the public's attention when he won Ireland's "Search for a Tenor Competition" in 1991, said he would eventually like to continue his solo career but is having too much fun with the Irish Tenors to do anything else right now.

"It's a very Irish time in this country right now," he added. "There's a huge Irish population in the U.S. but it's not just Irish people who are listening. We like to see that.

"The bottom line for me is that people, whatever nationality, get enjoyment, and that I get enjoyment. I'm just blessed to do what I love best."