Kearns magnificent in U.S. solo debut
Bold show has singer well on way to transcending Irish tenor stereotype
By Peter Lansdowne
| Music Review
WORCESTER-- Tenor, anyone? Anthony Kearns, who is perhaps best known as one-third of the Three Irish Tenors group that is so popular on PBS, made his solo concert debut in the United States last night at Mechanics Hall in a concert that served as a fund-raiser for the free medical clinic sponsored by the Guild of Our Lady of Providence.
At 28, Kearns, a native of Ireland, is the youngest of the Three Irish Tenors; but judging from last night's concert, he may be the best equipped of the three to achieve the level of tenor superstardom now enjoyed by Pavarotti and a handful of other singers.
Last night, Kearns, who already has his own Web site and a phalanx of groupies, seemed less concerned about attaining such popularity and more focused on breathing new life into the solo tenor genre. In particular, he was adamant about transcending the Irish tenor stereotype (it's more than just singing, say, Danny Boy in a pleasant voice) while simultaneously making Irish music part of the tenor repertoire.
Accompanied only by pianist Patrick Healy in the musical equivalent of walking the high wire without a net, Kearns succeeded in reaching this goal during last night's concert, mainly by juxtaposing such tenor staples as La Donna Mobile with Irish songs and ballads ranging from The Old House to Ireland, Mother Ireland.
On La Donna Mobile, Kearns moved effortlessly from a lilting quality in the aria's beginning to a forceful high-note ending that found him holding nothing back. The tenor took the same approach on an exquisite reading of The Old House, which, along with Kearns's flawless rendition of Star of County Down, paid tribute to Irish tenor John McCormack, an acknowledged influence on Kearns.
Elsewhere, Kearns earned round after round of applause, more than a few shouts of Bravo!, and an eventual standing ovation with a winning combination of superb musicianship and passionate singing. His outing on Vienna gave him a chance to display his near-flawless intonation, while his take on Schubert's delicate Serenade revealed Kearns' unique ability to convey emotion while never overpowering his listeners.
Kearns was also in top form on an aria excerpted from Gounod's Faust. He easily navigated the aria's wide-ranging intervallic leaps while maintaining his concern for proper intonation and, as always, the emotional content of the song. He also sang Castle of the Moor, The Girl from County Clare, and other Irish fare with a sense of conviction and authenticity that did not go unnoticed by a crowd of more than 1,000 fans (including Ronan Tynan of the Three Irish Tenors, who seemed to enjoy the singing of his peer as much as anybody in the audience).
Kearns' Irish selections were the most well-received portions of last night's concert; but surprisingly, the singer turned in some of his best work in the performance of two tunes associated with American tenor Mario Lanza. Kearns was appropriately rhapsodic on Because You're Mine, but he really pulled out all the stops on Lanza's Be My Love, perhaps the song that is most spoofed when anybody wants to do an imitation of a tenor singing.
Kearns' keening tenor transformed Be My Love into a passionate plea that was beautifully enhanced by what the Irish call a turn in the voice, a certain yearning, wistful quality that the singer displayed in abundance last night.
As a solo artist, if Kearns can maintain the high musical standards and impassioned singing that he displayed last night, he could well become a tenor for our times