The Irish Tenors Holiday Show December 9, 2009
By Glen Creason
It’s hard to imagine a better show, a classier presentation or a more uplifting holiday concert than the wonderful Irish Tenors Holiday Program presented on a chilly Wednesday evening at the Performing Arts Center. The show splits in two sentimental halves with classics of the season being interspersed with evergreens of the rich Irish vocal traditions being sung by three equally marvelous voices. Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Karl Scully are the names but the triumvirate is very much a whole wonderful sound. Through two-dozen such gems the gents never wavered and had a full house absolutely enthralled and deeply moved throughout. With this repertoire it is necessary to take it up a holiday notch since the tunes are so familiar but the Tenors just don’t let down or get complacent. They seem as delighted singing these familiar songs as the adoring crowd was in thrilling to them.
The show opened with an ace, the towering “Be Thou My Vision” with all three men reaching the back rows of the upper balcony with their three shades of tenor. The truly amazing musical phenomenon is that each man is unique in tone within the tenor voice. Each singer can make these songs their own private song property and when they join in three-part harmony the effect can be breathtaking. The first half of the show featured such harmonies on “Red Is the Rose,’ the oft sung “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra” and good old “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” that the gentlemen polished to a fare thee well. Other very sweet moments came when each man took a solo turn including Wright’s achingly beautiful “When You Were Sweet Sixteen,” Kearns’ inspirational “Ave Maria” and Scully’s ethereal “My Lagan Love.” There were lighter moments like the cute “Fifty Years Ago,” and a calypso “Mary’s Boy Child” but the closing “Amazing Grace” said everything the song was intended to convey. The second half was almost pure Christmas and purely perfect in the singing of these well-worn classics. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain” were done to perfection. “Silent Night” was given a new look with the use of three different languages in the same song, making it come to life like it was written yesterday. If you saw a program set list here you might believe the songs have seen their season but not as sung by these extremely talented men. Still, the highlights were the more offbeat “Fairytale of Old New York,” the combining of “Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth” a la Bing Crosy and David Bowie along with the bittersweet “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Morning.” By this time the crowd was eating sugarplums of song out of the tenors hands and a medley of classics and encores followed a soaring “O Holy Night” that elicited sighs of admiration and recognition. You can mail in the Ellsie award for holiday show right now to the Irish address of the Irish Tenors. This one is in Santa’s bag.