The Irish Tenors
at American Music Theatre,
Lancaster, Pa. (10 March 2013)

Finbar Wright! Anthony Kearns! Ronan Tynan!

Could there be a more perfect way to mark the beginning of the week leading up to St. Patrick's Day than to attend a concert by the Irish Tenors? The theme of their latest tour is "Let's Celebrate Ireland." The trio took the audience at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., on a musical tour of Ireland with a two-hour celebration of some of the most popular songs in Ireland's history.

The evening opened with a dynamic version of "Mairi's Wedding." From the earliest notes, the audience had a taste of the range and power of these three remarkable voices. It's no wonder the Irish Tenors are the premier ambassadors of the rich culture of Ireland and its legendary and multi-faceted music. Any one of the three is more than capable of enthralling an audience in a solo performance; combined, their voices blend in incredible ways.

The Irish Tenors were introduced to America in 1999 by PBS and soon had a devoted following -- and not just by Irish-Americans. Tynan left the group in 2006 to pursue his passion for a solo singing and motivational speaking career. He has since rejoined his fellow tenors; as he said near the beginning of the show, "we're together again."

Although written just 40 years ago, "Only Our Rivers Run Free" instantly became one of the most popular rebel songs in Ireland because it tells of the great national troubles and its struggles for freedom, especially in Northern Ireland. Next, Kearns stepped up with a solo and shocked many in the audience when he announced that the words and music to "40 Shades of Green" were written by Johnny Cash. Yes, that Johnny Cash, although others now lay claim to authorship.

Prior to intermission were "Love Me Tender," the excuse being that Elvis Presley's mother was part Irish (but then who isn't at least part Irish?). The soaring harmony in this rendition was mesmerizing. The first half concluded with "My Love Will Go On" -- the romantic theme from the movie Titanic.

Early in the second act, Wright dropped in an anomaly with "South of the Border." Written by Jimmy Kennedy -- probably Irish -- Wright said this was his favorite song by the well-known composer. First time I heard a Mexican melody sung with an Irish accent. A unique treat indeed!

Tynan's version of "Grace" was an emotional show-stopper. A real-life tragic love story, Grace Gifford was engaged to Joseph Plunkett, who was arrested as a leader of the 1916 Easter Uprising. The couple wed in Kilmainham Gaol moments before he was executed by a firing squad. I have heard this song many times, but no one can create the emotional scene with as much force and tenderness as Tynan.

Other songs in the second half included on "Lift the Wings" from Riverdance, followed by "Galway Bay" and a lively version of "Come Home Paddy Reilly."

A short trip out of the Emerald Isle ensued with the Irish Tenors' rendition of "Those Were the Days," a Russian romance song that was popularized by many artists in the 20th century. It was probably best known in the recording by the 5th Dimension in their album The Age of Aquarius.

The Irish Tenors were brought back for a four-song encore that concluded with the inevitable "Danny Boy." Although I was sitting in the back, I'm sure there were tears aplenty during the following standing ovation.

Throughout the concert, the Irish Tenors were ably backed by a full orchestra consisting of at least two dozen instruments. I admit I'm partial to tenors and the music of Ireland, and this concert presentation was a memorable Christmas gift from my wife.

by Bill Knapp
16 March 2013