Ronan Tynan,
I'll Be Home for Christmas (My Gift of Christmas Song)
(AWR, 2007)

Christmas came early this year for me. The postman just slipped a copy of Ronan Tynan's brand new My Gift of Christmas Song through the slot. And what a gift it is!

This is a must-have recording for anyone who loves good music and Christmas. Ronan's powerful yet controlled voice evokes all the memories and joys of Christmases past and the hopes of Christmases yet to come. Not since the legendary John McCormack (1884-1945) has the world known an Irish tenor like Ronan Tynan.

As mentioned in a review of his prior recording Ronan, this world-class singer has overcome the loss of both legs as a youth and still managed to become a record-setting athlete, a medical doctor and a much-in-demand motivational speaker. And yet, he possesses one of the most beautiful tenor voices performing today. A lot of his success is due to his versatility; he's equally at ease singing serious classical music or popular Irish melodies.

Anyone who wants to learn more about Ronan's life should read his autobiography Halfway Home -- My Life So Far.

My Gift of Christmas Song opens with an appropriate scene-setter as Ronan's voice soars over the orchestra in the traditional "Adeste Fideles." Next he gives evidence of his extensive musical talents with "Christmas Eve" -- one of two songs on the CD written by Ronan.

The other original song comes later on the CD. For an Irishman who is now as American as "God Bless America" at a New York Yankee game, "The Paddy & the Yank" has the theme "drink and be merry," but remember those you love and the Man above. The melody and the story reinforce Ronan's comment in the liner notes that the song is "one which I'm sure you will get a right good kick out of." It gives him a chance to show a wee bit of his impish personality.

One of the more interesting tracks blends "Walking in the Air" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" For more than six minutes Ronan's voice floats seamlessly between these two entirely different songs.

Ronan says he "wanted to share with all of you my Christmas favourites," and there's no doubt most listeners will find their best-loved carols on this recording. Particular favorites of mine include: "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night." While not considered a Christmas selection, Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus" fits nicely here and Ronan's remarkable voice more than does it justice.

"Fairytale of New York" is about a long-forgotten Irishman in a New York City drunk tank on Christmas Eve. The melody is as Irish as "Galway Bay" and the sentiment may be familiar to many. The standards "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "The Christmas Song" evoke the warmth of holiday pleasures with friends and family.

In order to fully appreciate the unique experience that is Ronan Tynan, it is helpful to understand a major philosophy of his life taken from the introduction to his autobiography: "If there is a single line connecting all the episodes and main events of my life it is this -- a gift both given and received." Despite his handicaps, he feels he has been given much and he wants to share his talents with the world. That is what makes him such a warm human being, an effective motivational speaker and a marvelous singer.

My Gift of Christmas Song is available only on Ronan's website until Dec. 4, when it will be released to U.S. retailers under the title I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Recorded in Chicago and Prague and released by AWR Music LLC, Ronan is backed on this recording by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Arnie Roth.

At this time of year we are inundated with Christmas music of all stripes and hues -- most of which become humdrum after a few listens. This one will be at the top of your stack of Christmas listening for a long time to come. Ronan's treatment of these Christmas classics guarantees frequent playing. This CD is a perfect Christmas gift -- to yourself or others. I'm glad Santa delivered mine early. Nollaig Shona Daoibh (Happy Christmas)!

review by
Bill Knapp

1 December 2007

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