The Three Irish Tenors presented their only North American concert Thursday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center as a fundraiser for the Adirondack Saratoga Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Based on the whistles and enthusiastic applause, it was a rousing concert for the crowd, most of whom sat in the orchestra section of the amphitheater.
This incarnation of the famous group founded in 1998 included Finbar Wright and Anthony Kearns, who both sang almost four years ago when the Three Irish Tenors came to SPAC. The newest member was Karl Scully. Their timbres blended beautifully.
The three men were in excellent voice and each possessed those special qualities that characterize an Irish tenor: a clear, light and pure tone especially in the top range and a mellifluous way of phrasing that is velvety. Their diction, pitch, breath control were excellent and all phrases were finished. When they could, they soared on their top notes with an effortless and thrilling panache.
The first section of the program was devoted to sweet, sentimental tunes that evoked bygone eras. Each took a turn on a tune and there were several medleys when they all sang usually in unison. Only a few tunes had harmony. Among the favorites, which many in the crowd seemed to recognize, were “The Rose of Tralee,” the “Green Isle of Erin” and “The Water is Wide.”
Kearns was especially effective in his solo “Eily Mavourneen” that changed keys often and had him go higher and higher. He also sang with much feeling. Wright was funny and stylish in “Little Brigid Flynn” and Scully tore at heart strings in “The Old Man.”
The second half mixed famous tunes like “Danny Boy,” “Toora Loora” and “Irish Eyes” with “Lift the Wings” from “River Dance” and composer Jim Kennedy’s “South of the Border.” “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” with all three was very beautiful and familiar–they had recorded it several years ago.
The big surprise was how good the 35-piece orchestra was. Made up of local musicians, they had only one three-hour rehearsal without the singers and with the tenor’s conductor Eric Stern, but they sounded fabulous.
The concert ended with an all-out “God Bless America” that left the crowd whistling and hooting for more.