Off The Record by Mike Farragher
The Irish Tenors are in harmony for "Ireland"
Posted on Friday, April 09, 2010 at 10:23 AM
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With our homeland under siege from many angles, this is certainly one of the most perilous times to be Irish. The motherland has sunken even deeper than we are in a global economic funk, and the church sex abuse scandals have torn the fabric of the Irish national identity that has been so woven into Catholicism.
I must confess that The Irish Tenors’ music is not necessarily the first thing I reach for, yet there is something soothing on their new CD, "Ireland," given our times.
To hear Finbar Wright lift the spirit with “Lift the Wings” from the Riverdance soundtrack is an example of the soothing tonic this collection provides.
Karl Scully’s read of the Northern Ireland/Scottish folk song “The Water Is Wide” is so good that you forgive the group for their cloying read of “Toora Loora/Irish Eyes.”
“A romantic sight on sunny days with the rivers running and the birds singing,” is how Anthony Kearns describes the fictional “Glocca Morra,” and his strong melodious delivery takes the listener there and makes the place real.
The Tenors have a few tricks up their sleeve, including a surprisingly spry take on Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl.”
The Irish Tenors are home and reloading for a summer tour of outdoor amphitheaters, where they will give their huge fan base a taste of Ireland. I caught up with Kearns about the new album and the threat of bugs on the road. Here’s how it went:
I would imagine that with the crumbling of the economy and the church in Ireland, audiences will respond to your look backward?
You might be right, but I suppose at the time it didn’t come into play. It was the repertoire of the songs, trying to come up with a title that summed it all up and bring it back to what we were about -- bringing a bit of home to the audience. Bring them back to the Irish boreens and turf fires.
So, yes, I think in these complicated times, it might make what we do that much more appealing.
You definitely bend the tenor genre quite a bit with a song like “Galway Girl” from Steve Earle. That really is a dung-kicking country song. How do you choose these diverse songs?
We have been known for our upbeat tempos. We need some of that. If you give one slow song after another you offer a depressing show and you’re definitely going to lose people.
We mix it up a bit and have the audience tapping the toes so that you don’t lose them or they fall into a depression. The arrangements are fantastic and it is fun to do. The ear can only take so much and you need to change it and mix it up a bit.
I was fortunate with “Nock Machea.” It was a fantastic song that took me back to the sean nos style. It is a wonderful track and I am glad to have the opportunity to record it.
We have been thrashing it out for a number of months and try not to copy ourselves, since we have done so many albums before.
I think “Danny Boy” and “Fields of Athenry” are nostalgic songs the Irish Americans love, though I don’t think you’ll hear many Irish people sing them in the auld sod. Do you see differences in the tastes of the Irish versus the Irish Americans in your performances?
First and foremost, you have to like the song yourself. It is well written and I think it works for my voice. You look to things like that as opposed to worrying about if this is an Irish song or an Irish American one.
That said, a lot of Irish Americans are attracted to the MGM vision of Ireland. The Irish Americans are approaching their freedom with the loud colors, and it is different from the Irish experience.
St. Patrick’s Day is a bit different on both sides of the Atlantic. The one bond is that they love the island and have a love of heritage.
You just released a Christmas CD a few months ago and now you have another album. How do you keep up with this kind of schedule?
We do get down time. The lads are already gone home and I am here because in two hours I am performing in a solo concert. I set out to do a few dates after the Tenors tour and then I have eight to 10 days of down time when I am back on the road again.
Summer, March and Christmas is the time that we are on the road. You know that, so you plan your life around that.
How was your St. Patrick’s season?
Fantastic! On St. Patrick’s Day we were in New York in the morning with Martha Stewart and then we flew down to Raleigh, North Carolina. There was no recession there or in Charlotte. Everyone came out and it was brilliant.
How has the recession impacted your touring?
We are in tough times, but we are tough right back. We rise above it, tighten our belts and plow on.
I think people love to get out for a good show and forget our troubles. We have accepted the terms to get on with it. You can’t grind to a halt.
What do you think of Ronan Tynan switching teams from the Yankees to the Red Sox?
I don’t know what to make of it at the moment. It is a comedy of errors. He moved fairly swiftly from New York and went to Boston. How the Yankee fans will take it are another thing.
He is a braver man than I am. I have sung for the Red Sox and they are a really great bunch of fans. Maybe I’ll sing for the Yankees, who knows? They might need a younger man for the scene.
I know Ronan’s heart and one thing I know is that he is not is a bad person. He throws back plenty of comments. I’ve know him since 1993 and he is a larger than life person. He has the mouth the size of Galway Bay, but he is a good man.
What’s next for the Tenors?
‘Tis the shed season in the summer. We will be playing in places like Wolf Trap outside of D.C. The sheds have 8,000-10,000 people in these crowds. It’s a lovely vibe. People bring picnics and eat wine and cheese on the lawn as we are up there swallowing half million flies.
The humidity can sometimes wreak havoc on your voice. I remember Ronan swallowed a fly once and went straight to the lung and it really silenced him.
(Ireland is available on Razor and Tie Records.)
Slane Concert Nixed
IT appears the Irish economy has even hit the castle set. News came from Lord Henry Mountcharles that there will be no gig at Slane Castle this year.
According to Hot Press magazine, Mountcharles had previously said that he was planning to run the 2010 event on August 28, subject to himself and MCD finding the right headliner. Lord Henry denied reports that he’d been in talks with Sir Paul McCartney, only to be knocked back by the former Beatle who’s playing the RDS in Dublin in June for rival promoters Aiken Promotions.
This columnist has had the pleasure of attending a Slane gig once in 1982, when the Rolling Stones played one of the first gigs there. The venue has played host to rock’s biggest names since then, including Madonna, Oasis, U2 and Robbie Williams.
Acknowledging the Facebook campaign to bring Kings of Leon to Slane, Mountcharles revealed that they’re one of the acts on his shopping-list for 2011, which will be the 30th anniversary of him running concerts, and his own 60th birthday.