As they prepare to celebrate their 25th anniversary, Seán Creedon talks to founder member Anthony Kearns about the origins of the group and the tremendous success they’ve enjoyed at home and internationally over the last quarter of a century.
Back in 1990 Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo brought classical music to a new audience when they sang at a concert in Rome on July 7, the eve of the World Cup final between West Germany and Argentina.
Who can forget Nessum Dorma which was used as the signature tune by the BBC for their World Cup coverage during Italia ’90?
Down through the decades we have had some great Irish tenors like John McCormack, Josef Locke and Frank Patterson. Now we have a new generation of tenors, like Anthony Kearns, Ronan Tynan and Declan Kelly, who perform all over the world as The Irish Tenors.
Wexford-born Anthony Kearns was only 19 years old around the time of Italia ’90 and no doubt Pavarotti and his colleagues certainly had an influence on his career.
Anthony said: ‘‘Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras certainly brought classical music to a younger audience worldwide. Here in Ireland it was Bill Whelan’s Riverdance, the interval performance during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, that gave Irish music a major boost. Riverdance took the world by storm and suddenly everything Irish was popular.’’
Anthony is now one third of The Irish Tenors group, who were formed in 1998, and in January they will celebrate their 25th anniversary with two concerts at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on January 7 and 8 and one concert in the INEC in Killarney on January 14.
I asked Anthony what his memories are of a young boy in Wexford at Christmas time?
‘‘I have one brother and four sisters and my family were all big into traditional music, so there was always music in the house at Christmastime. But I broke the mould and got interested in classical music. I attended FCJ Secondary School in Bunclody, where legendary conductor Gearóid Grant was one of my teachers. Gearóid used to encourage me to sing with the school band which I did.
‘‘I have no memories of singing at Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, but I used to enjoy the local choir that performed every year. I have performed concerts in a solo capacity in churches at Christmas time in the USA in recent years and that was very enjoyable.’’
‘‘My home place, Kiltealy, is a small rural village in Wexford; mainly farming, GAA and lots of horses! It was a lovely peaceful place to grow up in and if we got a fall of snow around Christmas time that would have always have made it extra special.
‘‘After school I did a course in hotel management in Cathal Brugha College in Marlborough Street in Dublin and my work placement was in the Grand Hotel in Wicklow town. But my heart was not really in the hotel business and I much preferred singing. Around that time I was winning a lot of talent competitions in pubs and various festivals around the country.’’
Anthony’s lucky break came when working in a telecommunications sales office in Dun Laoghaire. The radio was on in the background and Anthony was listening to the Gay Byrne radio programme. Gay announced that he was looking for a new tenor to coincide with the launch of a new ten pound note by the Central Bank, a Tenor for a Tenner!
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own
The Irish Tenors are playing three Irish dates in January: in the the National Concert Hall, Dublin, on January 7th & 8th, and in the Gleneagle INEC Arena, Killarney, Co. Kerry, on January 14th. See www.irishtenorsmusic.com