LYNN — The Irish Tenors brought a bit of Christmas and the Emerald Isle to Lynn Auditorium Sunday night, and it was one of the year’s most entertaining shows.
The trio, Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan, came to prominence via a PBS special in 1998 and have sold out concert halls worldwide ever since. In concert Sunday, backed by a wondrous orchestra that filled the stage, the Tenors and conductor Marcello Cormio followed an hour of Irish favorites with a selection of Christmas songs that had the near-capacity audience of lads and lassies cheering, singing and clapping along.
Yes, the gents sang such well-known singalongs/party favorites as “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Red is the Rose,” “Toora-Loora-Looral,” and a rousing hoedown-like “Whiskey in the Jar,” but it was the lesser-known classic Irish songs that made the strongest impression.
Nearly every Irish song is like a short story, overly sentimental and filled with emotion and lovable/tragic characters. For example, there’s “Grace,” which tells the tale of a woman about to marry in old Kilmainham Jail an inmate who will be put to death in the morning. When Kearns sang, “Oh, Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger/They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die/With all my love I’ll place this wedding ring upon your finger/There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye” it drew tears and goosebumps.
“When You Were Sweet Sixteen,” given a brilliant reading by Wright, drew an extended ovation. He said it is the oldest love song in the Irish canon.
Tynan sang Phil Coulter’s “Old Man” and dedicated the song to good friend George H.W. Bush, whom the singer met with and sang to shortly before the 41st president died in Houston on Nov. 30. It was a poignant highlight in a show filled with them. The ovation was long and loud. It was a cherished personal moment, rare in a concert by performers of this stature. Tynan, who also sang at Bush’s funeral, was clearly grieving as he sang “The tears have all been shed now/We’ve said our last goodbyes/His soul’s been blessed/He’s laid to rest/And it’s now I feel alone.”
This is how the show evolved: The trio would sing a few songs together, their voices blending in heavenly harmony, then Wright, Tynan and Kearns, in that order, would solo with the orchestra. An instrumental would be played, and then the three would return to the stage, following the same routine.
The audience clearly relished the Christmas part of the show. The trio delivered a whiz-bang version of “We Three Kings,” and then, with an animated Tynan moving his arms and hips, unlikely but fun renditions of “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” delighted concertgoers. That segued into the sad, heartbreaking “Danny Boy,” which left a few folks dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas” (Tynan), “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (Kearns) and, especially “Oh Holy Night” (all three) were terrific. An unexpected “Fairytale in New York,” by revered Irish punk band The Pogues, began with “It was Christmas Eve in the drunk tank,” which drew laughs, and the trio’s harmonies on the chorus “The boys of the NYPD choir/Were singing ‘Galway Bay’/And the bells were ringing out/For Christmas Day” were terrific.
“Sleigh Ride” included a lyric switch, “pass around the Guinness and the pumpkin pie.”
The evening ended with “God Bless America,” with Tynan belting out the song while audience members, hands over their heart, sang along.