GLOBE TROTTING TENOR RETURNS TO GOREY
The recent concert at The Star of the Sea Church, Ballygarrett, Gorey, Co.
Wexford was so incredible and magnificent that it seemed like Patrick and
Anthony would not be allowed go home. After a number of encores, when
Patrick and Anthony had finally left the stage, Anthony was persuaded to
sing The Croppy Boy, unaccompanied in Sean Nos style to placate the very
enthusiastic audience who were still hungry for more and more from these
two very talented gentlemen.
The concerts was held to aid the restoration of this lovely church which
was built, much to the credit of the residents of this small town, only a
few short years after the Irish Famine.
This parish has a very special connection with the United States as in 1833
a large number of the population left the area to settle in Texas. A Memorial
Stone has been erected in the Church Yard to commemorate all those who
left their native land most likely never saw their loved ones again. Bricks
purchased at fifty pounds each and are inscribed with the names of those
who contributed to the erection of this Memorial Stone. Mr.Wafer,
a local historian brought me out to see the stone.
Those who left Ballygarrett did not know that one day the greatest tenor in
the world would sing on the alter in 2009. Many of their descendants come
to hear him when he sings in Texas, no doubt. Anthony Kearns had traveled
across a couple of continents in the days before this concert.
He had flown to Prague to record with the Irish tenors. He then flew to New
York and on to Boston to sing just two songs at the birthday party for James
Galway and here he was, back in Gorey wearing the same white jacket
he wore at the James Galway concert.
There was a small stage in front of the alter that had Paddy's piano and
seat precariously perched closed to the edge. To come to the microphones,
Paddy had to step down off the stage and helped back on stage by a firm
grasp of a very strong Anthony Kearns.
As usual, Paddy entertained us with his hilarious stories and introduced
us to the very beautiful Soprano Lorna Mahon who came on stage attired
in a magnificent dark blue gown. The audience loved her, her incredible voice
and wonderful stage presence. When Anthony sang with her and also with
the local children, Na hAingle Beaga (the Little Angels), there was rapturous
applause. Later in the show, Lorna changed into a magnificent Black and White
gown, Anthony attired also in black and white for their duet which brought
about thunderous applause.
A lot of hard work had been put into the production of this spectacular evening.
After the concert tea was served and fans had an opportunity to meet their
heroes. One family group had traveled all the way down from Derry.
Anthony paid very special attention to the children and despite being
exhausted spent some time speaking to them. They were thrilled to have their
photo taken with Paddy, who, like all the rest of us, hold him in very high regard.
Another family group had traveled from Dublin bringing their sixteen year old
son who suffers from Spina Bifida and confined to a wheelchair with them.
He thoroughly enjoyed the concert.
Attending an Anthony Kearns and Patrick Healy concert is certainly a couple
of hours spent as close to heaven as one can get on this earth, but getting
there is also a great adventure in itself.
Being acutely aware of the present economic situation, I choose to go
from Naples to Fort Meyers on the Naples Transportation Shuttle
which meant a very early morning rise to join it in downtown Naples.
However, on my arrival at the NTT General Stores, the driver informed me
that the owner, my former boss Randy Smith had called dispatch and
said I was to be transported in their best and newest limousine.
A delightful start to a great adventure and Randy did not even know
I was transporting a very precious item in my luggage. The Mayor of Naples,
Mr. Bill Barnett had been unable to present the Proclamation of Naples
Anthony Kearns Day to him personally when he appeared here last May
so the duty of transporting the Keys of the City across the Atlantic was
all mine. I felt that the woman who reared this young man, his mother
Betty, should have first sight of the beautiful Navy leather folder bearing
the inscription of the City of Naples on the cover, so I did not give it to him
when I met him earlier in the week in Dublin City Center.
Many of Anthony's fans from up North have holiday homes in Naples.
Almost two hundred new jobs had been created at The Naples Big
Cypress Market Place last December in these very difficult times.
Anthony, Patrick and Vincent Mitchell had driven a couple hundred miles
to support this new venture in the hope that those who attended the concert
would return to shop there and the newly created jobs would continue to exist.
Despite his hectic schedule he allowed some time to update me on the latest
news in his exciting career. He was delighted to be setting off across the Atlantic
for just one night for the James Galway celebration. He was off to Prague
the next day to record with the Irish Tenors so he had to forget about
going to the U2 concert in Croke Park later that evening. Being one of
the most successful entertainers in the world can have it's drawbacks at
times. He is thrilled to be invited to take part in an opera by Opera Naples,
but at this time no decision has been made until he finds out exactly how
much time will be required to rehearse and be fitted for costumes so
many miles away from Ireland, in February, one of his busiest months.
As I approached I noted Anthony was speaking with an old lady who
was sharing her excitement with him on her purchases which she
was pulling from a Guiney's shopping bag and showing them to him.
Guineys is the Irish equivalent of K Mart. Either the greatest tenor in the
world is either a great actor or a very humble person who can communicate
with persons from all walks of the economic divide, he was beaming
with delight at this fan's success at bargain hunting.
When it came to shopping, many people suffered from a lot of snobbery
when I was young. I remember one friend who had a collection of Brown
Thomas shopping bags to drop her Dunnes Stores purchases in, for
the trip from the bus stop to her home. Ireland is also a very small country
where one could meet friends and neighbors anywhere. As I parked in Gorey,
Patrick Healy jumped out of Anthony's car which happened to be passing
at that exact moment and hugged me. Anthony rolled down the window
and greeted me. A half an hour before the concert a huge crowd were in a
queue waiting to secure the best seats. I had the unique pleasure of being
seated next to Anthony's youngest sister Joanne and his mother Betty.
Some of the songs were old favourites but the new ones I had not heard
before, were magnificent. The audience loved Friendship. Anthony
took advantage of being in home territory in Wexford to be a bit naughty.
When Paddy reached to shake his hand at the end of the number,
Anthony withdrew his hand much to the amusement of the audience but
after a few seconds decided to finally shake hands.
On my return to the USA, I stayed for a night with my cousin, Capt. John
Campbell. When his mother left Ireland at the age of sixteen, she never
again saw her younger sister, my mother Agnes. No doubt almost all of
those who left Ballygarrett in 1833 suffered a similar pain, but Ireland
often comes to their descendants in the human form of Anthony Kearns
and Patrick Healy. It is easily understood why so many people travel
thousands of miles to hear them.
STAR of the SEA CHURCH
August 7, 2009