by Maire Peters
February 13, 2015
On Friday February 13th, 2015 Steffanie Pearce did it again!!! She introduced Ireland's Finest Tenor Anthony Kearns to a packed Moorings Presbyterian Church here in Naples, Florida. The concert had been sold out for many days.
Not so long ago, Naples was just a little town on the edge of the swamp. Steffanie Pearce brought Opera to Naples and made a huge success of Opera Naples. Often her Operas were held outdoors. Now she has founded Gulfshore Opera which serves a larger area covering Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.
"Inclusive and Accessible" is the motto of this new Opera Company. The Anthony Kearns concert featuring great love songs was a huge production. He was joined by Nathalie Avila, Soprano, Jon Laird, Piano, Laura Friesen, Piano and Wendy Willis, Flute. Members of the Gulfshore Opera Chorus and The Gulfshore Opera Harmony Choir performed too. It was great to see Eileen Fuller in the choir. She and I had nice memories of how we arranged for Anthony Kearns to perform the leading roles in three operas in Naples, Florida.
Steffanie Pearce was out of town and could not attend the concert I had arranged at the Naples Big Cypress Market Place. Eileen Fuller was there and like the great ambassador that she is, she brought the news to Steffanie that what I had been saying for a number of years was true, this tenor was one of the greatest voices of our time. The owners of the Market Place, the Basik family and I, felt it would be a great idea to have the children of Opera Naples perform with Anthony. On the day in question we had been invited to lunch at Ave Maria by the then boss, Mr. Nicholas Healy. He was delayed but so also was Anthony, Paddy and Vincent who were delayed because of major crash on the road.
We were treated to a golf cart tour of the entire university and even met the sculptor who was working on the giant Annunciation figure that now graces the front of the amazing church out there. Time flies when one is having a great time. The boys got to the Naples Big Cypress Market Place with just one hour to rehearse with the Children of Opera Naples.
The concert was spectacular despite the unusual setting in a shopping center. Anthony dedicated the Ave Maria to "the girl who was at his side, no matter where in the world he performed, to help him with his publicity, Maire Peters who made the night possible". My friend Shirley Fox was almost in tears and stated this was the very best Ave Maria she ever heard. The concert impressed the representatives of Opera Naples and Eileen Fuller so much that I got a call the next day asking me for the telephone number for Vincent Mitchell, Anthony's long time manager who started his CMI Entertainment business managing another Tipperary person, the late and great tenor Frank Patterson.
The result of that call by Eileen Fuller on behalf of Steffanie Pearce was that Anthony Kearns performed leading roles, three years in a row, making his first opera performance in the United States.
Performing for this new Opera Company was yet another historic event, so I could not miss it and thanks to my wonderful boss and supervisors, I was able to switch my night off and attend the concert.
As I waited for the concert to begin, I wished that the best person to write a review was present to report on the night as only Berta Cachelman can do for this web site. I hoped that Harriett Heithaus, the Naples Daily News amazing musical expert was present too to enjoy this event and report on the night. I am not qualified to do a good review as I have mentioned before on this site that perhaps a high C is some kind of Lemsip for the flu!!!.
I had not heard Anthony sing for a number of years and noted how his voice seemed even smoother than before. He sported a nice hair style but looked very tired even before the concert. Nathalie Avila was spectacular, amazing, elegant and beautiful. She had two costume changes, beautiful gowns!
Love was in the air during the break with many people hugging each other who did not know each other prior to this great concert. All were in agreement, Steffanie had arranged a great gift for all in this wonderful and amazing production.
The children of the Gulfshore Harmony Choir got to share the stage with one of the most famous tenors in the world. This concert further encouraged a diverse group of children, teens and parents to support one another through the pursuit of musical excellence. As an El Sistema inspired program, Gulfshore Opera focus on children and families with the fewest resources and greatest need. Their program is delivered at no cost to participants. Activities include choral singing, vocal instruction, musicianship skills building and percussion 'Bucket Band". A qualified Music Education choir teacher and percussion teacher plus two mentors fluent in Spanish and Creole will lead classes.
Anthony himself at one time had a similar vision where his charity via his website funded scholarships for deserving young people. On stage he asked the audience to support this new Opera Company financially.
There are many ways a person can help by recruiting to help find kids and families that would benefit from this program, to volunteer as a chaperone or mentor or be a sponsor. Five hundred dollars for one month of classes, one thousand plus to sponsor supplies and transportation.
Anybody who wishes to become involved should contact Lindsay Robertson, Committee Chair at 239 529 3925 or for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
The audience gave this young group of artists a standing ovation.
After the concert we were treated to a champagne and chocolate reception. I had the great pleasure to meet pianist John Laird and got to tell him how wonderful he was. Anthony was holding court inside the door so we got to have a short amusing conversation in the Irish Language between numerous requests from fans who needed his CD "With a Song in my Heart" signed. One does not get to hear an Irish accent very often here in Naples so a concert by an Irish artist is a total delight, much less the opportunity to speak the Irish Language. Anthony is a fluent Irish language speaker and sings in almost all the European languages. Thanks to his amazing publicist in Washington, Kirsten Fedewa he got to sing in Maori at a New Zealand Embassy event. This was the only time in his entire life that he had to have the words of a song in front of him. The love song is called Pokarekare Ana. For those who want to hear him sing this song, one can find it on Utube. All his fans are so thrilled that Kirsten Fedewa has arranged many very high profile events for him including singing for our President which brought the Speaker of the House to tears!
There were no tears but lots of smiles in Naples for this feast of great love songs from composers such as Tom Moore, Puccini, Julius Benedict, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Gounod, Percy French, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Johann Strauss to name just a few! Of course the concert had to finish with a perfect and haunting 'Danny Boy'. Of course he had to return to the stage again and sang 'Sing to Love" from Die Fledermaus by Strauss.
At a very high profile event is not the time to return to the sixteenth century Ireland when so many people wanted to meet our Irish Tenor. Anthony and I will have to leave it for some other day to try and figure out how the great Irish composer and harpist Turlough O Carolin managed to transport his harp all over Ireland, on his back or in some form of Wagon. Of course it was a man from Tipperary, a school teacher friend of mine called Paddy McEvoy who resurrected O'Carolan. He played his Concerto on his tin whistle in the folk clubs in Dublin. I wrote about him and the Chieftains later recorded O'Carolans Concerto. I would have liked to hear O'Carolan's ancient song from about 1700 called "Tabhair Dom do Laimh" which many felt might be a love song, but O'Carolan wrote it for some great lady that he had offended and asked her in the song to 'Give me your hand (in forgiveness)". She was a married lady, so highly unlikely that O'Carolan had an affair with her. O Carolan probably composed the earliest Irish love songs in Ireland that perhaps have been lost over the years?
There is a beautiful lament called Donall Og and the lament by his wife for the Cassidy Chieftain who was killed in battle called 'An Cassideach Ban" (White Cassidy). I do not know if there are words to that tune?
I would have liked to have heard "My Lagan Love" or any of the love songs recorded by the great Irish language singer Albert Fry, but the greatest song that Anthony Kearns sings in my opinion is Dein Ist Mein Ganzez Hertz (You are my heart's delight). His Irish accent makes this song the most incredible I have ever heard sung by any of the great tenors, it is my very favourite Anthony Kearns song. I guess we cannot be greedy and expect the man to sing for several more hours. The Naples audience reluctantly allowed all the great artists that night go home and we hope there will be another concert next year.
Thanks to journalist Maire Peters.