October 13, 2012

Although I've known he was the complete package for some years, Anthony Kearns proved it without a doubt, on Saturday, in Needham, Mass. He was in great voice, and what that means is glorious sound, perfect piannissimi, and ringing fortes. It also means a concert in 5 languages, and a large span of musical styles. I haven't heard his voice in 6 months, and in that time period, it's become rounder, bigger, and richer. At only 41, he's not yet in his vocal prime, so with wisdom, care, and study, the future is remarkably bright!

Saturday's concert began with one of my favorite pieces, "Down by the Sally Gardens." It was effortlessly sung, and a good warmup piece for what was to come. I was particularly pleased to find several new pieces in the program, all of them ambitious. The songlist has already been published, so I won't go into detail about it. However, there were some wonderful changes this evening. Anthony sang Schubert's very well known Lied "Standchen," And it was truly lovely. His German is excellent, and he used his voice well, to convey the feelings of the singer to his beloved. But he also sang a very difficult Lied by Richard Strauss, "Zueignung." It's not sung that often, because it's a tough sing. But Anthony sang it in a wonderfully full-throated manner, and didn't hold back on the song's high notes. Of course he sang a beautiful Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria," and in this lovely church, the effect was chilling. He also brought back an aria which he hasn't sung on this side of the pond for about 9 years, "Vainement, Ma bien-aimee," from an opera by Edouard Lalo, "Le Roi d'Ys." He prefaced the aria by saying it was a perfect example of an opera being known for only one aria, and he's right. The opera is hardly to never performed, and only this aria remains. It's not even sung that often by tenors, because, although it sounds simple, it's not, and the floating pianissimi are difficult, especially while singing in French. But Anthony sang it beautifully, in a much more polished way than the last time I heard him sing it. Other favorites of mine included "She Moved Thro' the Fair," and "Lagan Love." I've heard these ever popular Irish songs many times, over the years, but no one puts the emotion, and beauty of tone into them, the way Anthony Kearns does. There was yet another new song, this evening. This was a real treasure, one I'd never heard sung before, "A Chloris," by the great composer, Reynaldo Hahn. Though thought of as a French composer, Hahn was actually Venezuelan, but lived in Paris almost all his life, and in 1945, was made Director of the Paris Opera. It's a very interesting piece, and I hope Anthony sings it again.

Not to forget.........never to forget Patrick Healy's enormous, and immeasurable contribution to this, and every Kearns songfest, he and Anthony sang the ebullient, wonderful duet penned by Maestro Healy himself, "Friendship." One of the best things the men sing, it truly is a masterpiece. And another new entry, "You're Just in Love," made famous by Ethel Merman, in "Call Me Madam," from 1955, was very smartly done. The only problem is, I have had that song in my ear, since Saturday........but in Ethel Merman's voice!!! HELP! Patrick also sang a beautiful "We Kiss in A Shadow," from my favorite musical, The King and I, and gave us a lovely few moments. And since Patrick Healy is one of the world's foremost experts on Gilbert and Sullivan, he also treated us to a brilliant "Modern Major-General," from Pirates of Penzance, sung at breakneck speed, with nary a lost syllable!

The spry Mr. Healy turned a youthful 80 years young, this summer, and seldom has anyone worn 80 years so graciously and handsomely.

The final surprise of the "songfeast" was the encore Anthony had chosen. It was another piece new to his concerts. A beautiful piece by Stanislao Gastaldon, it was "Musica Proibita." Written in 1881, it's a very famous piece, sung by vocal greats from Caruso to Rosa Ponselle to Pavarotti. It was gorgeously sung, and brought the audience to its feet!

St. Joseph's is a lovely, intimate church,(which was packed), with great accoustics, and many thanks must go to Betsy and Jerry Bello for their assistance both in arranging for Anthony Kearns and Patrick Healy to perform, and in putting all the pieces together, to showcase a wonderful evening. The reception which followed the concert was smoothly done, with delicious refreshments, and our heroes holding court for quite a long time, signing programs, posing for pictures, and chatting with fans.

This was a very special evening, crafted and presented by two of our favorite men, with love. And the love and admiration was returned tenfold, by a very appreciative audience.

Berta Calechman
Click here for Needham pictures.
by Berta Calechman
Photos of Berta with
Anthony and Patrick
by Justin Borkowski