Don Bosco Prep
February 11, 2012
for the benefit of
Oasis, a haven for
women and children.
by Berta Calechman
The Song List
My Lovely Celia
The Palatine's Daughter
Birdsongs at Eventide
Kitty Me Love
How are Things in Glocca Morra
The Old House
Red is the Rose
When Irish Eyes are Smiling
La Vie en Rose
None But the Lonely Heart
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Snowy Breasted Pearl
I'll See You Again
First piano interlude: Eric Stern playing his own arrangement of "Ah,
Forse Lui......Sempre Libera" (Verdi's La Traviata.)
Second piano interlude: Maestro Stern, playing his own (virtuoso)
arrangement of Gershwin's "Lady Be Good."
Friday night in Ramsay, NJ. It doesn't normally conjure up thoughts of
Valentine's Day. Except for this past Friday, when Anthony Kearns gave
us all a lovely valentine. This was a beautiful concert, which set off the
beginning of several extremely busy months of opera and concerts for
Ireland's Greatest Living Tenor. Some singers might have been tempted
to "phone it in," and save their voices for Faust, which comes up next
week. But that isn't in the work ethic of Anthony Kearns. Instead
he treated his most appreciative audience to some of the most beautiful
singing heard in these parts since....well...since last March, when he last
sang in the tri-state area!
It was a well thought out program, including some of Kearns' pieces
he hasn't sung in a long time, some old chestnuts, a song which, as he
said, has been with him for a long time, and one which will very likely
be attached to him in the future, because he sings it so eloquently and
movingly. He began his program with an Olde English song by George
Monro, "My Lovely Celia." It's a perfect opening piece, because its gentle
melody, and loving words highlight the supreme beauty of Anthony's voice,
and as always, his excellent diction allows us to hear the sentiment.
From there, he transitioned to "Lagan Love," an Irish folksong in the
"sean nos" tradition. "Sean nos" or "shut eye" singing is of course
another area in which Anthony Kearns is proficient.
I mentioned most of the songlist previously, so I will just note the
songs that were extra special to me. One of the pieces which meant
the most to me, was "Snowy Breasted Pearl," a song sung often by
John McCormack. It is exquisitely beautiful, and when the singer
utters the line "I'm alone, alone, alone..." it's heartbreaking. Another
song which was exquisite, was "Plaisir d'Amour," by Jean Paul
Martini. It's performed with some regularity, and is a very simple
song about the pleasures of love. But Anthony turned it into a perfect
little jewel. And the song which I feel will come to be associated
with Anthony Kearns is "Knocknashee," by Brendan Graham. Mr.
Graham is a talented composer, whose pieces include "Isle of Hope,
Isle of Tears," "You Raise Me Up," and "Grandfather's Emigrant
Eyes." He called Anthony, and offered him this song, saying Anthony
would do a good job with it. A wise choice. Again, a simple song,
with heartfelt lyrics, which bloomed to perfection, in Anthony Kearns'
burnished tenor. Anthony also made many people happy, when
he brought back "Grace," after some years. He has sung this
song since 1999, and it suits his voice perfectly. I also loved "Empty
Chairs at Empty Tables" from Les Miz, and although it has
sometimes suffers as an "also-ran" to "Bring Him Home, it's every bit
as heartfelt and moving, and was most beautifully sung. Anthony
sang a magnificent "Mattinata." He ended the concert proper
with Noel Coward's 1929 hit, "Ill See You, Again" His audience
didn't want to hear those words, but they were standing and cheering,
in any case. He came back onstage to sing a thrilling "Granada,"
saying, "I don't know where you're going, but ya can't stay here!"
Maestro Eric Stern, the conductor of The Irish Tenors' Christmas Tour,
wears many hats. Conductor, composer, arranger, he has recorded
well over 30 albums, and performed with such stars as Barbara Cook,
Jessye Norman, Deborah Voigt, Jerry Hadley, Thomas Hampson, and
Mandy Patinkin. He is the owner of an Emmy, a Grammy, and 2
Gramophone Awards. He told me he hasn't considered himself a "pianist,"
in almost 20 years! Well, you could have fooled me. For his first musical
interlude, he played his own arrangement of the first act aria for
soprano, from Verdi's La Traviata...."Ah, Fors'e Lui........Sempre Libera"
It was wonderfully done, and I envy a soprano who would sing the aria,
with Mr. Stern's playing. During the second half, he played (again, his
own arrangement) a very showy version of Gershwin's "Lady Be
Good." Mr. Stern is well known for his interpretation of Gershwin,
and it was fabulous!
Many thanks to Ann deKorte, and her team from Oasis, including
Jennifer Brady, president of the Oasis Board, who spoke eloquently
about their mission, and the women and children whom they want to
help. Those of us who attended the reception after the concert, were
treated to one of the loveliest buffets I've been to. Red and white
wine, beer, coffee and tea, hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, sumptuous
cookies...........and the man of the evening, holding court for quite
awhile. There were so many people who wanted to shake Anthony's
hand, get a CD signed, or have a photo taken with him (courtesy of a
professional photographer), he stayed at the party a long time.........longer
than I've seen him stay at other receptions.
So, thanks to Anthony and Eric, and to all who were involved wth this
great event! And to Anthony.......Excelsior......on to Faust! TOI, TOI!!