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Irish Tenor Anthony Kearns to Sing with full Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus

Savannah Morning News; DoSavannah
Written By: Linda Sickler

Read original article here.

Take a world-renowned Irish tenor, music by Irish composers and stir in an orchestra and chorus led by an Irish conductor, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an incredible concert.

It will all come together Nov. 20 at the Lucas Theatre, when Anthony Kearns joins the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. The orchestra’s artistic director Peter Shannon will conduct.

“You probably know both Peter Shannon and I are from Ireland, but what you may not know is that all the music for the evening is arranged or orchestrated by Irish composers,” Kearns says. “It will be an evening to get a true flavor of Ireland with warm, rich and vibrant music — pretty much the closest thing to visiting Ireland.

Kearns, who is considered Ireland’s foremost tenor, is a member of The Irish Tenors. The group is famed as being among the top three highest-grossing acts for PBS, raising more than $10 million for public television.

While Kearns has performed with many orchestras, he hasn’t performed with the Savannah Philharmonic.

“I’ve done concerts in Savannah down through the years,” he says. “I’m made many trips.

“This one is a good idea. With fine music and a good Irishman conducting and an Irishman singing, something good can happen.

“With the symphony, I’ve got the chance to perform some operatic repertoire and some wonderful Irish music,” Kearns says. “Across the board, it will be some fun stuff.”

The program will include some “evergreens,” such as “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Younger than Springtime” and “Shenandoah.”

“It’s a mixed bag with a lot of songs I have on my album, as well,” Kearns says. “There will be tear-jerking songs, so good old ‘Danny Boy’ will be in the mix.

“It makes for a wonderful evening,” he says. “We’ll have the chorus for the evening and with the orchestra, it will be a lovely show.”

Although Kearns and Shannon haven’t worked together, they know each other.

“I‘ve met Peter a couple of times,” Kearns says. “I was up there to make sure the Ts were crossed and the Is were dotted.”

Currently, Kearns lives in Orlando, Fla.

“I love Savannah,” he says. “I don’t have to fly, I’m up there in five hours.

“It’s a lovely part of the country,” Kearns says. “Tickets are going very well, and people should grab what’s left if you like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in November.”

The concert will be the first of the season for the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus. The chorus also will appear in the Holiday Pops concert in December and Haydn’s “The Creation” in January.

“The Philharmonic Chorus is eagerly anticipating their 2014-15 season debut with Anthony Kearns,” says chorus master Monica Harper. “We have been working to build a solid foundation of choral technique each week.

“The chorus members are rising to the challenge, and I have been encouraged and excited by the progress we have made in sound quality. The prevailing attitude amongst chorus members is to work hard and give one’s very best in every single minute and for every single note of rehearsal, and that is how progress happens.

“It also attracts some of the best choral talent in Savannah,” Harper says. “I am looking forward personally to concert goers enjoying some of the fruits of the chorus’ labors. The musical genius that Peter Shannon brings to the chorus combined with the technical prowess the singers are developing should make for a thrilling concert.”

Shannon is looking forward to working with his fellow countryman.

“We are contemporaries,” he says. “He started a bit later in music than I did.

“I suppose he matured with what we call the Celtic Tiger,” Shannon says, referring to the economy of the Republic of Ireland between 1995 and 2000, a period of rapid economic growth.

“The economy took off and Irish culture did, too, with Riverdance and all that,” Shannon says. “One of the greatest Irish exports in the arts is the great story of Mario Lanza meeting with John McCormack, the Irish tenor.

“John said to Mario, ‘How is the world’s greatest tenor today?’ Mario replied, ‘I don’t know, John, how are you?’ It’s a mutual admiration story,” Shannon says.

“The Irish have something that produces a melancholic and beautiful tone,” he says. “Most Irish people are still only one or two generations away from farming,” he says. “That connectivity to the land is still very strong.”

There also is a connection with water.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in Ireland, you’re never far from the sea,” Shannon says. “The history of Ireland has always been quite troubled.

“There’s a great history of storytelling and singing,” Shannon says. “That has come to be embodied by the Irish tenor. It’s no surprise that these groups of Celtic tenors, Irish tenors, have rock-star status.

“It’s a very strong lineage and he is 100 percent Irish,” he says. “We share that tradition.”

Shannon wasn’t always a conductor.

“I started life off as a singer,” he says. “That’s my training. I actually was a professional singer with the National Chamber Choir of Ireland.

“I have great affinity and understand what it means to be a singer and what it takes,” Shannon says. “I’ve done what he has done on a smaller scale. I was a baritone before I decided I wanted to be an orchestra conductor.”

Because of his background, Shannon expects a lot more from his orchestra.

“My music making has such a strong connection to singing that I’m really looking for an orchestra to have an a cantabile sound,” he says. “Phrasing is very important to me.

“I want the orchestra playing like it has a message. Indeed, with the Savannah Philharmonic, my strongest emphasis is trying to get them to sound like one person, like a singer, and to basically try and mimic a singing entity.

“The give and the take also has a line that goes up and down,” Shannon says. “Just like the air of a singer does, breathing and getting louder and softer.”

Shannon actually sympathizes with his musicians.

“The bane of their existence is in a previous life, I was a singer,” he says. “It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t.”

The combination of singing and orchestra will fill the Lucas Theatre with wonderful music.

“We will be doing as a kind of backdrop most of ‘The Irish Suite,’ by American composer Leroy Anderson,” Shannon says. “It’s a set of arrangements of Irish songs that are very, very energetic and elegiac and melancholic and have very beautiful melodies.”

The suite acts as a kind of framework for the program.

“We’ll have everything from grand opera to popular songs and Irish traditional melodies,” Shannon says. “It’s really the whole gamut.

“I think it’s a beautiful concert. We’ll have ‘Ave Maria’ with this beautiful tenor voice and the full orchestra and full chorus in the background. ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ with 100 singers and the full orchestra will be hard to beat.

“Ticket sales are going very strong, but there are still some left,” Shannon says. “As always. I advise people to come to the box office even if it is sold out. There is always someone who can’t come.”