ANTHONY KEARNS has had a storied and beautiful career, which began to take off when he joined the Irish Tenors in 1998. The Irish-born singer’s tenure with the group has been massively successful, giving him the chance to travel the world and perform for diverse audiences. Savannah holds a special place in his heart, however, thanks in large part to his much buzzed-about An Evening With Anthony Kearns show with the Savannah Philharmonic.
In the show, Kearns sings a variety of material - Irish music, broadway songs, arias, and pop music are just some of the genres covered. It’s a unique and special show for Kearns, who says he always looks forward to reuniting with fellow Irishman and Philharmonic director Peter Shannon.
In a statement, Shannon - the artistic director and conductor for the show - said he’s particularly thrilled to reunite with Kearns.
“Anthony Kearns is one of the finest Irish tenors in the world today. It’s always a pleasure to work with him because not only is his voice such an incredible gift, but he is a wonderful musician and person as well,” Shannon says.
“His first concert with the Philharmonic was an incredible success and we are delighted to have him back again. This concert will focus on some of the most beautiful Irish songs composed, but will also include popular pieces from the Musical and Opera repertoire. This concert involves the full orchestra and chorus together with Anthony and in full flight they are a sight and sound to behold!”
The Irish Tenors were a uniquely-formed group in that they were put together by producers. The experience of being selected to be part of the musical experiment was a memorable one for the lifelong singer.
“It was essentially put together by producers from Ireland and America. At the time, people were talking about the great success of the Three Tenors - Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti,” he tells Connect.
“It had aired on PBS and people were just astounded by the wonderful music. These guys decided to talk about the Irish tenor voice and this huge repertoire that the Irish people have. That’s how it came about - it was probably sketched on the back of a tissue or something. We met in Dublin and worked through tons of music for a couple of days to see if it could all gel together. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Kearns says he was living in Wales at the time and was pursuing a career in opera when he got the call to audition. He said he “knew there was something in the air” and felt that there was something special about the concept.
“It just felt good. [The producer] said something might come of it, but something might not come of it. I went back to Wales, and about two weeks later he called back and said, ‘Welcome aboard. Your life is about to change forever.’”
Change it did - the Irish Tenors have recorded eight albums and five PBS specials since they formed.
“You could fill twenty concerts with the music that’s in the Irish repertoire,” he says of the Tenors’ extensive catalog. “Essentially, what they did was very clever. It had been tried and tested. You had the three big guys, as we called them. Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti. Andrea Bocelli had come on the scene, and Riverdance was hot at the time. So there was a market for it, there was an opening for it. We had nearly 50 million people to start with as a database in America, so there was an audience for it.”
Since finding success with the Tenors, Kearns has been able to launch a successful solo career that included the release of an album titled With A Song In My Heart. Amid all he has going on with his own career, he still finds time to tour annually with the group that changed his life.
The upcoming Evening With Anthony Kearns performance at the Lucas Theater marks the third time he’s collaborated with the Philharmonic, but he’s actually been coming to Savannah for many years even before the show was launched.
“I’ve done about eight or nine concerts with my accompanist over the years, so we’ve developed an audience and a good foundation,” he says of performing in town. Kearns insists that the upcoming show is a team effort, as he’s working closely with Shannon and longtime collaborator Diane Tracy.
“It’s a partnership, really,” he says. “We come together for the music. That’s what it’s all about. We work hard together, and hopefully people will enjoy what we have to offer.”
Not only will Kearns be performing the music of Ireland, he’ll also be tackling a diverse collection of songs that people of all musical interests will enjoy.
“I want to show people what I can do outside of the Irish Tenors,” he says.
“This program is not primarily Irish, though there’s quite a bit of Irish music. We cross into musicals, some folk songs, patriotic songs - all of this is with a full orchestra and choir. We cross over all kinds of music. There’s a great collection of stuff, and there’s contemporary Irish music as well. We cross centuries of music and different styles. It’s a mixed bag, I suppose. A roller coaster of emotion and songs. There’s something for everyone.”
Kearns says that he’s looking forward to working again with Shannon and the Philharmonic - people he calls “salt of the earth.”
“They’re my own kind of people,” he says, adding that there’s an Irish connection with some of the people involved that has made him feel particularly drawn to the city.
“A lot of them stem from the East Coast of Ireland - there’s a big tie between my county of Wexford, where I was born and raised, and Savannah,” he says. “It should make for a wonderful evening in a wonderful place. I enjoy going there as often as I can.”