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Anthony Kearns has wowed audiences as a solo act and as part of The Irish Tenors, and he will bring his world-famous Irish stylings Feb. 9 to St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown for a performance.
“People can expect a great night’s fun,” Kearns said in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. “It’s for everyone, from the 2-year-old to the 102-year-old. They’ll get a glimpse of some songs from a golden era, music passed down by generations. It’s a very fun evening for people to turn out.”
Kearns’ accompanist for the evening will be longtime friend Patrick Healy. The two will perform solos and duets, and Healy also will do some storytelling.
“I’ll be joined by a legend in the business,” Kearns said of Healy, whom Kearns said often is referred to as the Victor Borge of Ireland. “We have a lot of fun and camaraderie. It’s upbeat songs. We have comedic songs, [and] I have solos from Viennese to opera. Tt’s across the board, and then Patrick [is] the icing on the cake.”
Kearns, who has been dubbed “The Voice of the Century,” said he’ll do such classics as “Danny Boy,” “Granada” and some pieces from “Les MisÚrables.” When asked if he might do “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” Kearns said, “Irish eyes could be smiling that night. It could be arranged.”
Kearns was born in the Irish town of Kiltealy — a small village in the southeastern corner of Ireland in County Wexford. He took up football — soccer to Americans — and hurling, Ireland’s national sport, but he soon found a new passion.
“I was drawn to music,” he said. “I was drawn to rehearsals of shows and orchestras and getting involved in competitions.”
He studied music in Dublin and Cardiff, Wales, from 1993 to 1998 and spent weekends entering music competitions.
“It’s hard to say [when the ah-ha moment was], but when I was older, the 17 to 20 area, I was entering competitions, and I always finished in the top three, so I said, ‘I’m not half bad,’ so I gained the confidence,” he said. “I was invariably meeting the same competitors on the circuit, so it was the top tier of that level, so to speak, so I knew I needed to extend it a little further and take it to the next step. At 23, I decided I needed to make a go of this.”
And that he did when in 1993 he took top honors in “Ireland’s Search for a Tenor.”
“That’s the competition that really introduced me to the music I’m doing today,” he said. “That’s the one that brought me to the attention of classical music. It had national exposure on radio and TV. That was a bigger event. It was on a bigger level, and I was fortunate to win it. Really, that’s what opened the doors to me to the right people. I got the break in the right place at the right time and, more importantly, the right people heard me. I started a new life after that.”
He also found his calling as a tenor.
“I started to study with a vocal teacher, and she was a classical singer, and that’s really what stretched my voice,” Kearns said. “I found that as I was singing with her it was coming easy to me. It was different so I figured I’d give it a go.”
Kearns, who said tenors need a middle C to a top C scale, classified himself as a lyrical tenor.
“I’m not your light, typical Irish tenor,” he said. “I have a bit of oomph behind me, as well, so I’m a strong lyric tenor. I wouldn’t be doing Wagner or stuff like that.”
He said he takes good care of his voice — 48 hours between performances is ideal — but that he also makes sure to keep practicing.
“We have to work it. Once you become a tenor you have to keep working at it, there’s no letting go,” said Kearns, who will practice his scales before a show. “You do a little bit [of singing] every day to keep it in trim, and then you have to know how to shut it off literally and rest it before performances. You have to leave it alone and trust that the good work you’ve done in rehearsals will stand.”
But he also added singing music can change almost on a daily basis.
“A person can sit down and play a piano if they’re tired, but a singer, the sound that comes out of him is affected by his personality. It’s affected by how he feels physically, if he’s rested or tired,” Kearns said. “But there’s a level you never drop below, and that’s where your technique comes in. There’s a standard that’s acceptable and good quality. You can’t let the standards drop. That’s why I constantly keep the physical [aspect], the singing, the technique going, and that’s what carries you through your performance. And that’s why 20 years on I still can sing the stuff that’s thrown at me.”
Kearns said he tries to avoid chocolate and dairy products at least a day before a performance and said the biggest problem for his voice is air conditioning.
“The biggest effect is temperature, going from humidity to air conditioning,” he said. “That’s the real killer for a human voice because if you see the effects on material of things in the house, it’s amazing. Singers depend on their sinuses, and the space behind the nasal passage and their lungs and chest to make their sound, so air conditioning is a killer.”
Kearns is also one-third of The Irish Tenors, which includes Ronan Tynan and Finbar Wright. The trio schedules two tours a year and will kick off its next tour in March.
“It’s great fun to go out on stage singing the songs of your homeland, Irish songs and upbeat songs,” he said of performing with the trio. “March is wonderful. It’s fun stuff. It’s upbeat. It’s Irish. It’s nostalgic. It’s fun from start to finish, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”
Kearns, who moved to Florida from Ireland last year, said he performed 40 shows between October and Dec. 21 of last year and has contracts through the end of 2016.
“I’m always pinching myself and reminding myself of how fortunate I am,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate in life.”
If you go
Anthony Kearns will perform 4 p.m. Feb. 9 at St. Mary’s Ryken High School, 22600 Camp Calvert Road, Leonardtown.
Tickets are $59, or a limited number of tickets are available for $100 and include admission and a wine and cheese reception with Kearns following the concert. All seating is general admission. Doors open at 3 p.m.
Call 301-373-4182 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Anthony Kearns, go to www.anthonykearnstenor.com.