Ronan Tynan |
at the American Music Theatre,
(19 February 2006)
Last year I reviewed Ronan Tynan's self-titled CD Ronan on this site, so there's no need to go into details here about this intriguing performer's background and style of singing. His recent concert at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster, Pa., however, is worthy of a few comments.
Until now, my only visual exposure to Tynan has been a few television appearances, so naturally I expected the same lumbering, somewhat awkward, movements. After all, what can you expect from a 6-foot 4-inch, 260-pound man with two artificial legs? From the moment he practically bounded onto the stage, he showed that not only is he a prodigious singing talent, but that he has a sparkling personality and is living proof that a handicap is nothing more than a challenge to be overcome. Not only can he raise the hair on your neck with his voice, he has as many moves as Mick Jagger. But then, he said, we didn't pay to see a tenor in a dark suit standing on stage with his arms at his side for two hours.
Since leaving the Irish Tenors, he has developed a considerable stage presence. His voice alone would be enough for any audience, but he quickly showed why he is also a highly sought-after motivational speaker. Between songs, he joked about his adjustable height, his prominent ears and bald head, and how such imperfections help make human beings unique and beautiful. All of this while keeping the packed house enthralled with what they came to hear: an electrifying tenor voice.
A native of Kilkeney, Ireland, he is working to become a U.S. citizen. Between songs, he spoke at length about what a great country he believes America to be -- if others dislike what we do, he said, then that's their problem; they're the ones who don't understand. And all the while he was showcasing his powerful voice.
Tynan opened the show with what seems to be his theme song: "Man of La Mancha." In a telephone interview two weeks before his Lancaster appearance, Tynan denied any special significance to this -- or "The Impossible Dream," which he sang after intermission -- other than he admires the idealism of Don Quixote's message and the music that suits his voice to perfection. But it's impossible not to think of Tynan as a dreamer who has made the most of life's challenges and allows "the wild winds of fortune will carry me forward."
Throughout the two-hour, high-energy show, Tynan drew on his Irish heritage with such songs as "(My Grandfather's) Immigrant Eyes," "Isle of Hope Isle of Tears," "My Irish Molly 'O" and, my favorite, "Fields of Athenry," which Tynan said is now practically Ireland's national anthem. Between every number, he strengthened his rapport with the audience with humor and anecdotes. And, as always, there was that voice, just a few feet away.
Tynan travels with a six-piece orchestra, but since there was no program furnished, I was unfortunately unable to catch their names. I regret this oversight, because Tynan unselfishly gave them the opportunity to showcase their talents. Two deserve special recognition. First, the violinist played an emotional version of "Schindler's List" and later thrilled the audience with a memorable rendition of "The Ashoken Farewell." Later, Tynan sat with the pianist and they both sang John Lennon's "Imagine." That nearly brought the house down.
When I asked him during the interview what he wants most to be remembered for, he said, "Bringing happiness to people, helping them enjoy private moments with happiness and warmth, and leaving with good thoughts and memories that the songs have given them." There's no doubt he accomplishes this with his performances. The audience did not want to leave; they stood around talking about moments in the show they enjoyed the most. They crowded around the table where his CDs and books were being sold and lingered in hopes he would show up to sign autographs. He did.
Not only did he sign autographs, Tynan took the time to say a few words of a personal nature to everyone in the long line. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself while he sat there for more than an hour after the show.
Ronan Tynan is a superb singer, an inspiration and a gracious human being.
by Bill Knapp,