Irish Tenors charm Smith Center audience

Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan may not be household names, but singing together as the Irish Tenors since 1998 the trio has built a solid fan base that packed The Smith Center's Reynolds Hall Tuesday and showered them with applause in a concert that was half traditional tunes and half Christmas music.

Backed by an orchestra of about 20 mostly local musicians, the concert was a PBS special come to life, except for some trumpet and trombone players who sounded like they could have used another rehearsal. The mostly gray-haired crowd didn't seem to mind as the tenors took solo turns with their lovable brogue on classics ranging from "The Darling Girl From Clare" to "She Moved Through The Fair."

Each of the Tenors was comfortable in the skin of his onstage persona. Wright, who bears a slight resemblance to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was somewhat stiff and stuck more to his classically trained roots while still being one of the gang. Kearns, the man in the middle both literally and figuratively, was more prone to smile and kid around a little. But the scene-stealer of the night was a no-doubter: big, bald, bold Tynan, joking not only with himself and his fellow singers, but making sure the crowd got full measure of his joy. And is it just me, or was Ronan giving oh-so-slight hints of Joe Cocker in his involuntary gesticulations?

Amidst the religious tones of "How Great Thou Art" and "The Lord Is My Shepherd," the Tenors saw fit to pay tribute to the late Andy Williams with a soaring rendition of "Moon River" before heading to intermission with the sigh-generating "Toora-Loora-Loora" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."

Then it was almost All Christmas All The Time with the only "costume" change being a switch from green ties in the first half of the show to red ones for the second half.

Seeing three grown operatic tenors try to do their own version of the twist might have seemed awkward had it been at the start of the show, but coming after intermission and our being more familiar with them, it was actually kind of cute as they "got down" for "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

I liked Finbar's take on "The Christmas Song" with his "kids from one to 92" sounding more like "one to ninety, too." Some in the audience clapped and sang along to a medley of "Winter Wonderland" "(I'm Dreaming of a) White Christmas" and "Jingle Bells."

But it couldn't have been an Irish Tenors concert if they didn't do "Danny Boy" - even if it was midway through the Christmas tunes. They also had a traditional close to the show with "What A Swell Party This Is" - and a rousing nod to the host country, sending us home with a burst of patriotic pride in "God Bless America."