Early Memories of the Tenors
The heat bore down, stifling me as I clutched my sister's arm and stared wide-eyed at the huge Wolf Trap Barn where I would be watching the Irish Tenors come onto stage in ten minutes! Tracy clutched me right back and began singing "Phil the Fluther's Ball" while I hummed along. This was so exciting!! The air seemed to buzz and hum with excitement as we all hustled into our seats. Certainly we didn't want to miss them first appearing on stage!! My stomach was in knots, and I wasn't the one singing!
All of a sudden, people in the orchestra seats began clapping. Someone gave a piercing whistle, and the music swelled! I gasped out loud.
Ronan Tynan strode onto stage, grinning broadly, and proudly introduced them. First himself, then Anthony Kearns, and Finbar Wright!
Amid the thunderous applause, I sat frozen in my seat, barely able to breathe. Not only was it so humid I couldn't get enough oxygen, but I was in the same room as the Irish Tenors! Not only that, but I was at one of their concerts, about to hear them sing!! I clasped my hands tightly together in my lap, then remembered what I was doing and began clapping vigorously. I stomped my boots against the floor and tried to whistle through my teeth, but failed.
To my shame, I do not remember with which song they started! It was either "The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls" or "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears". Whichever one, it was breathtaking! I remember that much!
As they sang, I slowed down time inside my head, making myself stop and realize that I was here, where I'd dreamt of being for two solid months! It would be over in a few precious hours, and I had only that short, fleeting time to be exactly where I'd always envisioned myself to be.
I felt badly for my favorite singers, though. I was rather far away, yet I could see them sweating from where I sat! In between songs, Ronan dragged a fan out onto stage and turned it to face the Tenors. He also had a towel which he used to periodically wipe his head and face.
Finbar said that he didn't know how many wolves we trapped around here, because they probably all died of the heat!
It was exciting to hear them, and to laugh along at their jokes. At one point, Anthony turned Finbar half way around while he was singing to brush a spider off his shoulder! While singing "Phil the Fluther's Ball", all three began to dance a bit on the stage, and just before Finbar sang his "soprano" bit in "The Golden Jubilee" he exclaimed, "I'm a tenor!"
Ronan gave a farewell speech, saying what wonderful years he had had with the Tenors. Then he sang "A Song for Ireland" and I cried all of the way through it, but managed to give him a standing ovation with the rest of the crowd. We'll miss you, Ronan!
Finbar began "South of the Border" by saying that it was a sad song, and if we had a rose with us, to stick it in between our teeth!
Near the end, all three of them sang "Whiskey in the Jar". The audience began to clap along rather timidly, which seemed to please Ronan, because he began to tap his foot, then clap, then motioned the audience to join him, which they did with great gusto!
I suddenly realized that the concert would soon be over, and began to mentally grope and clutch at the flying minutes, trying with all of my power to slow them down.
But then the Tenors wrapped it up. "Thank you all for coming!" They shouted. Anthony glanced down at his lapel, pulled the rose off of his suit coat, and flung it out into the crowd. Ronan and Finbar both followed his example.
The brilliant rubies fell toward the orchestra seats, and I watched from afar with insane jealousy as grasping hands were flung up to desperately seize the drooping flowers. The corsages were torn apart in mid-air as people grappled with them, doing their best to wrest the prizes from their neighbor's clutching grasp, and I watched with growing horror as those proud gems among flowers were destroyed bit by bit.
The Tenors bowed and left the stage, and I stood with everyone else, realizing that the concert was over. We clapped our hardest for several minutes, and everytime I grew afraid that the clamor would stop, it began afresh. I clapped and cheered, mentally begging the Tenors to sing an encore.
It seemed like years that we stood there! Five or six minutes, just clapping and clapping, begging the Tenors to come out again. "Please!" I silently begged them, "Please come out! Please, please, please come out again!" I bit my lip. I hated to ask for an encore with the stifling humidity, but I was selfish.
THEY CAME OUT!!! You should have heard the audience cheer and whoop, whistle and stomp, shout and clap!! They sang three more songs for us. Not just one, but three!! I was so thankful, but so heartbroken to watch them leave again!
But I wasn't about to let them disappear forever. I left my row to meet up with Tracy, Mom, and Aunt Kitty. I grabbed Tracy's arm. "What do we do now?" I asked her.
She turned to Mom. "Do you guys want to come with us?"
Mom shook her head. "You go ahead."
Clutching Ellis Island tightly, Tracy and I made our way past the push of people headed up the aisle. There was a young man taking down chairs on stage, and I allowed Tracy to pass me.
"Excuse me, sir, will the Tenors be coming out tonight?" she asked. I don't know how she dared open her mouth at all. I was thankful that she had done the talking, because I knew that I would not be able to utter a squeak!
My mouth was dry, my throat seemed parched, and my knees quivered underneath me so that I was afraid they might not hold me up!
He was a nice young man, too. He smiled at us, then pointed out a side entrance and said, "If they did come out, they would come out the door around the side of the building."
Tracy thanked him, and we planted ourselves outside of the stage door and did not budge. Mom and Aunt Kitty came looking for us. No sign of the Tenors, but I did not care! I would wait until daylight before I would leave. I glanced at my watch. A few more hours and it would be daybreak! Fifteen minutes crawled by.
"We need to go sometime, girls." Mom said gently. "We can't stand out here all night. They might never come."
"They have to go to their hotel sometime!" I pleaded. A silver car pulled up behind us and waited there. Another fifteen minutes. Finally Mom had had enough. It wasn't polite to have Aunt Kitty be standing outside while we waited for the Irish Tenors to come out.
"I don't mind." Aunt Kitty said.
"Let's go, girls." Mom said.
Tracy and I took two reluctant steps toward her, disappointed.
"Hey!" Aunt Kitty exclaimed, "Isn't that one of the Tenors?"
"Where, where?" I exclaimed.
"The tall one!"
I saw a big man shouldering his way through a crowd which stood right inside the stage doors. He was carrying two black cases in his hands, and he-I'm afraid I didn't recognize Ronan Tynan right away. I had never seen him in anything else but a tuxedo!
Ronan recognized two of the people who were waiting with us, and as I stood there and waited quietly for him to finish talking to them, a lady buzzed up beside me and jabbered excitedly.
"Ooooo," she hummed, dancing around to my other side, "I didn't think to bring a CD for him to sign! How clever you are! How smart! How ingenious!" She flitted about me. "If only I'd brought a CD! I only brought this-see here?" She held out a pamphlet for me to see, then saw that Tracy was approaching Ronan Tynan, and fluttered off in their direction.
I watched, my mouth dry as Tracy boldly asked Ronan for his autograph. He quickly consented and handed it back to her, then signed the lady's pamphlet. He handed the pamphlet and marker to the lady, who looked in perplexity at them both.
She handed the pen to me, rather bewildered, and disappeared. I still don't understand how anyone can appear and disappear so quickly!
Before I knew what was happening, my CD was out of my hands and back in, with Ronan's signature on it. I stammered a thank you, blushing.
We waited for another ten minutes, hoping against hope that the other two would come out.
Mom shook her head, "We need to go, girls."
We both knew it, and started behind Mom and Aunt Kitty to the car, so happy that we got to hear them sing and meet Ronan.
I glanced behind one more time-and gasped. "Mom, Mom, stop!!! It's….it's, it's them!!! It's Finbar and, and Anthony!! They're coming out!"
We all hurried to the door, and I thrilled to watch them push through the mass of people just inside the door, saying good-bye to one person, shaking hands with another, and laughing at something they said.
My heart was in my throat as I watched Anthony push open the door, holding it for Finbar to follow. They were carrying black suitcases, and Tracy waited for them at the end of the walk.
"Would you….could you…sign something for us?" She asked.
Finbar immediately set down his bags (!!!) and reached for her CD. Anthony headed for the car and placed his bags inside the trunk. Then he approached us, patting his shirt pocket, which was empty. "Well, you need to have a pen." he said.
I gladly produced mine and handed it to him. I still could not say a word. I tried desperately to think of something clever and witty to say, but I could not. He began to sign it, saying, "Very best wish--" then he stopped and looked at me.
I felt very conspicuous.
Then he finished, "-es Anthony Kearns". I must have said something, but I cannot recall what it was! How could I put into words that he was the absolute best singer I had ever heard!?
He moved onto Tracy and as he signed her CD, she said, "I don't think you've ever been in Virginia before."
He sounded jokingly offended: "I have too!"
Tracy grew immediately apologetic, "Oh, that's right. You were here in March, weren't you?"
"Yes I was."
"Well," I put in hurriedly, "This is the first time we've seen you."
Finbar had gone to put his baggage in the car. He ducked under the trunk's lid and came around the car, smiling. "I think I've missed one," he said in that wonderful accent of his!!
I had waited by a garbage can, prepared to use it as a table. Finbar came to join me, and I handed him my pen. Anthony had recapped it when he was done with it, and Finbar looked at it, surprised.
"How would this work?" He muttered.
I glanced over, bemused. "The…the cap…" I said.
He cocked his head and I couldn't help but smile. I paused, not sure what to do, then slipped the pen from between his fingers and uncapped it. I quickly handed it back to him, and he signed my CD.
"Thank you. Thank you very much." I said, holding the CD ever so carefully in my hands.
I turned away, my eyes pricking with tears. It was time to leave, but I wasn't sad. I was more than happy, and I could hardly believe how blessed I was to have experienced such a special night.
by Julie Gronewold