Tenorissimo! Three tenors present electrifying performance by Barbara Wilkinson

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by Barbara Wilkinson

There is nothing so captivating than a well-trained classical tenor voice, and the three talented young musicians from “Romanza” did not let the audience down on Friday, April 29, at the Northland Pines High School Auditorium in Eagle River. Sponsored by the Headwaters Council for the Performing Arts, the gifted trio presented a repertoire of songs entitled “Tenorissimo” that appealed to every age. From beginning to end the music was inspiring and harmonic, and the ambience was intimate, yet full of humor.

Much of the enjoyment came not only from the musicians’ ability to revitalize classical and operatic vocal arrangements but also from retaining the authenticity of the selections to meet the needs of the contemporary audience. The gifted trio performed both together and in solo, each making his individual mark as a highly skilled musician that will see many future years of singing to enthusiastic audiences.

Phil Grant set the ambiance of the evening with a rousing adaptation of Turco and Denza’s Funiculi Funicula. His rich tones were clear and his demeanor lively, eventually leading in Paul Ouellette, a versatile performer whose voice easily resonated from soft to loud, bringing great emotion to the music. As the audience began to clap, Ken Lavigne added his rich vibrant tones and the three tenors ended in a crescendo, expressing the exhilaration of the Italian celebratory song of the first funicular cable car on Mt. Vesuvius in the late 1800s. Accompanied by talented musicians, pianist Oleg Levin, violinist David Triaze and double bass player Matt Mobley, the singers quickly delighted the audience.

Many of the selections were both inspirational an emotional. With an innate ability to feel the music, Lavigne performed a passionate rendition of Rolf Lovland’s You Raise Me Up. His poignancy was clearly felt by the audience. Grant followed with an intimate lead-in about his lost dog and beautifully sang the heartrending hit from “Les Miserable,” Bring Him Home. Danny Boy (Anonymous), an Irish favorite for people from all nationalities, was poignantly sung in three parts with the entire accompaniment, eliciting the somber mood of loved ones parting.

Grant dedicated a fervent rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone to his godson and easily conveyed this emotion to the audience. Together the trio performed the 2006 Olympic rendition of Foster and Bocelli’s Because We Believe in several languages, filling the auditorium with breathtaking harmony. Finally, with profound meaning and phenomenal breath control, Ouellette performed an awe-inspiring Lord’s Prayer, which enraptured the audience.

Yet the performance was not limited to the deep emotions. Indeed, the tenors showed their passions for opera and folk tunes as well. Highlights included the Brazilian composer Zequinha De Abrew’s 1917 lively international hit Tico Tico no Fuba, which elicited laughter from the audience as the trio also played the “eggs” to keep time with the music. Together they performed Gioachino Rossini’s Torna a Sorriento, each sounding much like Luciano Pavarotti at the slow, sonorous beginning and then changing their focus to emulate Elvis Presley complete with bodily gyrations at the finale. The mellow tones of the violin accompaniment gave the piece a sadness and then transformed it to the beat of the modern version. Ouellette and Grant belted out Eduardo De Capua’s O Sole Mio beautifully exhibiting their separate abilities to capture their audience with excitement and joy. Not to be bested, Lavigne entered the festivities by trying to outdo his fellow singers. Throughout the evening there was little doubt that the performers were having as good a time as the audience who gave the musicians a well-deserved standing ovation.

The tenors topped off their exceptional evening with an encore of Largo al factotum (Figaro’s boastful aria from “The Barber of Seville”). Once more, congratulations to the Headwaters Council for the Performing Arts for a first-class presentation.

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