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The Three Tenors & Star Violinist


The London Irish Centre

Saturday 18 Sept 2010






A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

The Irish Centre will always have a certain romance for me - I've been through its doors more times than I can count over the years. I remember Irish set dances, book fairs and political meetings in my youth - it was always teeming with people, not all of them Irish. On one memorable night, the 'Broadwater Farm Three' came there having just been released from prison and met Gerry Conlon and Paul Hill from the 'Guildford Four' in the bar to compare notes. Those were the 1980’s, but where have the crowds gone? As I took my seat in the banqueting hall at a sumptuous table lit by candelabra, which I had all to myself, the solitary man at the next table and I tried to work out why there were only a dozen of us there to hear The Three Tenors. Was it The Pope's visit or the Irish football? How would the Tenors get any atmosphere going with such a tiny audience?
We needn't have worried. From the moment John Scott from Dublin, David Martin from Louth and Nigel Dugdale from Limerick took the stage I was transported to another realm, carried to another land where emotions could be happily indulged by the harmony and play of three gorgeous voices. Every song was a new pleasure, opening with Rigoletto and finishing with a feverishly demanded encore, Josef Locke's 'Goodbye'. In between sets, Marie Mason from Thurles played heartbreaking and rousing tunes by turns on the violin, beginning with 'The Coolin', a traditional air where the bard tells of an Irish maiden in love with her 'Coolin' or lad with the flowing locks, before going on to 'Hungarian Dance' and 'The Chardash' which Nigel Kennedy could not have played any better. They were all accompanied by the excellent pianist Jillian Saunders.

There is no reason why an evening of such diverse songs from Elvis, Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Andrea Bocelli, Leonard Cohen, Pavarotti and traditional Irish airs should work this well, but it does because these are artists classically trained to bring all the colours and shapes the human voice is capable of to illuminate these songs and make them soar and dance. Training is one thing, but wit and grace are another, and these tenors had it all. They sang sets of three songs together then, in solo interspersed with violin solos, covering some thirty pieces in total with separate sets from musicals, popular Irish and American songs and several classical pieces.

From their website, I assume Nigel Dugdale might have been standing in for Declan Kelly, in which case I must thank him for singing 'Mary of Dungloe' so beautifully, a favourite of my father's. Of the three tenors, I think he was the best at harmony in the ensemble pieces, subtle but indispensible to the effect, particularly on Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' which was breathtakingly good. The most powerful voice and showboat personality was John Scott's, but I loved David Martin's singing the most. His high notes seemed to rise so effortlessly to fill the cavernous room that my soul almost left my body to meet them. He looks a little like a young Charles Haughey, but I don't know whether that works for or against him. They finished with 'Nessun Dorma' and it was a tidal wave of sound so thrilling it argues for a renaissance of live musical performance, once so popular in the Music Halls of Dublin that Joyce centred his great novel Ulysses around Molly Bloom, just such a singer.

This kind of Ekphrasis, where an attempt is made to write about the essence and form of an artistic medium so hard to describe but so easy and pleasurable to experience, is a struggle so without further hyperbole, I would recommend The Three Tenors wonderful show to anyone. It's the most delicious box of chocolates your ears could ever have.



8pm Saturday 18 September only

Tickets: £25

London Irish Centre
 50-52 Camden Square, London NW1 9XB

Box Office: 020 7916 7272



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