By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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He sang “Amazing Grace,” for example, for 300,000 at the 2010 National Memorial Day parade in Washington, D.C.
Hailed as “Ireland's finest tenor” by Irish ambassador Michael Collins, Kearns has sung in operas — Mozart's “Don Giovanni,” Bizet's “Carmen” — across Europe and North America.
And now Kearns, the boy from the Blackstair Mountains town of Kiltealy, is returning to Port Angeles.
The singer and his longtime accompanist, Patrick Healy, plan to play with “the band,” as Kearns calls them — Port Angeles High School's Roughrider Orchestra — this Saturday.
The 7 p.m. performance in the Port Angeles High School auditorium, 304 E. Park Ave., will benefit the orchestra's spring trip to, of all places, Carnegie Hall in New York City.
OPUS, Orchestra Parents United for Students, is hosting the event, for which seats range from $15 to $38.50.
Concert tickets, as well as $10 passes to the reception afterward, are on sale at Northwest Fudge and Confections, 108 W. First St. in Port Angeles; Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St. in Sequim; and at www.NWperformingarts.com.
Nine years ago
Kearns was first invited to the North Olympic Peninsula nine years ago by Lynnette Crouse, a Port Angeles fan who has since become the singer's webmaster, and Ron Jones, director of the Port Angeles High School orchestra program.
They didn't really expect him to come. But he does a lot of fundraisers and decided Port Angeles' music program was a worthy cause.
He has been coming back ever since: Saturday will be the tenor's eighth solo concert in the school auditorium.
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” Kearns quipped in an interview from his home in Dublin.
Seriously, “it's a good partnership, with Ron Jones and the band. We work together well.”
Every night on tour is a chance to connect with people, and Kearns said that's easier when the singer can see listeners' faces.
'It's great fun'
“It's a two-way thing,” he said. “It's great fun up there [when] they're willing you on; they're there to have a good time.”
As conductor, Jones' standard is “very high,” Kearns added. “There is a great rapport between him and the kids.”
In Port Angeles, Kearns will offer a mixed program: songs from Broadway musicals, a few comedy duets with accompanist Patrick Healy and “the Irish songs we're known for.”
The Roughrider Orchestra will join him for selected works such as “Bring Him Home” from “Les MisÚrables” and “If I Loved You” from “South Pacific,” added Jones.
In addition, Erin Hennessey, the orchestra's 17-year-old violinist and winner of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association competition, will step up to play “Danny Boy” with Kearns and Healy.
“It's going to be terrific,” Jones said.
“Pop music is around everywhere. But the kind of music we're performing,” added Kearns, “is from a different era.
“Try it,” he said. “Open up the mind and heart, and see what happens.”
The Irishman first heard Port Angeles High's orchestra through the wall of his dressing room.
The young musicians were playing during his 2003 concert's intermission, and he soon said to Jones: “Oh my goodness.”
Jones gave Kearns and Healy a recording of the Roughrider Orchestra as a parting gift. They listened to it on the road, and next time they played Port Angeles, they brought the band up on stage with them.
Jones admires Kearns for his singing, of course, and for the way he treats his fans and fellow musicians.
“He is a true Irish tenor,” Jones said, comparing Kearns' voice with that of a Stradivarius violin: “silky smooth . . . a true experience.”
Jones added that Kearns and Healy are rare in their generosity.
“They're among the very, very few artists I've been in contact with who will absolutely not leave the post-concert reception until everyone has received the autograph or the picture they wanted,” he said.
Jones is also, of course, appreciative of how Kearns and Healy have helped raise money for the school orchestra's trips to Carnegie Hall. Port Angeles High has sent student musicians there every four years since 1989.
In 2013, Jones plans to take more than 100 students to New York City on March 28 to rehearse for their Easter Sunday, March 31, performance at the storied hall.
This Saturday's concert, Jones feels, is also a gift.
“It allows us to touch base with great music,” he said, and with a fabulous instrument.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.