Tuesday 20 August 2019

Star remains in fine voice

Padraig Byrne

WHEN it comes to classical music, few Irish tenors can claim to have enjoyed the same success as Finbar Wright. The Cork native is currently preparing to take his brand new live show, a celebration of the life of Luciano Pavarotti, to Wexford Opera House on March 1, and it's something he's really looking forward to.

'I can't wait,' said Finbar. 'Believe it or not I haven't actually seen the new facilities in Wexford Opera House yet, but I believe that they are out of this world. Of course, I have performed in the old Opera House. In fact, I made my operatic debut there in 1989 and that's where I cut my teeth. I've performed in Wexford many times since though and it's somewhere I've really enjoyed going.'

Finbar started on his musical journey aged just four. Coming from a musical household, he was quick to pick up the piano at a tender age, doing it for fun rather than for any kind of chore. It wasn't just in the area of music that he was advanced for his years either. At just 16, Finbar sat his Leaving Cert, before setting off on a path to becoming a priest.

'I was a teaching priest for seven years. I was ordained at the age of 22, which at the time was completely unheard of. I taught Latin and Spanish to secondary school pupils.'

However, at the age of 30, Finbar decided to leave the priesthood citing philosophical differences with the church. Nowadays, he's not sure if he would describe himself as a man of great faith, but he definitely believes in something. 'I suppose old habits die hard don't they,' he laughed.

'I suppose I do have a spirituality about me that has stayed with me over time. I look back on my time in the priesthood as a positive thing. Those days in the seminary in Maynooth were wonderful. I would've come along at the same time as the likes of poet John O'Donoghue and Michael Harding the playwright. They were great days.'

Upon leaving the priesthood, Finbar contemplated what he would do with his life and decided to follow the path of doing something he loved – music. 'When I left the priesthood, I wondered what I'd do. I suppose the natural sort of focus for me was music. Even as a priest I had been doing concerts.

'When Pope John Paul II came to Ireland, I performed to over a million people in Phoenix Park. I was lucky in that I got some great breaks. I managed to secure a six album deal with Sony and then I also had a TV series on RTE in the early 1990s with Angeline Ball.'

When Finbar combined with Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan in the year 2000 to form The Irish Tenors, they would go on to enjoy massive success on both sides of the Atlantic.

'We still perform as a group,' said Finbar. 'We get together several times a year to perform. Last year we did a massive tour of the US taking in everywhere from Texas to California and it was just wonderful.'

Finbar's show on March 1 is a tribute to a true great of the genre and someone who had a big influence on his career – Luciano Pavarotti.

'I met him a few times actually,' said Finbar. 'The first time would have been at The Gaiety in 1981 and that was before he was a huge, popular icon. Ten years later, I met up with him again at his show in the RDS and he had transformed into a world star.

'We had a few chats and he gave me some wonderful advice and fond memories. Really for anyone studying singing, he is incredible. He goes from the bottom of the scale to the top without any effort.

'He enjoyed a great relationship with Ireland and I'm hoping to highlight that through the show which will tell the story of his life and will also have me singing some of his most memorable songs.

'I'm really looking forward to getting back to Wexford,' Finbar said in conclusion. 'The audiences are always great there. There's a love of music in Wexford that is very similar to my native Cork and I can't wait to see some old faces and new.'

Wexford People

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