By Clifton Noble Jr.
Special to The Republican
The Texas Tenors raised the roof of Springfield Symphony Hall Saturday, joining the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Nick Palmer in a thrilling evening of Broadway hits, country music, patriotic songs, and inspirational favorites.
Marcus Collins, JC Fisher and John Hagen rocketed to stardom as The Texas Tenors in 2009 on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Since then they have recorded two PBS specials, You Should Dream, and Rise. The first special won them three Emmy Awards and the second propelled the song Rise onto the Billboard charts.
The group has performed around the world from the U.K. to China and has collaborated with several of the United States’ premiere orchestras including the Cleveland Pops and the Pittsburgh Symphony. They have amassed an enthusiastic fan base in the U.S.
In fact, two of their faithful fans, a couple that saw The Three Tenors last year in Branson, Missouri, flew in from their home state of Iowa so the man could propose to his girlfriend at Saturday’s show in Springfield. Marcus Collins set it all up, singing Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are.
The Texas Tenors have very different voices. Collins is a pop and rock style singer, with a heady croon that can dip into a muscular belt as the music demands. Fisher has a ringing, operatic top to his instrument, supported by a country twang. Hagen carries a baritone warmth and fullness across an impressive range – solid, round chest tones through a commanding heldentenor top. Despite their timbral differences, the guys blend like the Eagles – in fact, their shared version of the Don Henley/Glenn Frey classic Desperado was one of the evening’s many highlights. Collins came the closest to Henley’s original sound.
Their medley of Stars, I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, and One Day More from the musical Les Miserables was another wildly popular selection. John Hagen’s vocal arrangement capitalized on the similarities and differences in the three voices. Hagen arranged all the material on the concert, demonstrating a thorough understanding of his colleagues’ vocal strengths and the skill to maximize their blend.
The trio brought a super back-up band with them, including Josh Hanlon on keyboard, Ryan Hurn on drums, Mitch Keirsey on electric guitar, and Larry Hanson on bass. The rest of the “back-up” band, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, provided lush strings and brass, and elegant woodwind solos, all under the expert care of guest conductor Nick Palmer, who led the orchestra in incisive accounts of Elmer Bernstein’s stirring theme from The Magnificent Seven, and Bruce Boughton’s theme to the 1985 Lawrence Kasdan film Silverado.
Video projections enhanced the presentation in many instances. Images of military personnel, police and fire first responders, etc during You Raise Me Up were particularly effective, and the combination of the Rise video with the live performance of the song packed a lot of punch. Likewise the Righteous Brothers’ classic You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ with video and audio of Bill Medley singing along with The Texas Tenors was hugely popular.
This group is so good, they immediately make you think of all the songs you’d love to hear them sing. It was easy to imagine their possible take on Ghost Riders in the Sky, for instance. Hearing Fisher and Hagen sing Marios Frangoulis’ powerful Vincero, Perdero, made one wonder how the pair would sound on Au fond du temple saint, the glorious baritone/tenor duet from Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.
The Texas Tenors put on an excellent show with Maestro Palmer and the Springfield Symphony. It’s a safe bet that the majority of Saturday’s 853 concertgoers went home happier for having made the trip to Symphony Hall.