The Texas Tenors in Burlington: America has talent and it was on display last night
By BOB SAAR, The Hawk Eye
Burlington Civic Music Association opened its 85th season last night at Memorial Auditorium with one of the biggest crowds in the past 20 years when the Texas Tenors kicked serious butt for an almost-full-house. Everyone – every single concertgoer – loved the show.
The evening opened with … what’s this? Dreamy, sensitive flutes fluttering? Perfect! These guys are opera singers, not cowboys. The Texas Tenors belt arias well enough to stand toe-to-toe with Luciano Pavarotti. Getting a southeast Iowan to listen to opera is like getting a tomcat to lie still for rabies shots.
The Texas Tenors are in the public forebrain because they appeared four years ago on “America’s Got Talent” – they auditioned in Houston, Texas. They’ve appeared in 20 countries with their blend of country and show tunes, but what they really do is opera. And they do it very, very well.
John Hagen (the guy with the heaviest beard) has performed operatic roles ranging from Alfredo in “La Traviata” to Otello. JC Fisher (the thin goatee) has done Rodolfo in “La Boheme,” Tamino in “The Magic Flute” and Ernesto in “Don Pasquale.” Hagen has taught voice and pedagogy – the art of teaching – at Wartburg College in Waverly and at his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa. Marcus Collins (the blond guy) has appeared in many films and TV shows and as a regular soap opera character. The trio opened with Alabama’s “Mountain Music” dressed as Nashville dudes, then jumped the audience with a little Italian opera before popping a couple of John Denver hits, all done with liquid, flowing three-part harmonies.
The Capurro classic “O Sole Mio” followed, and the still-unsuspecting crowd ate it up. Yee-haw! Bravissimo!
The singers were backed by a cadre of drummer, keyboardist and guitarist who doubled on keys and mandolin. The key changes were spot-on. At one point, the three men performed Pavarotti’s signature “Nessun Dorma” from the Aria of Calaf. They owned the song. Pavarotti would have melted, hearing his trademark in perfect three-part harmony.
On they went, with sure-fire hits like “Danny Boy” and “God Bless the USA,” which brought the crowd to their feet. “What do you sing after that song?” Collins asked. “You sing a ballad,” and the band segued into the Righteous Brothers’ teen angst theme, “Unchained Melody,” an anthem for all those 60s teens in their 60s.
The Burlington show was backed by videos of the trio on “America’s Got Talent,” making it clear their local performance far outshined their debut on AGT.
The evening’s highlight came early on when Collins strolled into the audience and snared Lynn Kempton of Tucson, Ariz., and pulled her onto the stage, where the flabbergasted woman sat on a stool while all three men knelt and fussed before her and competed for her attention as they sang love songs. Fort Madison native Kempton was visiting relatives. Collins gave her cousin, Jeff Hall, a camera and encouraged Hall to shoot Facebook shots for the band. “Feel free to take as many pictures as you like,” Collins told the audience. “I was mesmerized,” Kempton said at intermission. “It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Goopy expressions such as “awesome” and “stunning” and “gol-dang!” are too thin, too watery to describe the awesome, stunning vocal power of the Texas Tenors.
“It’s fabulous we have talent like this come to Burlington,” Sue Dunlay of Fort Madison said.
The next Civic Music event is The Second City on Oct. 15. Season tickets and single-event tickets are available at burlcivicmusic.com.