NewJerseyStage.com | Holmdel, NJ –
The Texas Tenors LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center By Amy Dale for Spotlight Central.
Photos by Love Imagery
It’s a beautiful, breezy day at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ — a perfect afternoon for an outdoor concert at the Jersey Shore by The Texas Tenors.
The Texas Tenors is a three-time Emmy-winning classical crossover trio consisting of JC Fisher, John Hagen, and Marcus Collins. The group was a top four finalist on the fourth season of TV’s America’s Got Talent, making them the highest ranking vocal group in the show’s history. Since then, the trio has gone on to produce two PBS television specials, and has also recently released its latest album, Rise, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Music chart.
Group founder, JC Fisher, was an athlete in high school, but he also enjoyed singing in church. He’s performed various roles including Rodolfo in La Boheme, Tamino in The Magic Flute, and Henrik in A Little Night Music.
Fisher spent time performing opera in Europe. It was working on cruise ships, however, where he developed a one-man show featuring a variety of musical genres with top-notch musical arrangements which led to the idea of forming The Texas Tenors with his friends, Marcus Collins and John Hagen.
John Hagen made his Lincoln Center debut in New York City in Mascagni’s Gulglielmo Ratcliff. He performed in the world premiere of The Lost Dauphaneairing on PBS. His favorite roles on Broadway include Billy Bigelow in Carousel and Che Guevara in Evita. Hagen has also worked with many symphony orchestras and has taught voice at the college level.
The final member of the trio, Marcus Collins, began singing at the age of four by imitating such favorite radio performers as Garth Brooks and George Michael. He has appeared on Broadway in Hairspray, in addition to television shows like Sex and the City and movie appearances in films including Across the Universe.
Before today’s show, we take a few moments to chat backstage with Marcus who tells us a little more about the initial inspiration for creating The Texas Tenors.
Says Collins, “In addition to being classically-trained singers, we were all friends from Houston, and JC thought our voices would blend nicely together; as a result, we formed The Texas Tenors and auditioned for the 2009 season of America’s Got Talent.”
When asked to explain what it takes to create their magical sound, Collins states, “Even though we’re all tenors who have our own speciality — one country, one pop, and one opera — thanks to our training, we all know how to make our voices blend.”
With regards to performing here in the Garden State, Collins reveals, “This is our second time appearing at the PNC Bank Arts Center — the first time was in 2014 — and it’s one of our favorite venues to perform. Even though it’s large, because of the way the seats are arranged, it has a very intimate feel,” before noting, “It’s really nice to look out at the crowd and see all of those smiling, shining faces!”
The Texas Tenors’ performance today at the Arts Center is the second in a series of 2018 concerts presented to New Jersey residents aged 55 and older by the Garden State Arts Foundation. The first show — on May 17, 2018 — featured Rick Michel’s Sinatra Forever. All shows are presented by the Garden State Arts Foundation under the direction of VP Ron Gravino, ably assisted by Cookie Santiago.
This afternoon, Santiago welcomes the audience to the PNC Bank Arts Center on this beautiful spring day. She also thanks everyone in attendance for their generous donations, explaining that all concerts presented by the GSAF are funded by individual donors, in addition to such corporate sponsors as LiveNation Entertainment, PNC Bank, and SiriusXM Radio’s 60’s on 6 featuring Cousin Brucie.
The members of The Texas Tenors’ back-up band — keyboardist Josh Hanlon, guitarist Mitch Kiersey, drummer Ryan Hurn, and bassist/musical director Larry Hanson — take their positions on stage and begin to perform an instrumental overture. As the musicians play, The Texas Tenors — Marcus Collins, JC Fisher, and John Hagen — make their way out onto the stage singing a powerful rendition of Neil Diamond’s “America.” With their voices blending as one, the audience claps along to the trio’s high energy performance, their bold harmonies dazzling the crowd.
Moving on to a Seven Brides for Seven Brothers-type arrangement of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” the audience joyfully joins in with The Tenors — singing, smiling, and clapping along. Then, the group segues into Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — a rendition which features a warm JC Fisher vocal solo followed by a solo featuring John Hagen’s rich vibrato tone.
Marcus Collins takes a moment to welcome the audience, announcing, “We’re the Texas Tenors and we came here all the way from Texas!” Here, the friends humorously introduce one another referring to JC Fisher as “The Romantic Tenor,” Marcus Collins as “The Contemporary Tenor, “ and John Hagen as “THE Tenor!”
Confessing that, growing up, one of the guys’ favorite songs to sing in church was “Amazing Grace,” the group’s arrangement of this well-known hymn opens with a sweeping instrumental introduction before featuring John Hagen’s warm voice as it sails out into PNC Bank Arts Center’s open-air amphitheater.
Following is JC Fisher, who shares his sensitive vocal interpretation. Lastly, Marcus Collins sings a soulful and expressive solo before the men sing together in triumphant harmony, the audience roaring and applauding as the stirring final chord rings out!
The crowd is completely captivated by the vocal harmonies on one of the first songs the group ever sang together — the Tenors’ rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” Collins and Fisher share beautiful two-part harmonies on this number before Hagen elevates the arrangement in the final chorus, the trio building the energy and delivering an impressive performance to appreciative audience cheers.
After revealing that their new album, Rise, has “a positive message” which, they contend, is “extremely important today,” the audience applauds in agreement. Opening with strumming guitar work as they perform the album’s title tune, this U2-like rocker showcases Collins’ pop sound. Audience members nod their heads to the beat as Fisher accompanies the trio of vocalists on his guitar.
Taking a moment to feature their back-up band, the musicians perform a tune from the film, O’ Brother, Where Are Thou, entitled, “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” The rendition features guitarist Mitch Kiersey on vocals, bassist Larry Hanson singing harmony, and an intricate Josh Hanlon keyboard solo.
One of the highlights of the afternoon’s concert is The Texas Tenors’ rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” As the trio retakes the stage and begins the number, the crowd begins to applaud. They also spontaneously stand as soon as they hear the song’s famous “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free” chorus.
As the audience earnestly sings along, a woman in the front row waves an American flag before the crowd goes wild with heartfelt cheers and applause!
After audience members retake their seats, Hagen announces, “We owe a great debt of gratitude to our veterans in the United States and Canada, as well as to all allies of democracy.” Here, he invites the veterans in the audience to stand for a rousing round of applause and follows up by inviting all family members of veterans to be recognized by the crowd, as well.
Disclosing that the group has published a children’s book entitled Ruckus on the Range — a tale based on their song of the same name — to much laughter, bassist Larry Hanson displays the many pages of sheet music this purportedly simple song requires.
Introducing the next piece, “I Don’t Want to Let You Go,” the audience learns that it was co-written by Larry’s daughter, Jennifer Hanson. Opening with piano and guitar, Fisher, Hagen, and Collins trade lead vocals on this romantic ballad.
Following warm applause, they segue into their next number, a dramatic arrangement of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” featuring the pre-recorded voice of The Righteous Brothers’ own Bill Medley singing in the background.
The audience sways along to the music, clearly feeling a sense of nostalgia upon hearing this number the trio refers to as “the most-played song on the radio of the 20th century.”
Another highlight of the show is The Texas Tenors’ original tune, “Bootdaddy” — an exciting rockabilly number which really moves this Jersey crowd! As they sing about a handsome guy’s “bootscootin’ two-steppin’ toe-tappin’ heel-stompin’” moves, Collins and Fisher have the entire audience waving together in sync while Hagen capably handles the lead, the entire crowd loving this energetic tune!
At the conclusion, Collins descends the stairs and makes his way into the audience. Here, he takes note of two Texas Tenors fans in the front row, announcing to the crowd that the pair has traveled all the way from Maine for today’s performance.
Then, he launches into Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” shaking audience members’ hands, dancing with women in the crowd, taking a selfie with a fan’s flip phone, and even getting laughs galore when he gives a man in the crowd a special hairdo using only his fingers!
Following avid applause, JC Fisher is featured on Greek tenor Mario Fragoulis’ stirring “Vincero Perdero,” impressing the audience with his sensitive yet powerful presence on this Italian ballad. As Fisher continues to sing, John Hagen emerges from the rear of the stage adding a harmony part before taking over the lead on the next verse. As the two sing their hearts out, the audience is captivated by this remarkable duet, which also features a lovely Mitch Kiersey guitar solo.
The band is featured yet again on a rendition of “Kansas City.” Guitarist Kiersey vocally scats with electricity before the instrumentalists break out into an old-time rock feel. As drummer Ryan Hurn uses his high hat and cymbals to propel the swing feel ever forward, a woman in the audience dances the twist before the musicians leap into the air on the number’s final chord!
A third highlight of this afternoon’s performance is The Texas Tenors’ presentation of a medley of songs from Broadways’ Les Miserables. Starting off the medley is John Hagan who performs the powerful ballad, “Stars.” Crooning “Stars/In your multitudes/Scarce to be counted/Filling the darkness/With order and light,” Hagen exercises great vocal control, earning a private standing ovation from a woman in the crowd.
Transitioning into the beautiful “I Dreamed a Dream,” Marcus Collins sings with raw emotion, giving audience members goosebumps with his splendid performance.
The band picks up the tempo for the medley’s next number, “Bring Him Home.” Trading in his T-shirt and cowboy hat for a blazer and white button-down, Fisher impresses with his polished vocal performance and provokes a standing ovation of his own from several in the crowd.
The Texas Tenors conclude their Les Miserables medley with “One More Day,” all three vocalists sounding triumphant. The audience erupts with applause rewarding the men with a standing ovation from the entire crowd!
After introducing the band, the trio presents their final number, a stunning rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. Collins encourages the crowd to sing along as Fisher backs him up with harmony vocals, the audience giving the trio yet another standing ovation long before the group even finishes the song!
As members of the audience start to make their way out of the ampitheater, we chat with several in the crowd who give us their impressions of today’s performance.
Says Mel from Lakewood, “This was one fantastic show! The Texas Tenors are terrific — I loved their song choices and their variety,” before exclaiming, “I loved everything about it!”
Liz from Holmdel agrees stating, “They were awesome! They really know how to get an audience involved — they have great personalities,” before adding, “l loved their costume changes, and I especially liked their belt buckles!”
Taking a moment to chat with the woman in the audience who danced to the band’s performance of “Kansas City,” we catch up with Lynn — a dance teacher from Farmingdale — who comments, “The Texas Tenors are so talented — they have gorgeous voices,” before acknowledging, “and I especially loved their Broadway tunes.”
Lastly, we chat with the two Texas Tenors fans in the audience whom we learned traveled all the way from Maine just for today’s concert — Judy and her daughter, Laura, from West Newfield.
When asked why they are such die-hard Texas Tenors fans, Judy happily replies, “They’ve got voices, personality, and looks. They’re wonderful men — very talented — and they’re versatile; they can sing country, patriotic music, opera, and Broadway.”
Continuing, “We’ve been following The Texas Tenors since 2009 when they were on America’s Got Talent,” Judy additionally discloses, “We’ve seen them in concert 94 times — I have four scrapbooks filled with every ticket and every concert program from every show we’ve ever seen.”
Noting, “We’ve traveled to Arizona twice, Texas twice, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states,” Judy acknowledges, “but we’ve never seen them in Maine!”
“We have seen them several times in New Jersey,” notes Judy, however, adding, “We love New Jersey — there are great people here,” before concluding with a smile, “Even though it took us 7 1/2 hours to get here, it was totally worth it!”
To learn more about The Texas Tenors, please go to thetexastenors.com. For information on upcoming shows sponsored by the Garden State Arts Foundation — notably Cousin Brucie’s British Invasion starring Petula Clark, Mike Pender of The Searchers, Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon, and Jeremy Clyde of Chad & Jeremy on June 1, 2018 — please go to gsafoundation.org.
Photos by Love Imagery
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