Irish tenor Ronan Tynan rides hurricane circle to Colonial gig

Friday November 2, 2012


Ronan Tynan was reviewing the latest weather dispatches on Sunday morning, perhaps even more intently than most of us. He was preparing to board a plane that would take him from Boston, near his Scituate home, to -- of all places -- Long Island, his performance destination that evening.

It was one leg of a series of circuitous journeys to Kentucky and other places that eventually will lead Tynan to his appearance Saturday evening at 8 in the Colonial Theatre.

Tynan will be joined by a favorite musical partner, pianist Bill Lewis. His program? "Suffice it to say, definitely Irish, Broadway and a little opera."

And specifically? "You'll have to go to

the show to find that out," he said mischievously.

Sandy would be Tynan's first hurricane experience, he suggested in a telephone conversation.

"I'm bracing down. It's something strange, but what can you do?" he mused with his customary comfort in the hands of his Maker. He is a devout Roman Catholic and much of what he says, and does, reflects this foundation established early in a life that began in Dublin and developed as he was growing up in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Tynan is chiefly renowned as a tenor -- an Irish tenor -- who has carried his vocal endowments not only to the concert hall, but also to sports events in stadiums -- he has dispatched "God Bless Amer ica" at numerous New York Yankees games -- and in other events, such as the funeral of President Ronald Reagan and at White House occasions during the administration of George W. Bush.

Many regard Ronan Tynan as somewhat of a Renaissance man: Challenged by significant circumstances through his life, he has earned distinction as an athlete, he is a trained physician, specializing in sports injuries and he enjoys a reputation as a motivational speaker.

All of these achievements occurred as a result of a congenital disability: He was born with phocomelia, a condition in which the lower portion of his legs were underdeveloped, rendering his legs unusually short, but manageable with prosthetic attachments. At age 20, following an acute back injury from an automobile accident, he was unable any longer to use the prosthetic attachments and his legs were amputated below the knees.

Within weeks of the accident, fitted with new prosthetic devices, he was climbing stairs in his college dormitory. Within a year he was winning international track and field competitions. He represented Ireland in the 1981 and 1984 Summer Paralympics, gathering medals -- four gold, two silver and one bronze. And with his prosthetic legs intact, The Big Irishman, a sobriquet some have attached to him, stands six-feet-four-inches tall and strides with a confident gait.

Tynan did not begin serious vocal study until he was 33, when he was well into his medical residency.

"We discovered my voice as a child," he recalled. "My father was a singer -- oh, not professional -- but we used to work together at home. That's when I found out I could sing."

His mother? "Ah, she was tone deaf," he said, adding rather characteristically, "but the Good Lord decides some people are worth listening to, others aren't."

His father, Edmund, believing his son, indeed, was worth a listen, encouraged him to study. Thereafter Ronan won a series of voice competition awards. Along the way, he performed with opera companies -- cutting his teeth on Puccini, as Pinkerton in "Madama Butterfly" and Rodolfo in "La Boheme" and as Mylio in Lalo's "Le Roi di'Y's, which led to his becoming part of the Irish Tenors. This trio of singers -- Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Tynan -- was formed in 1998 by a group of television producers for a PBS special, clearly inspired by the success of the famous Three Tenors of opera legend: Luciano Pavarotti, José Car reras and Plácido Domingo.

Accordingly, the success of the Irish Tenors led to five more PBS specials and seven albums. Although Tynan has gone to a rewarding solo career, he remains a member of the trio. "We do concerts twice a year," he said.

Tynan's rather extensive schedule of singing engagements continues to involve a wide array of venues throughout the world -- with symphony orchestras and in recital halls and theaters, for churches and clubs, and, as already mentioned, at sports events including horse races, football games and at baseball fields.

Like other Yankees fans, Tynan is trying to explain the collapse of his team this season. "Who knows what happened to them," he said. "But they definitely need to sort out that third-baseman and his attitude," he added.

Tynan continues his motivational talks, addressing nearly 50 gatherings of corporations and other organizations each year.

"The speeches focus on the importance of family," he explained, "and that belief and encouragement light the candles of achievement."

His optimistic topics, drawing from his own lifetime experiences: "Living Life to the Fullest" and "Archiving the High Note."

Tynan continues to cherish the country of his birth and returns to Ireland as often as he can.

"I love going home," he said. "My brother, Tom, and sister, Fiona, are still there."

He also continues another profession that he says he loves, when he is in Ireland. "I have been asked to consult on different ortho problems, particularly with young kids who have congenital problems," he noted.

But Tynan also has a strong emotional tie to this country and aspires to become a citizen one day soon.

"I love this country," he declared. "What's not to love? It's a great country. It's a country that gives you everything if you're willing to work. This country will do anything for you."

Who: Irish tenor Ronan Tynan

When: Saturday 8 p.m.

Where: Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield

Tickets: $45, $30; VIP premium seating -- $55

How: (413) 997-4444;; at the box office


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