Review: The Irish Tenors Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Yes, I know we haven’t even gotten past Halloween yet. The Reese’s cups are still unopened in the cabinet. (Unopened so far, anyway.)

But, still, when “The Irish Tenors Christmas” CD arrived in the mail from the Tenors’ promoter, I just had to plug it into the player and start the Season of Joy a couple of months early. A weird sort of thing to do when the daytime temperature still occasionally bumps up into the 70s, but there it is.

If you have an Irish Christmas music collection—we certainly do, and feel free to tell us what’s in your collection—you might want to add this one to your play mix. There’s much to like about this collection of standards, sung by one of the best classically-trained ensembles—and thoroughly Irish.

I have to say that not all of the tunes are a complete success. Classically-trained tenors can do a superb job on most of the standards—as witness the opening track, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and later tracks “Mary Did You Know” and “Silent Night.” These are particularly listenable—tailor-made to show off the superb voices of Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Karl Scully.

And there’s an interesting surprise in the mix: Shane McGowan’s great and heart-breakingly beautiful “Fairytale of New York.” I didn’t expect to like this at all. It just didn’t seem to be a good choice for guys who sing in tuxedoes.

And yet, somehow it succeeds beautifully, lush orchestration and all—and cleansed of some of the darkness. Perhaps it is a testament to the strength of the song. Maybe you just can’t hurt it. (Unless the Jingle Bell dogs do it.) But I have to say, the Tenors’ approach to the tune is respectful and restrained. I’m a believer.

Still, two of the selections just don’t work at all: The “Feliz Navidad Medley” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” All of those trilled R’s just sound silly in the old Bill Haley standard. (“That’s the Jingle Bell r-r-r-r-r-r-rock.”)

But on balance, I think you’ll be happy to add it to your stack of holiday CDs—when we get closer to the holidays, that is.

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