“Put courage in your dreams, Ronan, and leave the rest to the Man Above, and then you will carve your footprints in the sand.”
These words have shaped the remarkable life of the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan – a proud and loving lesson of his mother’s – from his childhood milking cows on a farm in County Kilkenny, Ireland, to an ever-evolving career as a singer, bringing him worldwide fame and admiration that could have existed only in the farthest reaches of those dreams. International audiences met Tynan as a member of The Irish Tenors. Now his singular voice and irresistible appeal have led him to strike out on his own, a decision that seems to have resulted in something far more meaningful than a mere solo career.
Perhaps you already know Ronan Tynan’s voice.
U2’s Bono knows it. “When Ronan sings the clouds cry but the sun turns up sooner than it would have,” he has written, in a liner note for Ronan, the tenor’s new recording for Decca. “He sang for my father, Bob, as we put him in the ground, and it felt like shelter. The wind died down, the rain stopped for the loudest, softest voice we have … a great Irish tenor.”
Tynan’s singing offered the gentlest consolation at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan in the summer of 2004, when an international TV audience of more than 35 million heard him sing “Amazing Grace” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” at the personal invitation of Nancy Reagan.
If you’re a fan of the New York Yankees – and Tynan himself is, big time – you might have heard him peal out one of his unforgettable performances of “God Bless America” in the seventh-inning stretch of a big game, which he frequently does.
In the wake of 9/11, the men and women of the New York Police Department and New York Fire Department and their families have been able to count on Ronan Tynan’s abiding concern and beautiful voice. He has performed at benefits and memorial services for New York’s Finest and Bravest, and his singing has softened the sorrow at many a funeral in the wake of the tragedy.
There are plenty of joyous moments, as well. In the spring of 2004, the Belmont Stakes got off to a rollicking start when Tynan – himself a passionate horseman – christened the race with a ringing rendition of “New York, New York.” He sang at the wedding of New York’s former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to Judith Nathan on the grounds of Gracie Mansion. His voice brightened the 80th birthday celebration of former President George H.W. Bush last summer in Houston. He gives motivational speeches all over the country. He has played Feinstein’s, one of New York’s poshest cabaret rooms. And the Spring 2005 release of his new self-titled CD, the first in a new exclusive agreement with Universal Music’s Decca label, begins a new chapter in his amazing story.
“I think it shows a greater versatility than any other album I’ve done,” Tynan says of the recording. “For the first time I’m singing material that has tremendous depth and weight. I wanted to sing a greater variety of music and spread my wings a bit, make a move out of the classic ‘Irish tenor’ vein.”
Ronan Tynan is barely out of his 30s, yet he has already overcome formidable personal challenges and achieved the kind of success only a mother could have wished for him. Though he had always sung as a boy, he did not seriously consider formal voice study until he was 33, when he was well into his residency as a physician. The success he quickly found as a singer is a typical development in a life of extraordinary achievement. Born with lower limb disability that might have sidelined him, Tynan was still “as wild as a March hare” when he was a growing boy, riding horses and racing motorcycles. When he was twenty, his legs had to be amputated below the knee after an auto accident caused serious complications. Just weeks after the operation, he was climbing up the steps of his college dorm. Within a year, he was winning gold medals in the Paralympics as a multi-talented athlete. Between 1981 and 1984, Tynan amassed eighteen gold medals and fourteen world records.
Such determination – reinforced by his steadfast parents, a diminutive couple with gigantic ambitions for their son – soon propelled him to conquer a whole new field. Tynan became the first disabled person ever admitted to the National College of Physical Education, and then a full-fledged medical doctor, specializing in orthopedic sports injuries, with a degree from prestigious Trinity College. He won both the John McCormack Cup for Tenor Voice and the BBC talent show Go For It less than one year after beginning the study of voice. The following year, he won the International Operatic Singing Competition in Maumarde, France. He made his operatic debut as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and cut his teeth on the concert repertoire in performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Puccini’s Messa di Gloria. In 1998, Tynan joined Anthony Kearns and John McDermott (later Finbar Wright) as The Irish Tenors, an instant worldwide sensation. His autobiography Halfway Home was published in February of 2001.
Collaborating on Ronan with producer Nick Patrick – the man behind the great recordings of Russell Watson, Amici Forever and Dominic Miller – Tynan sings powerful hymns of the spirit such as “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art.” With the assistance of his friend Margaret Byrne, he has written the heartfelt “Passing Through” to honor his mother, whose vibrant spirit has been taken away by the long night of Alzheimer’s Disease. The recording also includes the bristling title song from the musical Man of La Mancha, the pop classic “From a Distance,” a prayerful aria from a beloved Spanish zarzuela (“La roca fria del calvario” from Serrano’s La Dolorosa), and a great film theme that has become a song – “Mansions of the Lord” (from We Were Soldiers) – as well as several new songs created especially for the recording. Some of the assorted and well known writers of the original tracks include Richard Marx, Desmond Child, Aldo Nova, Gary Burr and Jeff Cohen.
“I want to reach everyone with this album,” Tynan says.
The big Irishman has a special relationship with American audiences now, and he considers New York “my home away from home.”
“New York is powerful and intense, and it begs you to take it on,” Tynan marvels. “If you do that and do it right, it will give you absolutely everything you want. The thing I love about New York and the states is that there are so many people who want you to do well. They will you to do well. They encourage you, and they rejoice in your success. That’s a great virtue. I think Americans are fantastic people, amazing. I think they can stand up and be proud, and hold their heads high, and if others don’t get it … well, it’s their problem. I am so grateful. And I’ll never forget that America has given me so much more than I’ll ever be able to give back.”
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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