Dave oleary 4

O’Leary’s heart is on operatic stage

David O'Leary's debut CD includes Elvis's "Falling in Love" and his personal favorite "Black is the Color."

By Colleen Taylor

Irish America has recently experienced an Irish tenor revival. Since the original Irish Tenors first wowed American audiences back in the 1990s, many Irish and Irish-American classical singers have made New York their home base. Within the last five years in particular, more and more tenors have chosen the Irish music world as their specialized niche. Emmett O’Hanlon, for instance, is a young classical singer (and native New Yorker) who began a solo career just this year, much to my excitement. He offers the perfect combination of rigorous classical training and an ear for popular and Irish music, fusing an incredible voice with emotive expression. And I’m not the only one he’s impressing—this is one classical Irish singer on the up. Similarly, the Celtic Tenors, after gaining solid footing in the States a few years back, have gone on to make a successful international career out of their half-classical, half-Irish repertoire. Since first exciting fans in New York, they have played crowds from Shanghai to Amsterdam. They even have a new album out called “Timeless.” Irish America is clearly still romanced by the classical interpretation of their favorite Irish folk songs.

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Wexford native David O’Leary marks the latest tenor to make his way to New York City in the hopes of a solo music career. After starting to sing 14 or 15 years ago, the singer has trained privately in a triangle of cities: London, Dublin and New York. But he’s been a busy man too, attending law school, and teaching French in Canada and Ireland all the while continuing his classical training. Seven years ago, he made his way to New York to work at the U.S. Open for golf, and decided to stay to pursue his artistic ambitions. Now, his focus is solely on the music.

O’Leary recently released his debut album, “Going Home.” He wanted the album to be refined but accessible. “When I think of classical music and crossover, you want to reach out to as broad an audience as possible, because it can seem quite stuffy,” he said. O’Leary tried to dispel such stuffiness with some of his favorite Irish ballads and pop songs, including his all-time favorite song “Black is the Color,” and Elvis’s “Falling in Love.” He also said with a laugh that he couldn’t make an Irish tenor album without “Danny Boy,” so that’s on the record too. He found his first time in the studio to be interesting and he’s happy with the final product: “It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of it,” he told me.

The singer’s influences are various, despite his passion for Broadway and classical music. He grew up listening to everything from Christy Moore to U2. Singing ran in the family, his maternal grandmother having been asked to study opera herself as a young woman. At the end of the day, however, O’Leary’s heart lies with the operatic stage. His dream is to play Jean Valjean of “Les Miserables” every night of the week.

David O’Leary feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in New York City. He is thankful to all the Americans who have helped to give him a leg up in the States. O’Leary definitely made a smart choice: he picked the hub of Irish tenorism to start his career. When the Irish Tenors fist appeared on PBS in 1998, it wasn’t just a one-time fad. This is a crossover genre that keeps on giving.

Find out more about David O’Leary and his new album “Going Home” at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/davidoleary1

Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column each week in the Irish Echo.