CEDAR FALLS -The Texas Tenors, two thirds of whom are native Iowans, came to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center last weekend, and wowed sell-out crowds with their unique mix of opera and country. That blend gave them fame and fortune on "America's Got Talent" and worked in the Cedar Valley just as well.
The WCF Symphony handily played several cowboy and western-themed orchestral pieces, including the Lone Ranger - oops, I mean the "William Tell Overture - but the large crowd came for the three black-hatted "cowboys."
Make no mistake: these handsome tenors sing as good as they look. John Hagen, JC Fisher and Marcus Collins, wowed listeners with Hagen's vocal arrangements of familiar songs from both the country and opera worlds. Hagen (a UNI School of Music alum and Waverly native) provides the most authentically operatic voice, followed closely by Fisher, then Collins, with his pleasing pop vocal stylings.
So opera and country music go together like scotch and tonic, right? And haven't they sold out their opera training to make serious coin on their TV-induced fame? I'd give them a pass on that.
After all, it's the Grand Old Opry that put Nashville on the map, not the Grand Old Country.
Both the Texas Tenors and the WCF Symphony seek that fine line where they attract listeners from all musical demographics. Those that adapt survive, and they know it.
The group's debut CD became No. 1 on country music AND opera best-selling lists, appealing to both brows, high and low.
Saturday night they offered "Country Roads Medley," "God Bless the USA" and "Country Boy" for country fans, and Puccini's "Nessun Dorma" and "O Sole Mio" for opera buffs. For good measure, they sang gospel tunes, including a fine rendition of "Amazing Grace" using lyrics from "Danny Boy." They ended with "My Way," pure cheddar, but a crowd-pleaser.
Only two semi-sweet notes: the Great Hall was filled with smoke all night to evoke a nightclub atmosphere, but it didn't work. Indoor smoke only evokes a need to dial 911. And they brought up a woman from the audience to woo with "Because," a love song. It was funny for a few seconds, then just seemed silly.
I kept hoping for a few fresh songs not on their CD, or a memorable a cappella encore, but no such luck.
Still, the group's unique light vocal blendings brought musical pleasures that satisfied fans in the packed Great Hall. No one objects to that kind of selling out.