Excitement is in the air this Friday, April 1, 2022 evening at the Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Toms River, NJ’s Ocean County College. Audience members are streaming in for a live concert by the Australian classical/contemporary vocal group, The Ten Tenors. The sold-out show is a benefit performance presented by the Ocean County College Foundation.
In the packed Grunin Center lobby, we speak with Ken Malagiere, Executive Director of the Ocean County College Foundation, who tells us, “This concert is an annual event. We appreciate the support of the entire community which has come together tonight to raise over $40,000 for college scholarships.”
Inside the Grunin Center auditorium, the stage is set with a grand piano and a drum kit arranged in front of several levels of risers. Ken Malagiere takes the stage to welcome the audience, joking “I am not one of The Ten Tenors!” Revealing, “Tonight’s event will support the mission of the Foundation, where last year we raised nearly one million dollars,” Malagiere thanks the OCC Foundation concert committee, the show’s sponsors, and the audience members present for making tonight’s fundraiser such a success.
The lights dim and keyboardist Jack Lipson and drummer Russ Nyberg take the stage as the sounds of synthesized music and live percussion are joined by off-stage tenor vocalizing which radiates throughout the darkened theater. The lights come up to reveal nine singers — Cameron Barclay, Grady Swithenbank, Daniel Belle, Nigel Huckle, Jared Newall, Adrian Li Donni, Michael Edwards, Boyd Owen, and Sebastian Maclaine — singing a lively rendition of “Funiculi, Funicula” in Italian.
Looking handsome in their burgundy velvet tuxedo jackets, The Tenors trade off lead vocals, switching parts and seamlessly creating a vocal symphony before ending with a flourish.
Boyd Owen, Cameron Barclay, and Sebastian Maclaine alternate singing lead as the other tenors provide beautiful supporting background vocal lines on a tender and sweet arrangement of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” The musicians sing first in English and then in Italian as they fill the stage with light pure tones that caress the listener.
One of several highlight performances of the evening features Daniel Belle and Jared Newell on an intricate arrangement of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Accompanied by the sound of brushes on drums and soft piano interludes, all of the tenors stand and move downstage, adding to the drama of the performance as they croon the coda’s vocal canon, perfectly capturing the complexity of composer Brian Wilson’s vocal harmonies.
Daniel Belle welcomes the audience asking, “Who knows how to count?” before pointing out, “The reason there are only nine vocalists on stage tonight is because one tenor is sick and couldn’t be here.” Acknowledging, “This has only happened about three times” in the 25-year history of the group,” Belle goes on to introduce a medley of songs by the Australian group, The Bee Gees.
On this appealing medley, Belle and the ensemble perform an upbeat version of “You Should Be Dancing,” a falsetto arrangement of the ballad, “How Deep is Your Love,” and a finger-pointing disco interpretation of “Night Fever.”
The Tenors conclude the medley with a sparkling cover version of “Stayin’ Alive” which has lights swirling over the audience and the performers’ energy and charisma eliciting avid applause and cheers.
Acknowledging, “We love singing about being in love and unrequited love,” Belle introduces a selection of arias including “Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Fertive Tear)” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love). Boyd Owen’s strong tenor soars with emotion and power and voices are added until all nine tenors serenade the audience, employing an effective use of dynamics which evoke “bravos” from the crowd.
A faster aria brings smiles to the faces of audience members as they recognize the theme from Lorenzo Da Ponte’s The Marriage of Figaro. One after another, the nine tenors each sing “Figaro,” creating a comical visual component on this entertaining aria that ends with enthusiastic whistles and cheers.
Belle inducts the audience as “honorary Australians,” having them follow his cheer “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” by energetically responding, “Oi, Oi, Oi!” before the ensemble launches into what Belle describes as its “tribute to Australia.” Jack Lipson is featured on piano as all nine tenors trade lead vocals on the sentimental ballad, “Still Call Australia Home.” The tenors sing with feeling before segueing into a unique and jazzy arrangement of “Waltzing Matilda” featuring Michael Edwards and company.
The sold-out crowd is encouraged to participate on an audience-friendly version of “That’s Amore.” As the familiar strains of this signature Dean Martin song fill the air, audience members instinctively sway and sing along with the infectious tune while the tenors create pure fun with their antics.
Act I ends with another highlight of the evening — the ensemble’s dynamic interpretation of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” The upbeat swing arrangement has the musicians cutting loose under flashing lights, their personalities on display on this stylish arrangement which has the audience happily cheering and applauding.
During intermission, we chat with several audience members who share their thoughts on The Ten Tenors’ performance thus far. Exclaims Dee from Manchester, “They’re fabulous — so entertaining, energetic, and talented!” Contends Sarah from Toms River, “I really like the variety of music they perform. I especially enjoyed The Bee Gees medley and the musical tribute to Australia.” Arnie from Toms River agrees, adding, “They really do provide great choices of music,” before concluding, “I’ve heard they’re going to perform ‘Unchained Melody’ in the second half and I can’t wait to hear what they do with it.”
Act II begins with percussionist Russ Nyberg kicking in on the drums as the stage fills with The Tenors who trade off singing lead on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Dressed in tuxedos with open collars, Cameron Barclay, Daniel Belle, and Michael Edwards are featured on this vocal symphony which has the crowd rocking out and clapping along on the bridge.
Boyd Owen shouts, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” and the crowd responds “Oi, Oi, Oi!” before he introduces, “Never Enough,” the signature ballad from The Greatest Showman. Daniel Belle and Cameron Barclay sing in Italian as they trade leads on this emotional arrangement which ends with Belle’s full voice softening into his falsetto and floating over the audience like a gentle caress.
Grady Swithenbank, Jared Newall, and Michael Edwards share the spotlight on the dynamic ballad, “A Thousand Years.” Then, the group launches into The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” starting off with Jack Lipson on piano and solo tenor Adrian Li Donni singing in Italian.
Jared Newall and Michael Edwards join in before the rest of the tenors, and Cameron Barclay impresses the audience as his heartfelt falsetto soars. All nine voices fill the auditorium as the men come downstage to sing together with power and passion.
The crowd cheers and Jake Newell exclaims, “‘Unchained Melody’ — what a song!” before the group continues with a medley of “breakup songs.” Beginning with Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” the medley features snippets of such well-known pop tunes as Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” and Adele’s “Hello,” before concluding with Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.”
The audience cheers for the mashup and the tenors respond with an impressive rendition of “Shallow” from A Star is Born featuring Michael Edwards on high tenor along with colleagues Adrian Li Donni and Jared Newell.
To conclude the evening’s show, Boyd Owen, Daniel Belle, and Cameron Barclay are spotlighted on an upbeat rendition of John Paul Young’s “Love is in the Air” which has the audience joyfully clapping along to its happy vibe before leaping to their feet cheering for the ensemble.
The Tenors respond by performing a trio of encore numbers. The first is the group’s rendition of “Il Libro dell’ Amore (The Book of Love).” On this a cappella number sung in Italian, the musicians exquisitely sing both the leads and background harmonies as they fill the Grunin Center with the spectacular sound of a perfectly-calibrated choir of tenor voices.
Next up is Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.” Commencing with Cameron Barclay, the others join in, each voice featured in it’s own way to create the patented Ten Tenors’ sound.
Audience members stand at the end of this crowd pleaser as they whistle, cheer, and applaud, and all of the singers and instrumentalists come downstage to take a well-deserved bow as several members of the audience shout “Encore!”
Barclay thanks the crowd both for their response and for supporting live music.
Exclaiming, “Get back on your feet! We’re going to party our way out!” The Tenors perform a high-energy version of “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing, where the men dance and clap as they sing and the crowd happily joins in with them before exiting the theater.
As audience members make their way out of the auditorium, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions of tonight’s concert. Tamara from Toms River declares, “It was a wonderful show! It was so nice to see everyone walking out smiling. That’s something we haven’t seen in a long time!” Andrea from Toms River calls The Ten Tenor’s performance “Very enjoyable,” adding, “Their dancing was a lot of fun.”
Jill from Manchester describes concert tonight as “Excellent,” explaining, “The Ten Tenors are such good showmen. The concert was so enjoyable, and I especially loved ‘Nessun Dorma.’” Pat from Manchester agrees, commenting, “I just loved it — the Bee Gees medley was great, and the singers were all very personable, as well.”
Julie from Toms River contends, “The Ten Tenors were fantastic — I just loved all of the Italian singing,” and Pat from Beachwood concurs, adding, “They were excellent! They have such personality, and I especially loved singer Daniel Belle.”
Lastly, we chat with Janice and Samuel from Seaside Heights. Recalls Janice, “We first saw The Ten Tenors when they performed here at the Grunin Center three years ago, and they were just as fabulous tonight.” Samuel agrees, adding, “I especially loved when they sang ‘Nessun Dorma’ in Italian, but their whole show was excellent,” before concluding, “These guys really know how to get you going!”
To learn more about The Ten Tenors, please go to thetentenors.com. For further information on upcoming performances at the Grunin Center — including Shawn Colvin on April 30, NYC3 on June 3, and The Bronx Wanderers on June 26 — please go to grunincenter.org.
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