J.C. Fischer, Marcus Collins, & John Hagen. Photo: The Texas Tenors

The Texas Tenors

The Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Marcus Collins, JC Fisher, & John Hagen, guest soloists
Larry Hanson (bass), Josh “Four Hands” Hanlon (piano), Mitch Keirsey (guitars) and Pete Generous (drums), guest instrumentalists

A review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

The evening began with the audience rising to their feet to sing our National Anthem. And no, not all the Pops Series concerts begin that way, but it was fitting for the guests who would grace the Whitney Hall stage that night.

Known as The Texas Tenors, these three gentlemen have had a rather meteoric rise to fame through the musical strata due in part to a little reality show called “America’s Got Talent.” And through the chorus of the judges saying “Yes” it was then up to the voting public to share their feelings toward the trio. Although they did not win, fourth place is rather admirable out of thousands of auditions and they have done rather well for themselves since.

Marcus Collins, referred to as the Contemporary Tenor, showed his love of music at a very early age and began to imitate artists like Garth Brooks and Freddy Mercury, and in listening to his performance of Brooks’ “The Dance,” (which included a heartfelt audience interaction), one can certainly hear the similarities. While his style certainly bends to a more pop-ish, country feel, he can show off some Broadway. We will get there, dear reader.

JC Fisher, the Romantic Tenor, developed his sound much like Mr. Collins, in college at Wichita State University. His time at the university afforded him opportunities to portray roles such as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme and Henrick in Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music. From college, he then went to Lucca, Italy to sing with the Puccini Festival before making his home back in Katy, TX with his wife and children. As to his singing style, it does absolutely have a classical tone but is not rigid in that nuance of a specific style. His sound and style was certainly evident in his performance of an oft performed Broadway power ballad. Almost there! 

The Tenor, as he was described, John Hagen, is closer to a Baritone, but he absolutely has the tonality of a tenor. Of the three, he is trained more along the lines of how an opera or Broadway singer is trained. Not only is that evident in his voice, but also in his delivery and how he holds himself of stage. While you may think that Mr. Hagen is classical, all the way, all the time, that is not the case. He blends his classical training well within the styles of the music that the group performs, most of the time. There are exceptions. 

Clearly, these gentlemen know how to sing, both individually and as a group, but where are the harmonies? Throughout the evening I was hoping that with three tenors we would hear layers of harmony that could have been reminiscent of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and/or Queen. Unfortunately, there were some flat moments and lost opportunities. Maybe it was an off night and the arrangements did not lend themselves to doing so, but it was still slightly disappointing. 

Even though I may have been expecting more, I certainly was entertained. These gentlemen covered a wide gamut of styles: sacred music such as “Amazing Grace”, and older style country such as John Denver’s “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy”, and “Country Roads”, to which I almost thought that the Oak Ridge Boys were up there performing. As the trio is from Texas you can bet that some new country music would be introduced and that came in the form of two originals by the trio: “It’s A Guy Thing” and “Boot Daddy”. I will say this about the latter song, I liked the little tinge of doo-wop.

Surprising me a bit was a beautiful rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and an interesting performance with The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley in “Loving Feeling”. Not wanting to leave out recognizing our heroes in khaki, camouflage, and blue uniforms, the tenors graced us with sing-a-longs of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American”, and “God Bless America”.

As I intimated earlier, the tenors showcased themselves in some very famous Broadway tunes, and where better can a tenor show off their range than in the very challenging music from Les Misérables, as well as South Pacific. Yes, the Tenors tackled these powerhouse musicals with guts and gusto and for the most part, nailed them. 

Mr. Hagan’s “Some Enchanted Evening” was most definitely a testament to what his voice is capable of. In the same way, both Mr. Collins and Mr. Fisher had me in tears from their tender and heart-wrenching renditions of “I Dreamed a Dream”, and “Bring Him Home. The evening closed with a hard-driven and rousing Les Misérables epilogue.

So, with all this vocalizing, how did our fantastic orchestra do? I am here to tell you, they were fantastic. When the tenors needed to take a break, we were treated to Elmer Bernstein’s Calvera’s Return, aka the theme to “The Magnificent Seven” and Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common People, aka the theme for the commercial “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner.” As to how our instrumentalists faired with the other musical selections, I think they were underutilized. The tenors’ traveling instrumentalists were great, but there were times that I think that the orchestra could have done more, but that is all in the arrangements that they were given to work from. But when they worked, they worked, just as they always do….and with shining results.

Bravi Tutti!!

The Texas Tenors

April 7, 2023

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.