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As a matter of fact, they are called the Three Triangle Tenors. And why not? The very word “triangle” suggests that number, and tenors these days tend to come in sets of three. George Deaton, Wade Henderson, and Timothy Sparks, heldentenors all, were powerfully supported by celebrated pianist Thomas Warburton on a perfect late summer Sunday afternoon.
Hosted by Highland United Methodist Church, the program could hardly have been created for a more worthy cause. The printed program advised that this was “A Benefit Concert for Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network.” Further, “WIHN’s mission…is to provide shelter, meals, case management and educational services to homeless families…” According to the testimony of beneficiaries and volunteers, that mission is indeed ably filled. (The Deatons are founding members of the WIHN Board of Trustees.)
The lengthy program comprised no fewer than twenty-one numbers, pleasingly covering the spectrum from heavy to light. Opening were three warhorses of the tenor repertory. Deaton began with Franck’s “Panis Angelicus,” Henderson followed with Bizet’s “Agnus Dei,” and Sparks came on with the “Ave Maria” of Bach-Gounod. The second set then lightened the mood. Henderson’s somewhat decorated version of “Shenandoah” preceded Sparks’ straight treatment of Stephen Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.” After Deaton’s traditional “I Gave My Love a Cherry,” the enthusiastic audience cheered all three singers as they collaborated on “Danny Boy.”
Accompanist Warburton is due special praise. Not only did he master all of the vocal numbers, but he also performed solo works in his own right. Most satisfying was his reading of two Op. 32 Preludes from Rachmaninoff, generally peaceful in B, and rather stormy in the more familiar G-sharp minor.
Each singer offered a familiar show tune. They again collaborated on “Maria” from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Here they engaged in a bit of clowning while remaining faithful to the musical lines. Each also had his turn at an operatic aria. Deaton’s offering was the “Flower Song” from Bizet’s Carmen. As with all of his numbers, his fine performances and stage presence were enhanced by his having committed all the works to memory. Sparks’ near flawless voice and natural showmanship came forth in the oft-heard “Rodolfo’s Aria” from Puccini’s La Bohème. Henderson was at his dramatic best as he intoned “Vesti la giubba” in expressively mournful fashion from I Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.
The audience showed obvious appreciation for the closing numbers by the Three Tenors working in tandem (with the inevitable clowning generated by “O sole mio”). That same audience demanded an encore. They were treated to yet another inevitability: At some point in the program, any set of three highly skilled tenors is certain to include the obligatory “nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot.
Midway through the afternoon the collection plates were passed around. If the audience members were as generous with their purses as they were with their applause, then the Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network will be in for a wonderful windfall.