3 Redneck Tenors: Theses good ol’ boys can sing!

Friday, February 24, 2017

St. Lucie Voice News, February 24, 2017
By Shelley Koppel, Staff Writer

Those mullet-wearing, good old boys with the voices of angels are back at the Lyric Theatre. 3 Redneck Tenors, perennial favorites at the theater, return Feb. 24-25 for three shows.

If you are not familiar with them, the tenors are a parody of all the oh-so-serious tenor groups that have proliferated over the years. They take their singing seriously, but very little else. Each is operatically- or classically-trained and has taken the solo stage many times. Founder and writer Matthew Lord has performed with the San Francisco Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago; Blake Davidson has performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center; and newcomer Jonathan Fruge has sung with the New York City Chamber Orchestra and in many musical theater productions.

It’s always good to catch up with Lord, and we spoke recently about the new show, “Shut Up and Sing.”

“John Loesser (the Lyric’s artistic director) came up with the title,” Lord said. “We have a new high tenor, Jonathan Fruge. He’s brilliant and it’s the best singing the group has ever done. The first half is the ‘Best of Redneck,’ in front of the trailer. The second half, we’re in full tux and tails and there’s more serious music. The singing is more interactive with the audience and there’s stand- up comedy.”
Stand-up comedy? Well, bless their singing hearts. Turns out Lord started out as a stand-up comedian.

“There are more people yelling at me that have never yelled before in an audience” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I take a boo as well as I take a cheer. I love getting booed. It’s sort of a Don Rickles thing. It means they’re feeling comfortable and having a good time. I threaten my audiences that if they get up and leave, I’ll follow them and do the show.”

Several days before the shows, the boys will get serious with some high school students. They will be conducting a master class at Martin County High School with choir students from that school, as well as Jensen Beach and South Fork high schools. For two afternoons, several vocalists will perform a prepared piece and receive instruction, constructive criticism and correction to improve the quality of the piece.
For many of the students, this is wonderful preparation for festivals or college auditions. Some of the participants may be selected to perform with the tenors on the Lyric stage. This master class and one with Nestor Torres and band students in March are part of the Lyric’s Arts & Education Outreach Initiative.

Kia Fontaine, the Lyric’s executive director, said that the master classes benefit the community.

“It is very exciting to be able to bring master class for singers to Martin County high schools,” she said. “We want to offer more opportunities for students to participate in a process where an artist master can provide advice and suggestions.

“Whether the student is a spectator or performing participant, master classes allow the artists to share how they came to be where they are and give students a better understanding of what it takes to become an artist, It is our role to create experiences to provide a better understanding of the arts and the contributions the arts provide to us as individuals and as a community.”

For Matt Lord, education is part of their mission statement. They do master classes if there is time in the schedule.

“We work with voice students and choirs,” he said. “We critique and help. We’re not harsh. It’s not my job to break their dreams. We work with breathing and technique, suggest songs and talk about auditions. We’re not there to discourage them if it’s something they have to do. The worst thing is to wake up at 50 and wish you had given it a shot. It’s a tough life. There are really talented people who never get a break. If your goal is to be famous, it’s not for you. There are no shortcuts.”

Lord said that connecting with the audience is key.

“The biggest compliment we get is that they laugh as hard as they like the singing,” he said. “They feel we give a damn that they’re in the audience.”

3 Redneck Tenors come to the Lyric Theatre, 59 SW Flagler Ave., Stuart, Feb. 24-25 for three shows. Tickets are $45. Call the box office at 772-286-7827 or order online at www.lyrictheatre.com.