I got my copies of the DVD and CD from Paul’s first PBS show. watched it on Tuesday, and now on Thursday I am running the DVD again to write this blog. The show opens with Paul singing Ireland offstage as his guests are announced – Damian McGinty, Janine DiVita, and Phil Coulter and his orchestra. Then Paul comes on stage singing the second verse of Ireland. His voice is so tremendously grand as he sings this song. This show was recorded at the State Theatre, Easton, PA, earlier this year, in the spring I think. His opening patter is very much the same as it was in the special.
He opens his patter with his message about PBS, and how great it is, and how American it is, and how much he has looked forward to doing this show for PBS. And his first two songs are great American songs. The first of them is Shenandoah, one of my favourite of the semi-classical songs, a song about the Shenandoah Valley and the Missouri River. The song was heard in the movie, How the West Was Won, though I have no idea if it was written for the movie, or if it just was used for it. It certainly gives one the feeling of the earliest pioneers who “went west” from the eastern lands Americans first settled.
The second song he sings is an upbeat rag-style piece They All Laughed, and Paul has the voice to put it forth; he even does a credible “ha-ha-ha” at the end. Phil’s orchestration is a happy sound, with a good trumpet.
Then Damian joins him on stage for their rendition of Me and My Shadow, first seen in the tour the two did together earlier this year. Damian really is growing up into the showman I believe he was meant to be. I surely do hope he reaches the stars as a new Frank Sinatra, the late singer showman that Damian reminds me of so much, right down to his blue eyes, and his stage presence. I once wanted Damian to be chosen to play Frank Sinatra in a biopic, but Damian is so much better than just to play someone else. He is a talent with no limits, I believe. Paul, Damian, and Phil were the basis of the group called Celtic Thunder, which all three left within a short time of one another, and whose leavings left me with if not less love, at least not as much enthusiasm as I had for them a couple of years. Phil has, of course, been around for a long time, he is of my age, and I have listened to and written about him previously.
The first four songs were followed in short order by the title song, This is the Moment, then Nella Fantasia, an Ennio Morricone song, and Happy Heart, with a shoutout to the late Andy Williams who made the song popular.
A song that didn’t make the cut for the PBS show comes next – the beautiful song Somewhere from West Side Story, and he sings it with his next guest, Janine DiVita, who is a performer on Broadway. Her very clear soprano is a perfect foil for Paul’s tenor.
Paul now does a chat about how he met Phil, when Phil asked him to go on a cruise when he was 21. He is talking about how amazing Phil is as a songwriter. We know from the announcement about his engagement to Dominique Coulter that that is where they met. This song of Phil’s Paul is singing is titled San Lucido, but it is one of Phil’s instrumentals from one of his many recordings, and it had a different name. I have not taken the time to find out what it was called on which recording. Phil does this occasionally when he adds words to an earlier tune for a singer. This is a lovely song by whichever title you know it. This also was not shown during the PBS show.
Following is Paul’s rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Mis. I wrote extensively about this particular song in my blog about the PBS special. But it bears repeating; this song has previously been done by Colm Wilkinson, Alfie Boe, and Hugh Jackman, and that is just in the three recordings of Les Mis I have. I know it has been done by many singers throughout the lifetime of Les Miserables on stage, and done so well by Jackman in the recent movie version. In this second and third times to hear it by Paul Byrom, it stands up beautifully in comparison with the previous singers I have mentioned. It takes a real talented tenor to carry the song, a prayer that Marius lives in Les Miserables to come back to Cosette who Jean Valjean raised in the play and movie.
Paul now talks about how he is getting married, and chats about the ordeal of buying an engagement ring for Dominique, and jokes a bit about not being able to see Phil’s expression, his future father-in-law, behind him. He apparently took Dom to Newport, RI, to propose to him. He is telling a funny story about how big the box was that held the ring, and trying to hide it in his pocket. It’s a funny story, and just a tiny bit blue. Paul is sips some water, and when Paul says they were going to do it later this year, Phil steps down and takes a sip of the water. (Paul and Dominique were married in Ireland on August 30, 2013, and are probably still honey-mooning as I write this. There are some lovely photos on-line; just google Paul Byrom and click on Paul and Dominique.)
Now there is a bit of clarity for me from something I wrote in the blog about the special. I was a bit puzzled about what Paul was talking about in reference to the Lounge Lizards. Blame that on the cuts for PBS. What it really was is that Phil wanted to write this song for Paul, and when Paul heard it, he commented that maybe Phil thought he was a lounge lizard. A bit of teasing, but it resulted in the song Rio Serenade, which did air on PBS, and Paul does a bit of dancing with it. Very cheery Latin beat, and a song that I think Paul will be known for.
Paul is telling the story about how Phil’s music is heard everywhere in Ireland, in stores, in elevators, you know, elevator-music, and the comment he got about the what they called the coultergeist. Phil immediately went and wrote a piece called Coultergeist and recorded it, and he is playing it on this recording. And making funny faces as he plays it. If you are familiar with the piece of music, you will know what I am talking about. Paul has stepped off-stage for this performance.
As I wrote in the previous blog, Phil is now introducing his own song written about his first-born child who was born with Down’s Syndrome. It is Scorn Not His Simplicity, and Paul is singing along with Phil’s piano. This is a song that brings me to tears, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. I am certain that others have sung this song because it is beautiful, but the only other musician I’ve heard do it is Ronan Tynan, late of the Irish Tenors, now living in the US. Paul’s version is so lovely and obviously heart-felt, for no doubt Paul knows the young man, or has in the past.
Again, as I wrote before, Paul is talking about how the Irish, no matter where they are, if they came from the Auld Country, their heart always belongs to Ireland, and they dream of going home. Paul is now singing the beautiful song My Land, which will be followed by Danny Boy. While My Land can be sung with heart by any Irish native (take a listen to Mary Black sing it sometime), Danny Boy is best sung by an Irish tenor. Sorry, not taking anything away from a woman singer – I just prefer to hear it sung by a genuine Irish male tenor. Paul’s version of the song will stand along side any other Irish tenor you will ever hear it sung by. He dedicates it to his 94-year-old Irish grandmother, Mary.
Paul is telling a tale about how when he and Dom moved here three years ago (2010, after he left CT), they did a lot of sight-seeing, and he is talking about the World Trade Center and the memorial. He compliments Americans for being able to stand up every time something happens to us and saying “it’ll take more than that”. He speaks about how when he saw the memorial, he sat down and put his thoughts down on paper. As he says “I am not a songwriter, I have never claimed to be a songwriter, and I will never claim to be a song-writer”. But he says somehow it worked and while he does not tell who wrote the music, he wrote this song titled “A Sunny Morn in September” as a tribute to Americans. This song did not make it to PBS. Among the main words in the song are “if I’d known what today would bring, I would have never said goodbye”. I think it should have been on the show, but of course, I didn’t make that decision.
Damian is back for a second song, one that has been around for many years from the Irish Rovers, and he brings six children with him who act out the various animals in the chorus. The Unicorn. The audience and Phil are doing the animal mimes along with the kids. Paul thanks the “children of Derry and Eastern Pennsylvania”. Damian is from Derry, Northern Ireland.
Paul’s final song for the show is All By Myself. He sings it in Italian. He has so much voice left at the end of a nearly two-hour show. He may be tired, but you could never tell it by watching him. A wonderful performer. Phil plays him off the stage to a standing ovation.
When he comes back out for another bow, he says it would be rude not to do another one wouldn’t it. And his encore comes from the first show he performed in with Celtic Thunder – Remember Me, Recuerdo Me. He, and it, have improved with age and experience.
The DVD includes a bonus show of four Christmas songs from his Christmas show. The songs include Panis Angelicus, Silent Night which he shares with Janine DiVita, Happy Holidays, and O Holy Night.
Paul writes in one of his own blogs about how he trod the streets of New York trying to find an agent, someone to help him record, and all the trials and tribulations of a man trying to start a career as a solo musician. He tells about how he pretty much went through his savings, and how Dominique was there with him all the way, even through some pretty rocky times. And he tells about how he finally contacted the Internet site Kickstarter, and they worked with him to find ways of getting money to meet obligations and necessities for his career. He even spoke about running out of money during the making of this special, and a special angel popped up in Canada to give him the necessary amount needed to complete the show. You can read this blog on his official Paul Byrom website.
He salutes the supporters from Kickstarter by listing all of their names on the box that holds this DVD. He also credits the musicians from Phil’s band, and many of the people who worked on the making of this show and DVD. There are a couple of recognizable names in the listings. David Cooke is listed among the arrangers (arrangements), who has worked with Phil Coulter for many years, and who was involved with CT for a number of years, and Insurance is listed as Julie Coulter who must be part of that family – at least it is a recognizable name. The CD does not include every song on the DVD, but the CD was released in 2011, and was the basis for the making of the show and DVD.
We love you, Paul Byrom, and hope to hear much, much more from you and from Damian McGinty, and of course, always, Phil Coulter.