On March 15th, David O’Leary, an Irish tenor – and former Winged Foot Golf Club caddy – is making his official debut with “A St. Patrick’s Celebration Concert” at Merkin Concert Hall. This week, The Irish Echo newspaper named Mr. O’Leary one of its Top 40 Under 40 for 2010.
Local music aficionados can hear Mr. O’Leary singing now with Larchmont’s bonnie Church of St. Augustine’s choir Sundays at noon Mass.
David O’Leary, 25, hails from Ireland’s County Wexford, but now lives in Westchester County and calls New Rochelle and Larchmont his home as he tees off his singing career.
When Irish eyes are smiling,
8 p.m. March 15, 2010
Merkin Concert Hall
129 West 67th Street
New York, New York 10023
Box Office: 212-501-3330
Mr. O’Leary has been guest soloist for an event honoring President Clinton. He’s sung the National Anthem for the New York Giants and New York Mets. But his St. Patty’s Day concert marks the first performance he himself has put together. “This is me, launching myself onto the concert platform,” he explained. “Because I don’t have an agent or manager, I’m doing all this entirely.”
March 15th features Irish airs and melodies such as “Danny Boy” and “My Lagan Love.” He’ll be joined by Morgan Crowley, a counter-tenor and baritone from West End’s “Chicago” along with members of Westchester Emerald Society Pipe Band, a guest pianist, violinist and cellist.
Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.
Westchester has been this industrious lad’s, er, putting green since early mornings caddying at Winged Foot Golf Club during three summers starting in 2006. He lived first in Pelham, then Harrison and New Rochelle.
Mr. O’Leary got here the old-fashioned Irish way. “Well, I’m a big golf fan,” he said. “And my uncle, who is in Ireland, plays golf. So he knew somebody through his golf who knew somebody who was able to get me a job. I got my visa and came over and just loved the life. I loved the work.”
What was it about the course that captured his heart? “More importantly, I was able to get great singing lessons in the city. So that was a big factor in me coming back every summer since then, you know?”
In the lilt of Irish laughter
Between summers toting golf bags along Mamaroneck’s shamrock greens, Mr. O’Leary returned to Ireland and pursued a double major in French and law. “So then I did an extra year of law to get another law degree, on top of that, in 2008.” So, he’s an attorney in Ireland? “Um, I haven’t taken the exam. But I could take the exam,” he said.
Why wasn’t singing part of university? “I just wanted to make sure that if the singing didn’t work for whatever reason, that I had a good backup plan, you know? That was advice from my parents that I was very aware of,” he said. “That no matter how good you are, for a lot of singers, things just don’t work out.
“So I wanted to have a good education behind me.”
“And then go straight into it.”
You can hear the angels sing.
When Mr. O’Leary came over again in 2009, “I was very keen to keep singing in front of audiences, as opposed to just going for lessons. So I rang up the churches in the Westchester area.”
St. Augustine’s choir takes July and August off, so Mr. O’Leary sang at the 10:30 Mass with the teenage replacement organist. September, Mr. O’Leary was invited to join.
Choir director Michael Ward has stepped in to help when the singer has needed an accompanist or rides to and from church and singing dates.
“I was a struggling musician in England when I was David’s age,” said Mr. Ward. “And now I see David coming from Ireland in a similar situation and I just want to be of help.”
Mr. Ward received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his “additional music” compositions for “Angels in America” on Broadway, and has set to music over 160 hymns. “David’s prospects are very good,” he gauges. “He has a beautiful Irish tenor voice. “
When Irish hearts are happy,
All the world seems bright and gay.
As Mr. O’Leary works at building his opportunities (he distributed 100 flyers about his concert to Irish establishments and contacts), he’s grateful for help he receives from his home base.
“I have loads of family in Ireland and I miss it terribly,” he said. “But when I’m at home I miss here terribly. I’ll need to have time in the city, but this is where I want to settle.”
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.
During a choir rehearsal break, Mr. O’Leary leans against a railing overlooking empty church pews stretching below. About his March 15th performance he said, “Americans are very encouraging. I’ve been welcomed with open arms by everyone here.” Praying for Irish luck as well, he added, “I just need that to transfer to the stage.”
Katherine Ann Samon, the business editor at Larchmont Gazette, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day through the quarter-Irish of her son David. Learn more about her at www.katherineannsamon.com