Bruce Sherman, executive director of the fledgling Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center, had a feeling that the first fundraising effort featuring the “Four Tenors” would receive a warm reception at the UBS Atrium last Sunday.
The tenors had never sung together before the concert.
“No one knows what it’s like to put together a concert like this in just two weeks time,” said Sherman, who had to scramble for replacements after the original performer, Metropolitan Opera soprano Maureen O’Flynn, had to cancel after getting a gig in Germany. “It was a difficult endeavor, with the Four Tenors singing together for the first time. There were so many obstacles, but everything came together so beautifully.”
Two hundred seventy-five people showed up to enjoy the show, and ended up giving at least eight standing ovations for the performances.
“Some people told me it was one of the most enjoyable concerts of their lives,” Sherman said, “and that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Sherman said, “Because I knew the talent, I knew what they were capable of, but when it’s put together so quickly, you never really know. But they acted like they’ve been singing together all their lives. It was both a surprise and a blessing.”
The Four Tenors, namely William Burden, Carlo Scibelli, Derek Taylor and Dongwon Shin, marveled everyone in attendance.
“They were fantastic,” said Weehawken resident Maggie Raywood. “Everyone was dazzled by them. Each one was so unique, not only vocally, but they’re characterizations were great. They were all such distinct artists, but yet they blended so beautifully. They were having a tremendous amount of fun and were so personable.”
For Raywood, who is an opera fanatic, it was a chance to see opera singers perform close up. Usually, she’s seated far away from the performance in concert halls.
“It was very exciting, because the people who weren’t opera fans are now intrigued by it,” Raywood said. “You could feel the vibration of their voices and see their faces. It was an experience that not a lot of people get to have. And you could feel their reactions. It was wonderful.”
Weehawken resident Hamilton Leach is not an opera buff, but came away impressed as well.
“It was a sensational experience,” Leach said. “Not that I’m a fine connoisseur of operatic music, but this was wonderful. The quality of their voices and the level of their enthusiasm were amazing. The level of emotion in the room was incredible. Everyone was completely engaged by their voices. It was quite impressive and almost surreal.”
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner also came away impressed. “It was spectacular,” Turner said. “Everyone was awestruck. It was truly a great way to kick off the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center’s fundraising efforts. Everyone had a wonderful evening. I’m looking forward to many more successful events.”
The concert was the first to help raise funds to eventually build a performing arts center along the Hudson River waterfront in Weehawken. The HRPAC held an outdoor concert last August featuring Latin jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, as well as free monthly lunchtime concerts at the UBS Atrium.
The Four Tenors was the first true fundraiser. Considering the late cancellation and rescheduling, everything seemed to work out very well.
“I knew, from my first Four Tenors concert five years ago, the excitement that results from putting four exceptionally talented operatic tenors together,” Sherman said. “But it’s hard to convince others until they actually have experienced it for themselves. What occurred in the atrium on Sunday was a very rare occasion, where people are affected viscerally, to their core, by a cultural and artistic experience.”
Added Sherman, “We have proven that something unique and very special can happen here in Weehawken and Hudson County, something that we can be very proud of and which will be a tremendous resource to the area.” The next UBS Atrium concert will take place Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 12:30 p.m., when the Manhattan Brass Quartet will perform. There will be a holiday flavor to the performance and the concert is once again free to the general public.
However, this next concert will be an added bonus, because the Manhattan Brass Quartet is scheduled to appear at Weehawken High School earlier that day to work and perform with the students of the Weehawken band.
“That’s another aspect that we’re committed to,” Sherman said. “We want the artists to interact with the students. As time goes on, we plan on bringing other educational programs in to compliment what we’re doing with the HRPAC.”