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Partners in harmony

Ronan Tynan of The Irish Tenors knows the importance of holiday music.

"I suppose it's the truth of Christmas songs, the warmth that's portrayed within the lyric that makes them so appealing," he said. "And of course, it's the birth of Christ and the rejoicing of that. Plus, Christmas is a wonderful time for young and old. It's a festive occasion."

The Irish Tenors _ Anthony Kearns, Finbar Wright and Tynan _ kick off a 19-city Christmas Spectacular tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Saturday. Led by their conductor James Kavanagh and accompanied by a 47-piece orchestra, the Irish vocal group will perform holiday favorites such as Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy, I'll Be Home For Christmas, as well as classics such as The Lord's Prayer and America the Beautiful.

Songs will be performed solo, in duo and as three-part harmonies. "For instance, we're doing Little Drummer Boy as a duet between myself and Finbar," Tynan said in a phone interview from New York. "I'm singing a Jamaican-style rhythm to Mary's Boy Child. Finbar sings How Great Thou Art. Anthony sings Our Father."

The Tenors' sixth album, We Three Kings, was recorded in The Rudolfinum, Prague, with the famed 55-piece Czech National Orchestra, while the vocals were recorded at Tony Bennett's studio in New Jersey. The album will be available exclusively at The Irish Tenors' concerts and at their Web site at www.theirishtenors.com.

"We really tried this time to bring the voices more in unison," he said. "When we did our trios, we wanted to get the quality of one voice in three. Also, we wanted to get the beauty of two people together. And we have our own solos, too."

Tynan, 41, has just released his second solo recording, The Impossible Dream (Jive Records), featuring guests N'Sync, The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. PBS will air an accompanying TV special after Thanksgiving.

Tynan's own life is an inspiration. Born with deformities in both legs, he eventually had to undergo amputation at age 20. Within a year, however, he became a champion para-athlete and began to study sports medicine. He earned his medical degree from Trinity College.

At age 33, as a medical intern, he took his first singing lessons. He often sang at home with his father. He devoted himself to music, and won a televised BBC Irish competition, Go For It. One year later, he won the International Operatic Singing Competition in Maumarde, France, then he auditioned for the Royal Opera and was accepted.

He established his medical practice, but soon had to focus on his skyrocketing music career, becoming an original member of The Irish Tenors in 1998. He eventually recorded a solo CD and Barbara Walters featured him on ABC-TV's 20/20. He also wrote his autobiography, Halfway Home, in 2001. Tynan will share more of his story on his holiday PBS special, The Impossible Dream.

Tynan and The Irish Tenors embrace Christmas traditions from around the world.

"I don't think there's a great bit of difference around the world. I think every country has similar themes in their Christmas songs," he said.

"I think it's very universal."

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