Thursday, July 1, 2010

So how does an international recording artist who has performed on stages from Dublin to Broadway and had his work included on a compilation CD titled “Arias,” with artists Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman and Luciano Pavorotti end up scheduling a tour that goes from New York to China to Denison, Iowa? Well for Irish tenor, Michael Londra, his stomach played a part in that decision.

“I have been to Denison once before, and I have had this kind of fantasy of Middle America for some time,” Londra said. “This middle American diner, right by the theater there, I wanted to know about all these exotic drinks you had, all these soda pops and things were alien to me. It makes me think of something consoling and soothing about Middle America.”

This tongue-in-cheek fascination, however, was really derived from a visit to Denison last year, and the idea to perform there came naturally after the Wexford, Ireland, native (who now gets his bills mailed to Chicago, Ill.) had performed in 48 other states, but never in Iowa.

That will all change as Londra will be performing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 15, at the Donna Reed Theater in Denison.

“The closest I think I have performed was South Dakota, up in Mitchell at the Corn Palace,” Londra added. “That was a really huge venue. It was me, LeAnn Rimes and another country artist. It was really good fun.”

And fun is exactly what Londra wants the audience to experience at his shows. But don’t jump to any conclusions about his genre of choice based on the names of his fellow performers.

His musical style is an eclectic mix that has evolved from a lifetime love of all different types of music.

Wexford, his hometown, is known for the annual Wexford Festival Opera, which is where Londra’s classical roots come into play. But an enthrallment with the traditional Irish folk music, often heard in the local pubs, was what captured Londra’s heart.

“My favorite is traditional music that people can sing along to,” he said. “I was always in trouble with my opera teachers. They didn’t want me to be learning that style of singing.”

The star of Broadway’s “Riverdance” will bring that traditional Celtic energy and excitement to his Iowa tour, “A Celtic Summer With Michael Londra.” His show will feature original and traditional songs and include a four-piece Irish band and world-class Irish dancers.

“Where else can you sob your heart out and do a jig in the same night? Good music, no matter how sad, should bring a smile to your heart,” says Londra. “Irish music, Celtic music does that, and I hope to bring that feeling to my Iowa audiences this summer.”

The real fun comes through the participation that Londra insists come from his audiences.

“I do expect a lot of crowd participation. Singing is required,” he said.

“However, I won’t ask anyone to dance,” he joked.

This sense of humor and fun is something that Londra says is typical of Irish performers.

“You won’t find anybody with too big of egos. My mother would give me a thick ear if I got too big a head,” he said with a laugh.

But being grounded in reality has its bonuses as well, as Londra uses his talents and gifts to give back as spokesman for Concern Worldwide.

The mission of this humanitarian organization is to eliminate poverty in developing countries. In addition to being their spokesman, Londra regularly donates proceeds from the sales of his CDs to the organization.

“Concern’s work and dedication gives me focus, and it’s something that’s vital for me to share when I tour and perform,” he said.

Londra has said that he has one album done that hopefully will be released in the fall and that proceeds from his upcoming works will include more donations to Concern Worldwide.

After performing classical music with a symphony orchestra in Beijing, China, Londra returns to the states for some dates a little closer to his Chicago address.

“I am going to be singing classical and then two weeks later singing Irish Folk songs,” he said.

But Londra isn’t just settling back on what he knows when he approaches his latest recording ventures. He is also continuing to explore and expand on his style and will be creating something new for future audiences.

“I am also recording something different this year,” he said, “something with a country kind of feel. I am going to mix in some of my Celtic music. There are a lot of similarities with the Celtic and the country.”

After years of working between classical and folk genres, Londra should have no trouble bringing distinctiveness to this new blend of styles. Besides, he seems to enjoy being a man between two worlds, in so many different ways.

“I am always kind of getting in trouble for being in the middle of two genres,” he said. “I don’t apologize for that.”

 In addition to the Donna Reed Theater, Londra will make stops at the Sami Bedell Center for the Performing Arts in Spirit Lake on July 16, and at the Sondheim Center at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on July 18.