MERCED, CA — When the historic Merced Theatre reopened in 2012 after a major restoration, one of the goals was to provide a steady stream of world class entertainment for this emerging university town and the surrounding rural communities.
There’s no doubt the venue has found success doing just that — from Kenny G to Kenny Rogers, and from the New Shanghai Circus to Mariachi Sol de Mexico.
But every once in a while, it seems, the timing of a big show couldn’t be more perfect.
It happened in December of 2015 when LeAnn Rimes brought her angelic voice to town for a Christmas concert.
And it’s poised to happen again this Saturday, June 29, when The Texas Tenors bring their rousing, inspirational, and patriotic show to Merced just days before the Fourth of July, and the group’s appearance at the 2019 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in front of tens of thousands of people.
Nearby Atwater may have its daylong, hometown U.S.A. celebration, but Merced’s got The Texas Tenors right from the start.
The Texas Tenors are listed among the top 50 acts in the entire world.
Since appearing on NBC’s primetime show America’s Got Talent in 2009, the “three men with a dream” — Marcus Collins, JC Fisher and John Hagen — have become the most successful music group in AGT history. They have released four studio albums, two PBS Specials, multiple singles and even a children’s book that have earned them impressive recognition, including three Emmy Awards and the Gelett Burgess Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.
Their most recent albums “Rise” in 2017 and “A Collection of Broadway and American Classics” in 2018, both debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Chart.
For a preview of the Merced show, the Times was able to connect with tenor Marcus Collins by phone from his place in Waxahachie, Texas, just south of Dallas.
“We sing everything from country to pop, Broadway to classical, and patriotic music,” Collin said, “but our main focus is giving people an experience. There is a lot of humor in the show. They get to know us. It’s really an uplifting, positive show. It’s definitely two hours of entertainment — not political, not escapism. Just pure entertainment. We hope everybody will be humming the tunes in a happy, uplifting state.”
Expect the show to start out with an incredible rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, and then the hits, and incredible arrangements, will keep coming. There will be songs from West Side Story, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera. There’s a John Denver medley, and endearing original songs like “Rise.”
And, of course, “You Raise Me Up,” “God Bless America,” and yes, “God Bless The U.S.A.”
The Texas Tenors appear with a four-piece band, and all the supplemental music is fully orchestrated. In other words, every song has a symphonic presentation. A video presentation also honors the nation’s first responders and emergency workers.
“We are all different types of tenors,” Collins said. “I’m more of a pop tenor. John is classically trained, but he also crosses over into different genres. And JC grew up singing country music, but he trained classically in college as well. So all three of us are different tenors, but each one of us brings something unique to the show. Together, I think there is something for everyone.”
The trio is celebrating 10 years together, and their current tour is taking them all across America. While the “10th Anniversary Tour” is something special to the singers, Collins admitted they are pretty much always on a non-stop tour.
Their swing through California this week begins Thursday in Seal Beach at the L.W. Amphitheater, and then Friday in Studio City at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s. The Saturday show in Merced starts at 8 p.m. After that, The Texas Tenors will be heading directly to Boston for one of this country’s largest and oldest public Fourth-of-July events, and one of the biggest annual outdoor concerts anywhere in the world.
Though the group has visited Central Valley towns such as Modesto, Stockton and Fresno in the past, Collins said they have never been to Merced.
Nevertheless, their story of endurance and perseverance is sure to resonate from the same stage where Merced Mayor Mike Murphy gave his motivational “City On The Rise” speech.
Despite their great vocal talents and solid education, it wasn’t that long ago when The Texas Tenors were three blue-collar guys living paycheck to paycheck, and just getting by the best they could. Two of them met while working construction.
“It’s important that we tell our story,” Collins said. “It’s important that people know that we are three friends. We are just like everyone else. We wanted to support our families, and make a living. We just happened to audition for America’s Got Talent at a perfect time. They were ready for a group like ours, and they put us through so that America got to vote for us. And America voted us into the finals. …
“When we put out a new album, we produce the music ourselves. We select the songs ourselves. John arranges the vocals. It comes straight from us. There is no label. There is no fake production company. There’s no Simon Cowell behind it. … We are very proud of that. I think it speaks to the American dream. It speaks to people relying on themselves and their faith, and their inner passion, and their talent. And then taking all that and building a business from nothing. …
“I think that resonates with people, and we talk about that all the time. It’s important to talk about that. Especially when people are struggling, and people are having issues at home or losing their jobs. Farmers having issues … There is so much going on. … And it’s also important to know that it is possible to be lifted up by yourself and by others as well … It’s always good to reach out to a neighbor, and help one another to get through these times. We are in this together. It’s the American dream, it’s not my dream. It’s our dream.”
Collins points out The Texas Tenors gives back to many communities by working with a variety of charity organizations including Shriners, Project Angel Food, Habitat for Humanity and Homes For Our Troops.
“We appreciate organizations that make sure most of every dollar goes to the actual implementation of what they do. … Homes For Our Troops uses 98 cents on every dollar. They retrofit homes so that vets can get to their front door. They do it before they arrive home. It’s little things like that.”
On a small side note …
Collins made a point to express how The Texas Tenors always puts shows “together ourselves.”
This reporter noted a preference for the group’s exceptional, haunting version of “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.
“We used to do that song in the show but we took it off the list,” he said.
Then, surprisingly, Collins added: “But if you come to the show, we’ll put that song back in!
So there’s a good chance The Texas Tenors perform “Wild Horses.”
Collins said the Stones actually listened to the Tenors’ version and gave their seal of approval.
“The song speaks to people in different ways. … That’s what’s great about music. Everybody can interpret a song the way they want. We are very true to the beauty and simplicity of that melody. It’s such a beautiful melody. We are very respectful of the music we sing. This version of ‘Wild Horses’ is no exception.”
IF YOU GO:
Tickets are available online at: mercedtheatre.org., or at the Box Office, open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., 301 W. Main Street in downtown Merced. Call 381-0500.