When you think of the perfect holiday album, what comes to mind first? Barbra Streisand? Chanticleer? I’m guessing most people wouldn’t imagine that a bounty hunter/truck driver would make any kind of a Christmas CD (except for perhaps a parody)! Tenor Carl Tanner originally pursued driving 18-wheelers and tracking down criminals, but the unconventional early days of his career didn’t stop him from eventually starring in operas around the globe on stages like La Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin. Tanner most often performs verismo roles such as Canio in Pagliacci and the eponymous character in Verdi’s Otello. Recently he decided to pursue a different side of his artistry with a holiday album entitled “Hear The Angel Voices.” His interpretations of these favorite songs and carols have earned him spots on numerous national television performances (including the lighting of the White House Christmas tree for the former President of the United States). But each year he feels happiest when he sings “O Holy Night” in his home church on Christmas Eve – for free. Carl joined us to share his thoughts about the holidays and this special recording.
CS: What inspired you to record a Christmas album?
CT: I grew up loving sacred music. Church music played an import role in my life as a musician and continues to do so. During the month of December my mother would always have Christmas music playing in our home, and ever since I started studying music it was a dream of mine to record a Christmas album. My parents never really go to hear me sing. I decided that my first professional recording would be a Christmas Cd dedicated to the memory of my parents.
CS: What makes Christmas special to you?
CT: My parents didn’t have much to spend on Christmas for four boys, but we always felt loved. The music is what makes this time of year special for me. My favorites are Nat King Cole singing the “The Christmas Song” and Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “little drummer boy.” It doesn’t get any better than this! My favorite Christmas memory is one of the few times it snowed (very lightly) at my home on Christmas Eve. My parents and I stood on our little front porch late at night watching the snowfall while listening to “Silent night”. Everything was quiet and peaceful, and in that moment everything was right in my world.
CS: How did you choose the selections on this album?
The pieces I chose for “Hear the Angel Voices are mostly ones that I grew up singing. “Christmas Time is Here” was written for me by a dear friend and amazing composer, Katherine Chrishon. Of course I have to say that “O Holy Night” is the one that started it all! It’s one of the first pieces of music I learned to sing, and so holds a very special place in my heart.
CS: You’re known for giving back during the holidays. Could you tell us how you use your extraordinary gifts to help others?
I love sharing what I have and what I have been given. Not only at Christmas time, but throughout the year I am approached by numerous organizations and houses of worship who ask me if I would sing for them. When I have free time, I’m more than willing to share my gift. I also give a generous portion of the profits of ” Hear The Angel Voices” away each year to different charities. I have also donated thousands of CDs to organizations; they sell the albums to raise money for their cause, and that brings me so much joy.
CS: Do you feel differently when you’re singing this repertoire as opposed to operas?
CT: I DO feel differently singing this music as opposed to when I’m singing opera. I truly enjoy singing opera, and I have been singing professionally for over 26 years. Opera will always be special in my life. That said, when I sing spiritual and sacred music (especially Christmas music) I am transformed. This music touches my soul like no other!
CS: How do you feel your recording is different from other Christmas albums? Did you draw inspiration from any classic CDs of the past?
CT: Many artists and their recordings inspire me. Pavarotti’s “O Holy Night,” “Christmas with Placido Domingo” and “Christmas With Leontyne Price” are still great inspirations to me, but I love all types of Christmas music and different styles from Jazz to Rock. On “Hear The Angel Voices,” one of my selections, The “Lord’s Prayer” was my mom’s favorite hymn, but she never got to hear me sing it. Against the suggestion of several people in the business I kept it on the Cd. That track now gets thousands of radio plays each year!
“Hear The Angel Voices” is available online.