Finbar Wright

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Finbar Wright
Finbar Wright, NYC 2006
Background information
Birth name Edward Finbar Wright
Born (1957-09-26) 26 September 1957 (age 61)
Origin Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Genres Pop, Jazz, Spanish
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, musician, poet
Years active 1990–present
Labels Sony BMG, Ritz, Dara
Associated acts The Irish Tenors
Notable instruments
Piano, cello, pipe organ

Edward Finbar Wright (born 26 September 1957), known popularly as Finbar Wright,[1] is a popular music singer, songwriter,[2] and poet from County Cork, Ireland.

Finbar Wright is a classically trained tenor[3] who emerged during the 1990s in Ireland and has become one of that country's "most popular singers",[4] concentrating on romantic, jazz and pop standards for the adult contemporary audience. Referred to as one of Ireland's great romantic singers,[5][6][7] his first album, Because in 1991 reached the top of the Irish music charts. Wright's second recording, "Whatever You Believe", also reached the top of the Irish charts with triple platinum certification and produced the number 1 hit single, Whatever You Believe, now a Christmas favourite in Ireland. His subsequent recordings have also received gold and/or platinum status.[8]

The two-time IRMA "Male Entertainer of the Year" and BBC Cardiff "Singer of the World"[9] is best known outside of Europe as one of the Irish Tenors from their PBS specials and recordings.

Early life

Born in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland in 1957, Finbar Wright was the youngest of eight children in a Roman Catholic farming household. Finbar's paternal grandfather, whose family tree includes 7th President of the United States Andrew Jackson, was the son of a Presbyterian farmer living in County Monaghan where he met his future bride, a Catholic from County Cork. The couple married and moved to Cork to begin a family. Grandfather Wright started up his own hackney service which became the family business until one son, Robert, decided to go into farming. Robert later met and married Julia O'Donovan and together raised their eight children on their Ballinspittle farm.[10] Three years after the arrival of their seventh child, Julia gave birth to "Finbar" on 26 September, one day after the feast-day of Saint Finbarr, the Patron Saint of Cork.

Robert and Julia both enjoyed singing and, subsequently, made it a priority that all eight of the Wright children were taught an appreciation for music, in one form or another. At age 6 young Finbar began studying piano with Ms. Maura Hourihane and singing on local stages with one of his four brothers. At age 11 Finbar, having shown a keen interest and, more importantly, an ability for athletics, was sent to Farranferris College, a diocesan preparatory school known for its hurling tradition. While there, Wright impressed academically as well, and at 16 was sent to university in Palencia, Spain to study for the priesthood.

While studying in Spain, Finbar developed his lasting appreciation and love for the Spanish culture and music. He returned to Ireland to take a Bachelor of Divinity Degree at National University of Ireland Maynooth, in County Kildare, where he joined the choir and became senior cantor in charge of liturgical singing. In 1978 Wright, at age 21, was the youngest man ever to be ordained a Catholic priest, a distinction which required special dispensation by the Pope.

1979 saw the historic first visit by a Pontiff to the island nation of Ireland. On 29 September 1979 in Phoenix Park, in Dublin, John Paul II celebrated an open-air Papal Mass to an assembled congregation of 1.25 million, at that time roughly one-third of the population of Ireland.[11] Wright was appointed deacon[12] for that Mass and, beneath the commemorative 100 ft (30 m) steel cross, read the Gospel (and sang the Responsories) to the largest gathering of Irish people ever recorded in one place.[13]

As a priest, Fr. Finbar returned to Farranferris College to teach Spanish and Latin. In 1987, following the deaths of his eldest brother and his father, and citing philosophical differences with the Church, Wright, at age 30, made the decision to leave the priesthood[14] and was laicised.


Finbar Wright has performed in many of the major concert halls around the world including Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, Royal Albert Hall, Dublin's National Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Wright began his formal training rather late, at age 27, and professional music career at age 32 but he had been involved in music since his early childhood as well as his time in the priesthood so when he decided to leave, he felt there was only one career path to follow, ""Even when I went back to Farranferris as a teacher, I stayed interested in singing...""[15]

Formal vocal studies began in 1984 as Wright attended the Cork School of Music, a college founded in 1878. There he studied music theory with George Dunne, singing with Robert Beare and piano with Angel Climent. Wright subsequently studied with Ernst Haefliger in Munich, Germany and the Romanian soprano Ileana Cotrubas at Aldeburgh, England. He was chosen to study with Dr. Veronica Dunne, regarded as Ireland's preeminent vocal teacher.[16]

In 1987 Finbar made his television singing debut on RTE's "The Late Late Show", hosted by Gay Byrne. Finbar entered the Feis Ceoil competitions in Dublin, winning the major singing awards there,[17] and, in 1989, Wright was chosen as Ireland's representative to the BBC Cardiff competition capturing the "Singer of the World" top honour.

In 1990 Wright began his professional music career in earnest with recitals and concerts around Ireland. By 1991 Finbar was starring in his own video for the United States Public Broadcasting System, "Finbar Wright in Concert". His first album, Because, in 1991, was produced by Phil Coulter and reached the top of the Irish music charts and platinum status. Later that same year Coulter invited Wright to accompany him on a world tour. As his popularity grew his reputation reached the ears of producers at RTE culminating in the successful television series, "Music of the Night" which Finbar hosted, along with singer/actress Angeline Ball. Finbar's second album, Whatever You Believe went triple platinum in Ireland and made the Mike Batt title song "Whatever You Believe" a Christmas classic in that country. All of Finbar Wright's recordings have reached gold and/or platinum status.

Wright was nominated for and won the Irish Recorded Music Association's "Male Entertainer of the Year" 2 consecutive years, 1992–1993. During his career, Finbar has appeared in public performance with such diverse personalities as Phil Coulter, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jerry Lee Lewis and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber; Spanish soprano, Montserrat Caballé, invited the multilingual Wright to be special guest artist at her concert in Dublin in 1993 after hearing him sing a Spanish song on one of his albums. He is fluent in Irish, English, Spanish, Italian and French (as well as Latin) and his concerts and recordings include songs in most of these languages. The Jimmy Kennedy penned single "South of the Border", with its syncopated rhythms and Spanish flair, is a favourite Wright song with American audiences.

In 1995 Finbar performed at the State Dinner[18] in honour of US President Bill Clinton at Dublin Castle. Finbar was invited to again sing for then President Clinton in Washington, DC[19] and Daniel O'Donnell asked Finbar to join him in London at the Royal Albert Hall for a concert in 1999; ""...Daniel and I are going to be like the new Irish rat pack"".[20] Wright's concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, 4 October 2007, on the occasion of Finbar's 50th birthday, saw him surprised with a five-foot cake and a leather-bound book of well wishes from, most-notably, former President Bill and Hillary Clinton[21] and old friends Daniel O'Donnell and Phil Coulter, among others.[22]

Finbar has guested on most of Ireland's national television programs including many appearances on RTÉ's The Late Late Show and UTV's Gerry Kelly show, TV3's Ireland AM, RTÉ's The Afternoon Show and the comedy hit Podge and Rodge.[23] Finbar, with the Irish Tenors, has guested on all the major network morning shows in the United States, NBC's Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America, CBS' the Early Show as well as Live with Regis and Kelly and several appearances on the home shopping network QVC.

Wright's musical influences are eclectic as he lists such notables as Count John McCormack, Mario Lanza, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson[24] and Freddie Mercury and Queen. Still deeply spiritual, Finbar includes at least one piece of sacred music in every concert and on every album. Each of Wright's recordings reflect these wide-ranging influences as he embraces all genres of music encompassing popular, jazz, traditional Irish, rock-classics, Spanish rhythms, Neapolitan romance, old standards and light classical.

The Irish Tenors

The first to be asked by producer Bill Hughes to join a new group called The Irish Tenors in 1998, Wright had to decline under the terms of his contract with Sony BMG Music. In 2000, having left Sony, Finbar was asked to step in at the last minute to replace John McDermott, who decided to leave the group, for the "Live from Belfast" PBS special.[25] Since that time Finbar has recorded six albums and 5 PBS specials with the Irish Tenors.[26]

The Irish Tenors, in 2001, filmed a historic PBS special[27] at New York's Ellis Island,[28] hosted by Irish/American actor Martin Sheen. Their album Ellis Island topped Billboard's Heatseeker[29] list and landed on its "Top 10 Best of 2001". In 2007 the South Carolina Legislature issued a "Proclamation"[30] welcoming the trio to that State at their performance in Charleston.

In 2003, The Irish Tenors participated in the prestigious UNICEF Snowflake Lighting celebrations to kick off the festive season in New York, sharing the stage with the Mayor of New York, Michael R Bloomberg, and movie star Liv Tyler, who hosted the event.[31]

Wright and Irish Tenors' mate Anthony Kearns were asked by ABC's Good Morning America to sing the hymn "Amazing Grace" for their coverage of the funeral of former US President Ronald Reagan in 2004.

2006 saw Finbar and the Irish Tenors host the 9 part Summer variety series for RTÉ produced by Bill Hughes' Mind the Gap productions, The Irish Tenors, Heroes & Friends. "Heroes & Friends" included Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Finbar Furey, Hayley Westenra, Sharon Shannon, Rebecca Storm and Shane Ward, among others.[32] In 2006 Finbar and the Irish Tenors welcomed newcomer Karl Scully[33] into the group, replacing John McDermott, who stepped-in temporarily in 2004.

Personal life

While attending classes at the Cork School of Music in 1984 Wright met a young woman, Angela Desmond.[34] After leaving the priesthood, Finbar happened to meet her again and the romance resulted in marriage in 1990. ""By the time I left the priesthood I hadn't seen her for a few years. Then in 1988 I met her [again], by chance, and we met every day for a month and we haven't been apart since.""[35]

The Wrights prefer to live and raise their two children, a son and a daughter, away from the music capitals and bright lights. The family resides, still, in County Cork Ireland; ""If you are to have any kind of a fruitful life, it isn't wealth and success that matter – happiness is the important thing.""[36]


Finbar Wright

Title Year Label Sales Notes
When I Need Love 2008 Dara-Dolphin Produced by Finbar Wright
The Essential Finbar Wright 2006 Sony BMG Gold Compilation
Another Season 1999 Ritz Gold Wright wrote "Black Wind", "Freedom"
I Give My Heart 1997 Sony BMG Platinum Wright wrote song "My Girl's in Love With Depardieu"
Lift The Wings 1995 Sony BMG Platinum Wright wrote lyrics to "In My Arms"
A Tribute to John McCormack 1993 Sony BMG Gold Accompanied RTÉ special
Whatever You Believe 1992 Sony BMG Platinum x3 Ireland No. 1 Christmas Single "Whatever You Believe"
Because 1991 Sony BMG Platinum Produced by Phil Coulter

The Irish Tenors

Title Year Notes
Live in Belfast 2000 PBS television
Ellis Island 2001 PBS television
Best of The Irish Tenors 2002 Compilation 1999–2001
We Three Kings 2003 Christmas
Heritage 2004 with the Chicagoland Orchestra
Sacred 2005 Recorded in Prague


Title Network Broadcast Date Location Notes
Finbar Wright in Concert[37] PBS 1991 Belfast Opera House, Belfast, NI
Music of the Night RTÉ 1992/1993 RTÉ Studios, Dublin, Ireland Co-hosted with Angeline Ball
Tribute to John McCormack RTÉ 1994 National Concert Hall Dublin
Live in Belfast[38] PBS 2000 Belfast Opera House, Belfast, NI with the Irish Tenors
Ellis Island[39] PBS 2001 Ellis Island, NY, US Billboard "Top 10 of 2001"
Heritage[40] PBS 2004 Rosemont Theater, Chicago, IL, US with the Irish Tenors
The Irish Tenors & Friends RTÉ 2006 Ardmore Studios, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland with the Irish Tenors


Private Friends
Author Finbar Wright
Country Ireland
Genre Poetry
Publisher Barleyfield Press
Publication date
Pages 42 pp (first edition)

The Gift of Glib (often referred to as "Gift of Gab") was not lost on this Corkman as Finbar began writing song lyrics several years ago, 4 of which have appeared on his recordings. A more literary style emerged and he began writing full-length verse. Private Friends is a collection of some of Wright's poetry published in 2001 and dedicated to his brother, Robert, who, at age 47, had died suddenly the same year.


  • Ireland Feis Ceoil Singing Competition Dublin, winner x 4
  • BBC Cardiff "Singer of the World" winner 1989
  • "Male Entertainer of the Year" 1992 Irish Recorded Music Association
  • "Male Entertainer of the Year" 1993 Irish Recorded Music Association

Career Timeline

  • 1979 – Deacon at historic Papal Mass, Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1979–1987 – Catholic Priest
  • 1989 – Winner BBC Cardiff "Singer of the World"
  • 1989-Pres – Solo Singing Artist
  • 1991 – US PBS special, "Finbar Wright in Concert"
  • 1992 – Debut at Carnegie Hall, New York City, US
  • 1992 – Album Whatever You Believe reached triple platinum sales and single "Whatever You Believe" hit No. 1
  • 1991–1993 – Host "Music of the Night" RTÉ
  • 1992 – IRMA "Male Entertainer of the Year"
  • 1993 – IRMA "Male Entertainer of the Year"
  • 1994 – Narrated and Performed in RTÉ's "Tribute to John McCormack" special
  • 1991–1999 – Sony BMG Artist
  • 1999–2003 – Ritz Records Artist/Music Matters Artist
  • 2000-Pres – Member of the "Irish Tenors"
  • 2001 – As part of the Irish Tenors performed in the historic US PBS special "Ellis Island"
  • 2004 – Landmark performance at the Hollywood Bowl with the Irish Tenors and guests, Three Mo' Tenors, with the LA Philharmonic
  • 2005 – Sang with Anthony Kearns for US television's ABC "Good Morning America" coverage of the funeral for former President Ronald Reagan.


  1. FAMSPA (17 December 2006). "FAMSPA". Federation of American Musicians, Singers and Performing Artists. Retrieved 22 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Section #W, No. 50
  2. Gartland, Fiona (21 June 2008). "My Holidays". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ferrie, Liam (29 April 1991). "Issue 221, The Arts". The Irish Emigrant. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]para.3
  4. Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Pg.1
  5. Irish Tenors; CMI Entertainment (15 December 2007). "The Irish Tenors, About Us..." The Irish Tenors. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]Finbar Wright
  6. "KCET Presents Tenors, Tenors, Tenors" (Press release). LA Philharmonic Press. 11 July 2003. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]Finbar Wright
  7. Ulter Herald, Entertainment (12 April 2008). "Finbar Wright in Fine Fettle". Ulster Herald. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> para.7
  8. Wright, Finbar (2003). "Irish Tenors (Press Release)". "La Philharmonic Press".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Winners". BBC. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]Finbar Wright, Ireland, 1989
  10. Staff, Writer; Irish Independent (16 April 2006). "My Perfect Weekend". The Irish Independent. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Population 1901–2006". Central Statistics Office Ireland. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2008. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "The Irish Tenors" (PDF) (Press release). Purdue University Press. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Finbar Wright Biography, para.1
  13. "Dublin". Retrieved 23 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Phoenix Park
  14. Jackson, Joe; RTÉ (17 April 2006). "Under The Influence, Easter Special". RTÉ Radio. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>pg.2 para.16
  16. Hogan, Louise (26 December 2006). "The Search Begins..." The Independent. Retrieved 1 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Sligo Champion, Staff writer (2 April 2008). "Finbar Wright at the Hawk's Well". Sligo Champion.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>para.1
  18. The Ulster Herald 10 April 2008 Entertainment: "Finbar Wright in Fine Fettle", para.8
  19. "The Afternoon Show" (RTÉ television). Radio Telefís Éireann. 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet-Voiced Finbar..." Sunday Mirror UK. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Pg.1
  21. O'Donovan, Denise (2 October 2006). "Happy 50th Finbar From Bill Clinton". Evening Echo. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Finbar Wright Universal Fan Organization". FW-UFO. 17 December 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 50th Birthday Party
  23. Morrison, Ciaran; O'Hara, Mick (18 April 2006). "Podge and Rodge Show". Seamus Cassidy. Retrieved 21 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Episode1.20
  24. Gartland, Fiona (21 June 2008). "My Holidays". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Para.6
  25. "The Irish Tenors". Irish Music Archive, Hall of History. 2000.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Washington Post|Butters, Patrick|2000-03-11, "Wright Choice"
  27. "Martin Sheen...The Irish Tenors...Ellis Island" (Press release). Entertainment wire: Business Wire. 6 March 2001. Retrieved 21 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Boston Herald| 20 June 2001| Gewertz, Daniel Irish Tenors' Ellis Island...
  29. Billboard Magazine|Todd Martens|2001-03-22 Para.12
  30. "Proclamation". South Carolina Legislature. 13 March 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> 117th Session, 2007-03-13, Bill 3654
  31. Staff Writer (26 December 2003). "Great Value for Three Tenors". The Kerry Kingdom. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Para.6
  32. "The Irish Tenors & Friends". Mind The Gap productions. 1 June 2006. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Estren, Mark J. (13 August 2006). "Wolf Trap". Washington Post. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Smith, Andrea (30 November 2008). "How I Met My Mr. Wright". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 November 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Duff, Linda (4 June 2006). "Finbar Wright". Sunday Mirror. Retrieved 19 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Pg.1
  36. Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Retrieved 20 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Pg.2, para.11
  37. Finbar Wright (2001). "Finbar Wright in Concert" (VHS). Ulster Television.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. The Irish Tenors (2000). Live in Belfast (DVD). Music Matters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. The Irish Tenors (2001). Ellis Island (DVD). Music Matters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. The Irish Tenors (2004). Heritage (DVD). PBS.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading


  • Ireland's Own Magazine, October 2006, Cover Story "Finbar Wright"
  • Woman's Way Magazine, 28 December 2004 "All the presidents' Man"
  • Irish Sunday Mirror, 12 December 2004, "Why I Owe The Pope A Tenor"
  • Chicago Sun Times, 13 July 2001, "Irish Tenor Having a Ball"
  • Billboard, 20 October 2001, p. 78

External links