Kilkenny tenor reflects on difficult decade ahead Yulefest concert
A globally recognised Kilkenny tenor has told how his life became a living hell in the wake of a controversy that happened over a decade ago.
Ronan Tynan (59), is coming home to take part in this year’s Yulefest and has recently spoken about the difficulties he found himself in over an anti-semitic remark, the death-threats he received, and how life can change in a flash.
The tenor, who was quite famous in New York and the USA for singing the national anthem before baseballs games at New York’s Yankee Stadium and for his heartfelt singing at the funerals of members of the NYPD and NYFD in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, found himself blacklisted due to an anti-semitic remark.
The controversy happened in 2009 after Tynan had made remarks to a Manhatten estate agent outside his apartment. Tynan commented on two Jewish ladies that had come to view the neighbouring apartment to his.
Tynan explained to the estate agent, who had brought a client for a viewing, that the two women who had previously viewed the apartment were very particular. Shortly after, another estate agent showed up with another prospective client. The estate agent recognised Tynan and joked, “at least they’re not (Boston) Red Sox fans,” referring to Tynan’s connection to the Yankees. The Kilkenny man responded by saying, “at least they’re not the Jewish ladies.”
The prospective client was a woman by the name of Dr Gabrielle Gold-Von Simson, who was offended by the remark. Not long after the incident, Tynan’s gig with the New York Yankees was cancelled.
Tynan made a full apology to both the Doctor and the general public. Dr Gold-Von Simson accepted the apology and suggested the singer make a charitable contribution. However, the horse had bolted and Tynan’s slur became big news, being carried by media outlets such as the New York Times and NBC.
A decade later and Tynan has made peace with his mistake. In an interview this weekend in the Sunday Independent, he explained how scary that time in his life became after his slur made headlines.
“I’ll tell you how bad that got. My life was threatened… I was nearly run over in a car. I got letters sent to me covered with talc and it was the time of anthrax.
“One guy in a prominent hospital in New York wrote to me and said ‘if you ever have a heart attack and you come to this hospital, I will let you die’.”
“When you are walking on a street and someone tries to run you over with a black SUV, I had a friend with me and someone shouted ‘you anti-Semitic [expletive].”
Tynan has lived with adversity all his life. He was born with underdeveloped legs and then had them amputated following a car crash. From that adversity, he went onto win 18 paralympic gold medals and become a tenor of international renown selling millions of albums.
But it’s that comment he is most remembered for now.
He told the Sunday Independent: “It’s still there, you never escape it.
“It’s definitely made me more compassionate, understanding and sorrowful.”
Ronan Tynan performs in St Canice’s Cathedral as part of Kilkenny’s Yulefest on Saturday, January 4.
Yulefest launched this week and runs until Monday, January 6.