Finbar Wright

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Finbar Wright
Finbar Wright, NYC 2006
Background information
Birth nameEdward Finbar Wright
Born (1957-09-26) 26 September 1957 (age 61)
OriginKinsale, County Cork, Ireland
GenresPop, Jazz, Spanish
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, musician, poet
Years active1990–present
LabelsSony BMG, Ritz, Dara
Associated actsThe Irish Tenors,

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.

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" is best known outside of Europe as one of the Irish Tenors from their PBS specials and recordings.

Early life[edit]

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.[9] 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 ordained to the Catholic priesthood below the canonical age of 24, 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.[10] Wright was appointed deacon[11] 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.[12]

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[13] and was laicised.


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. He began his formal training at 27 and his professional music career at 32: "Even when I went back to Farranferris as a teacher, I stayed interested in singing...".[14]

Formal vocal studies began in 1984 as Wright attended the Cork School of Music, where he studied music theory with George Dunne, singing with Robert Beare and piano with Angel Climent. He subsequently studied with Ernst Haefliger in Munich, Germany, and with the Romanian soprano Ileana Cotrubaș at Aldeburgh, England. He was chosen to study with Dr. Veronica Dunne, regarded as Ireland's pre-eminent vocal teacher.[15]

In 1987, Wright made his television singing debut on RTÉ's The Late Late Show, hosted by Gay Byrne. He entered the Feis Ceoil competitions in Dublin, winning its major singing awards[16] and, in 1989, he was chosen as Ireland's representative to the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

In 1990, Wright began his professional music career in earnest, with recitals and concerts around Ireland. By 1991, he was starring in his own video for the United States Public Broadcasting System: Finbar Wright in Concert. His first album, Because (1991), was produced by Phil Coulter and reached the top of the Irish music charts and platinum status. Later that year, Coulter invited Wright to accompany him on a world tour. As his popularity grew, RTÉ invited him to co-host the television series Music of the Night with singer/actress Angeline Ball. Wright'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 Wright's recordings have reached gold and/or platinum status.[citation needed]

Wright was nominated for, and won, the Irish Recorded Music Association's "Male Entertainer of the Year" for two consecutive years, in 1992 and 1993. He has performed with Phil Coulter, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jerry Lee Lewis and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. In 1993, Montserrat Caballé invited Wright as special guest artist at her concert in Dublin, after hearing him sing a Spanish song on one of his albums. He is fluent in Irish, English, Spanish, Italian, French and Latin, and his concerts and recordings include songs in most of these languages. The single "South of the Border" (written by Jimmy Kennedy), with its syncopated rhythms and Spanish flair, is a favourite Wright song with American audiences.

In 1995, Wright performed at the State Dinner in Dublin Castle[17] in honour of US President Bill Clinton. He was invited to sing again for President Clinton in Washington, DC.[18] In 1999, Daniel O'Donnell asked Wright to join him at the London Royal Albert Hall for a concert, prompting him to state: "Daniel and I are going to be like the new Irish rat pack".[19] On his 50th birthday (4 October 2007) at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Wright was presented with a five-foot cake and a leather-bound book of well wishes from former President Bill and Hillary Clinton,[20] and old friends Daniel O'Donnell and Phil Coulter, among others.[21]

Wright 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.[22] He has guested with the Irish Tenors 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 include Count John McCormack, Mario Lanza, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson,[23] Freddie Mercury and Queen. Still deeply spiritual, Wright includes at least one piece of sacred music in every concert and on every album. Each of his recordings reflect these influences as he embraces all genres of music, such as popular, jazz, traditional Irish, rock-classics, Spanish rhythms, Neapolitan romance, old standards and light classical.

Finbar Wright in the Irish Tenors

The Irish Tenors[edit]

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, he was asked to step in at the last minute to replace John McDermott, who had decided to leave the group, for the Live from Belfast PBS special.[24] Since then, Wright has recorded six albums and five PBS specials with the Irish Tenors.[25]

In 2001, they filmed a historic PBS special[26] at New York's Ellis Island,[27] hosted by Irish/American actor Martin Sheen. Their album Ellis Island topped Billboard's Heatseeker[28] list and landed on its "Top 10 Best of 2001". In 2003, the Irish Tenors participated in the 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.[29]

In 2004, Wright and Irish Tenors' friend 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 2006, the trio hosted the nine-part Summer variety series for RTÉ produced by Bill Hughes' Mind the Gap productions, The Irish Tenors, Heroes & Friends, which included Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Finbar Furey, Hayley Westenra, Sharon Shannon, Rebecca Storm and Shane Ward, among others.[30] In 2006, the Irish Tenors welcomed newcomer Karl Scully[31] into the group, replacing John McDermott, who had stepped-in temporarily in 2004. In 2007, the South Carolina Legislature issued a "Proclamation"[32] welcoming the trio to that State at their performance in Charleston.

Personal life[edit]

While attending classes at the Cork School of Music in 1984, Wright met Angela Desmond[33] and, after he left the priesthood, they married 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."[34] The Wrights live with their two children in County Cork, Ireland.[35] Wright's son Fergus produced and wrote 3 songs for his father's album "60".[36]


Finbar Wright[edit]

Title Year Label Sales Notes
60 2017 Beaumex Produced by Gavin Murphy, Fergus Wright, Finbar Wright
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[edit]

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 Pops 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
Private Friends first edition cover.
AuthorFinbar Wright
Published26 September 2001, Barleyfield Press
Pages42 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[edit]

  • 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. Archived from the original on 23 July 2008. Retrieved 22 July 2008.Section #W, No. 50
  2. ^ Gartland, Fiona (21 June 2008). "My Holidays". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 July 2008.
  3. ^ Ferrie, Liam (29 April 1991). "Issue 221, The Arts". The Irish Emigrant. Archived from the original on 24 November 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2008.para.3
  4. ^ Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Pg.1
  5. ^ Irish Tenors; CMI Entertainment (15 December 2007). "The Irish Tenors, About Us..." The Irish Tenors. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Finbar Wright
  6. ^ "KCET Presents Tenors, Tenors, Tenors" (Press release). LA Philharmonic Press. 11 July 2003. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Finbar Wright
  7. ^ Ulter Herald, Entertainment (12 April 2008). "Finbar Wright in Fine Fettle". Ulster Herald. Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008. para.7
  8. ^ Wright, Finbar (2003). "Irish Tenors (Press Release)". "La Philharmonic Press". Archived from the original on 28 October 2008.
  9. ^ Staff, Writer; Irish Independent (16 April 2006). "My Perfect Weekend". The Irish Independent.
  10. ^ "Population 1901–2006". Central Statistics Office Ireland. 15 December 2005. Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  11. ^ "The Irish Tenors" (PDF) (Press release). Purdue University Press. 25 November 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2008.Finbar Wright Biography, para.1
  12. ^ "Dublin". Retrieved 23 July 2008.Phoenix Park
  13. ^ Jackson, Joe; RTÉ (17 April 2006). "Under The Influence, Easter Special". RTÉ Radio. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.
  14. ^ Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July para.16
  15. ^ Hogan, Louise (26 December 2006). "The Search Begins..." The Independent. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
  16. ^ Sligo Champion, Staff writer (2 April 2008). "Finbar Wright at the Hawk's Well". Sligo Champion.para.1
  17. ^ The Ulster Herald, 10 April 2008 Archived 29 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine Entertainment: Finbar Wright in Fine Fettle, para.8
  18. ^ "The Afternoon Show" (RTÉ television). Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 2008.
  19. ^ Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet-Voiced Finbar..." Sunday Mirror UK. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Pg.1
  20. ^ O'Donovan, Denise (2 October 2006). "Happy 50th Finbar From Bill Clinton". Evening Echo.
  21. ^ "Finbar Wright Universal Fan Organization". FW-UFO. 17 December 2005. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2008. 50th Birthday Party
  22. ^ Morrison, Ciaran; O'Hara, Mick (18 April 2006). "Podge and Rodge Show". Seamus Cassidy. Retrieved 21 July 2008.Episode1.20
  23. ^ Gartland, Fiona (21 June 2008). "My Holidays". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Para.6
  24. ^ "The Irish Tenors". Irish Music Archive, Hall of History. 2000. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008.
  25. ^ Washington Post|Butters, Patrick|2000-03-11, "Wright Choice"
  26. ^ "Martin Sheen...The Irish Tenors...Ellis Island" (Press release). Entertainment wire: Business Wire. 6 March 2001. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  27. ^ Boston Herald| 20 June 2001| Gewertz, Daniel Irish Tenors' Ellis Island...
  28. ^ Billboard Magazine|Todd Martens|2001-03-22 Para.12
  29. ^ Staff Writer (26 December 2003). "Great Value for Three Tenors". The Kerry Kingdom. Archived from the original on 17 July 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Para.6
  30. ^ "The Irish Tenors & Friends". Mind The Gap productions. 1 June 2006. Retrieved 20 July 2008.
  31. ^ Estren, Mark J. (13 August 2006). "The Irish Tenors at Wolf Trap". Washington Post.
  32. ^ "Proclamation". South Carolina Legislature. 13 March 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2008. 117th Session, 2007-03-13, Bill 3654
  33. ^ Smith, Andrea (30 November 2008). "How I Met My Mr. Wright". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  34. ^ Duff, Linda (4 June 2006). "Finbar Wright". Sunday Mirror. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2008.Pg.1
  35. ^ Quigley, Maeve (7 November 1999). "Velvet Voiced Finbar Still Hitting the Wright Notes". Sunday Mirror UK. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 20 July 2008.Pg.2, para.11
  36. ^ "Official". Finbar Wright. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  37. ^ Finbar Wright (2001). "Finbar Wright in Concert" (VHS). Ulster Television.
  38. ^ The Irish Tenors (2000). Live in Belfast (DVD). Music Matters.
  39. ^ The Irish Tenors (2001). Ellis Island (DVD). Music Matters.
  40. ^ The Irish Tenors (2004). Heritage (DVD). PBS.

Further reading[edit]


  • 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[edit]