Finbar Wright: On My Culture Radar
The opera singer on the genius of Bill Bailey, the art of Jim Carrey and the appeal of ‘Ireland AM’
Finbar Wright loves nature and the outdoors, and the Burren.
Current favourite book?
Lucinda Riley, who was born in Northern Ireland, started a series of books called Seven Sisters, about seven different girls adopted by a super-wealthy man. Now she’s writing a book about each of the sisters. I’m reading the Pearl Sister at the moment. It’s not like chick lit, it’s a very-well written book. It’s also historical and, without giving too much away, it gives you a flavour of different places in the world. All the books are totally different, and it’s the life story of each of the sisters after the adoptive father dies. I’d recommend reading it before it becomes a TV series; she’s in conversation with people in Hollywood about turning it into a show.
Last Saturday night my wife and I decided to treat ourselves at the Lady Helen Restaurant in Mount Juliet, Kilkenny, for our 28th wedding anniversary. It not only feeds your hunger but it feeds your senses as well, because it’s a beautiful period property that’s a pleasure to visit. The restaurant didn’t fall into the Michelin-star trap of not feeding you so that you head to the chipper afterwards. Angela had venison as the main course, which was beautifully cooked, and I had turbot, which was a treat.
Being a musician, it’s an obvious thing to like a musical comedian, but Bill Bailey is just so clever. A lot of comedians tend to come across as smart alecs but he’s also unassuming. To use music as part of the comedy act gives it extra traction, it’s much better than listening to a guy deliver anecdotes and he’s a really good musician. If people want to dip in to his work, one of the shows called Bewilderness is a good place to start, and it’s on YouTube.
I’ve long been a fan of Jim Carrey. I know he got bad press when his Irish girlfriend died, but around that time he took up painting, and he’s incredibly clever at it. He’s big news now in America because of his satirical cartoons. His target at the moment is Donald Trump and these super pictures are so valuable; they say more with one drawing that you could with 10 pages of text.
One of the places that impressed me most was Vienna. It’s full of history and music, especially because of Mozart. And you’ve the Spanish Riding School right in the middle of the city, where you can go and see the horses in their stables or doing routines, which I enjoyed because I love horses. Just outside the city you have the Schönbrunn Palace. It’s a wonderful city for food, and it’s very well contained; there’s not an awful lot of walking around to sightsee.
At the moment I’m enjoying Live in Dublin by Leonard Cohen. It’s not because it was recorded in Ireland though. He’s at his best on it – it’s his delivery, and his voice is relaxed on it. It’s beautifully recorded and the audience are very much part of it; it feels like a concert rather than a live recording. He has lots of other live albums, but on this, the audience just clicked for him and it’s obvious he’s enjoying the interaction. He finishes with Save the Last Dance for Me, and the audience sing half of it. It’s an exciting album.
The Apple Watch has become my gadget of the century. Short of cooking your breakfast, it does everything. You can get your emails on it, you can watch the news on it, you can walk or jog to it and you can control your phone from it. You always know where it is and have it with you because it’s on your wrist. And it ever so gently vibrates when it alerts you. It’s a fabulous piece of equipment.
Social media profile
I’m into nature and the outdoors, and there’s a crowd called the Burrenbeo Trust, a group of conservationists for the Burren. The group update their Twitter feed [@BurrenbeoTrust] with information about the area, and they have the most wonderful events. I was up there only a few weeks ago doing a thing called the winterage, when they take the cattle from lower land and up to the high pastures for the winter time as it’s more sheltered. They put on all sorts of walks and talks, so they’re useful to follow.
Because I work in the evenings, I watch television only in the mornings and I love Ireland AM and the morning repeat of the Today Show on RTÉ. They really keep you in touch with what’s happening in the country and what the current thinking is, it’s relaxed, and they have a medley of topics.
The Irish Tenors’ 20th anniversary concerts take place at the National Concert Hall Dublin on January 9th, 10th and 12th, and INEC Killarney on January 13th.