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The Villages
Friday, June 9, 2023

Fernando among Bill Doherty’s proteges performing in ‘Three Tenors’

Maestro Bill Doherty was like a proud teacher on graduation day Saturday in The Sharon. He watched three of his former proteges showcase their talent and musical skill in “Three Tenors Plus One.”
The annual fund raising concert for The Opera Club of The Villages featured Fernando Varela, Devin Eatmon and Ashley Thunder. All three were helped immeasurably by Doherty during their careers.

Maestro Bill Doherty offered a powerful version of Danny Boy as a tribute to his father
Maestro Bill Doherty offered a powerful version of “Danny Boy,” as a tribute to his father.

“I love all of them,” Doherty said before the concert. “They don’t feel like students; they feel like family.” Also, Doherty’s longtime friend, John McVeigh – who performs with the Metropolitan Opera — was on bill.
It was a program packed with emotion, high notes, operatic splendor and Broadway classics.

The Three Tenors at The Sharon are from left John McVeigh Devin Eatmon and Fernando Varela
The Three Tenors at The Sharon are, from left, John McVeigh, Devin Eatmon and Fernando Varela.

The music included a show-stopping group finale of “Nessun Dorma.” Fernando Varela, who started working with Doherty over two decades ago, displayed his vocal power on “Music of the Night.”
Eatmon was still in high school 10 years ago when he started with Doherty and offered a robust “Stars” from “Les Miz.”

McVeigh, bubbling with personality and stage presence, was the ideal complement to the other tenors. He teamed with surprise guest Fred Rose on “Agony,” from “Into the Woods.”
“I’ve known Bill a long time,” McVeigh said. “He brought me to Florida for the first time, 30 years ago.”

“Hey you guys, cut it out,” Doherty said while sitting at the piano. “I hate these guys making me so old.”
“That’s OK,” said Thunder who came on stage resplendent in a beige stole and flowing aqua gown. “I only met Bill a couple of days ago in the parking lot,” she added, cracking a smile. “I just grabbed anything out of the car to wear.”

Ashley Thunder played the role of Plus One
Ashley Thunder played the role of Plus One

Thunder, who sang her first aria in public for Doherty in The Villages five years ago, was shimmering on a version of “Summertime.”  She teamed with Varela  on a majestic “The Prayer.”

But it wasn’t just the songs. This show – and these performers represent part of Villages’ musical history. And it also displayed the long musical shadow that Doherty – and The Opera Club of The Villages – has cast.

“The thing about Bill is that he not only nurtures people; he brings out the best in people,” said singer Billie Thatcher, who attended the concert as a fan.

The Opera Club of The Villages has awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships over the past 25 years, thanks to the efforts of people like Doherty and Geraldine Piscitelli, president of the club.  

Opera Club President Geraldine Piscitelli thanks the crowd for their support
Opera Club President Geraldine Piscitelli thanks the crowd for their support.

“Our goal is to encourage and support students who plan a career in music,” she said, while addressing the audience. “The ‘Three Tenors Plus One’ is our main fundraiser.
“You being here tonight means so much. We couldn’t help these students without your support. God bless you for helping them.”
Not that long ago, Varela was one of those young dreamers studying with Doherty.
He, along with Eatmon and McVeigh opened the program with a rambunctious and somewhat comical version of “O Sole Mio.” The three guys had some fun with their stage moves, waving hands and making faces at each other.
Varela was more serious when he came on stage to solo. “I’ve been with the Maestro 26 years,” said the international singing star who currently tours the world with famed composer David Foster.
“Maestro has taught me so much and it’s been an incredible ride for all those years,” Varela added. “I’ve been on the road for two weeks with David Foster and I missed rehearsal this morning with Bill. I went to my son’s football game instead.
“But I couldn’t miss this concert. The Opera Club has done so much for me and The Villages.”
Varela added an operatic feel to “Besame Mucho.”

Eatmon used to work as a singing waiter at Katie Belle’s for the “Singing Servers” shows that Doherty organized. “Maestro was my first voice teacher, I owe him so much,” said Eatmon, now 27. He earned a  Master’s Degree in music from Florida State University and is a former Opera Club scholarship winner.
In addition to opera numbers, Eatmon displayed emotional power on “Stars,” also from “Les Miz” and “Younger Than Springtime.”

McVeigh had some fun with mad “King George” from “Hamilton,” and turned it into a sing-a-long.

Doherty didn’t just accompany the singers on piano. He turned an emotionally-draining performance on “Danny Boy.”
Doherty’s late father had suffered a series of strokes and had come to live with him in The Villages.
“He loved singing Irish songs. He hadn’t been feeling well, but one night, he was feeling good so I took him to Katie Belle’s,” Doherty said. “Well, he was excited and I asked him to sing ‘Danny Boy.’ At first he kind of missed it, but everything turned out OK. I put a video of it on Facebook. People loved it.
“Now, I’m going to sing it. Dad this one’s for you.”

And Bill Doherty once more, taught a master lesson on the power of music.

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.

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