Anthony Kearns, a world-famous tenor, knows what it's like to perform with millions of eyes watching and ears listening.
But he said the connection formed with an audience can be more powerful in a smaller setting.
"It's like inviting people into your living room, and then sitting around," Kearns said. "Turn down the lights, and you just have their attention. There's no distraction."
Audiences can experience that connection at Kearns' intimate performance on the Kimball Theatre stage on Friday.
His is a voice heard on television, on albums, by President Obama and Pope Francis.
But Kearns found his big break by singing through a telephone.
Born and raised in Ireland, Kearns sang from a young age and entered competitions often. At 22, he stumbled across "Ireland's Search for a Tenor," and the first round involved calling a radio station and singing over the phone.
Kearns would win the entire competition, which ushered him into the world of professional music.
Before he won the competition, Kearns was a young twenty-something working a job in the real world while pursuing music as an amateur.
"You want to be heard, because you know I have something to share, but nobody is listening," he said.
Still, "I knew music was for me, and I just kept at it," he said.
And, finally, the world listened.
In 1998, Kearns joined The Irish Tenors, a group launched to fame through PBS specials. The group, having produced 10 albums, still performs together, and Kearns balances his group and solo careers.
In the midst of his international career, glimpses of that young boy from Wexford, Ireland show through. He recently joined the cast of an opera, which Kearns described as a learning experience.
But he's able to hold his own, and that's when he's reminded: "You know what, I'm not just Anthony Kearns from Wexford. I'm a serious singer."
A career in the music business is far from easy, filled with persistent work and constant learning. But Kearns finds joy in music and connecting with audiences who find that same joy.
"You're exposing your feelings and your emotions to the world. You're opening up your soul to everyone," Kearns said. "You have to be honest in it. And that's what's amazing about this music business."
During Friday's two-hour concert, audiences will experience a stripped-down performance – just Kearns accompanied by pianist Jon Laird – of a range of tunes, from Irish to Broadway to opera, and emotions.
"It's more intimate," Kearns said. "You can have a chat with the audience, and a bit of fun. And that's what it's about."
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 565-8588 or 1-855-599-5353 (push 4), or visit colonialwilliamsburg.com/Kimball.
Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-275-4934.
Want to go?
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13
Where: Kimball Theatre, 424 W. Duke of Gloucester St.
Tickets: $35, discounts available for seniors, military, students.