It's hard to picture a group of famous opera singers traveling with their accompanist around the United States in an RV.
But that's exactly what members of The American Tenors are doing.
Nathan Granner, one of the founding members of The American Tenors, said he and fellow members love touring in their RV, which will make a stop Tuesday, Nov. 8, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown as part of the Hagerstown Community Concert series.
"It's like a tour bus, except it's an RV — so it's much cooler," he said laughingly during a telephone interview from Kansas City, Kan. "We can sit on the sofa and sip our freshly ground, insanely gourmet coffee and watch the world go by. And we can stop anytime we want or not stop. It's like a train tour without the train."
Founded in 2003, The American Tenors were catapulted into mainstream success after a well-received PBS special that same year.
Since then, the group's lineup has changed, with members moving on for other opportunities. But Granner remains alongside members Marcus McConico and Ben Gulley.
But whatever the line-up, their fans' loyalty remains. In fact, Granner said their fanbase is even bigger now than when they started.
"I don't know what happened," Granner said. "We kind of had a break for a couple of years, did a couple of concerts. Then we came back and we sang in Hot Springs, Ark., of all places. People went nutso. Nutso. It was awesome."
He said the fans have given them an even more fanatical response. Where it might have happened every once in awhile, Granner said it happens all the time.
"People are standing up and singing in the middle of the show during one of the songs," he said. "It's not just the end when they stand up and give a polite applause, or standing up to actually leave."
Almost like a rock star? "It's a little rock star-y," Granner said. "It's very interesting, to say the least."
Not bad for a guy who thought his future was on a different path.
"I didn't think I was going to be a singer. I thought I was going to be a sculptor," he said. "But my art classes didn't go as well as my music classes. People started to pay me to sing, and paid me not to do art. I thought, ‘Hmm, let's do the singing thing.' Then all of the sudden I had a big choice on whether to become a professional opera singer. I made the choice when I was 23 and I never looked back."
That poses a question: Why opera?
"You can ask the same questions in sports of Bruce Jenner: 'Would you rather be the track star with the 100 meter or would you would rather be a master of everything?'," Granner said. "I think opera for me is not only a singing profession, but it's a discipline. It's something to aspire to: aspire to be great, aspire to be this heroic figure on the stage with just the use of the slim vocal chords in your throat and portraying characters that carry throughout history — carry that drama from all the years, that can relate to anybody today. I think that's one of the biggest things for being in opera."
There are so many different facets of opera, he said, from comedic to serious. There are even modern and contemporary operas — something for everyone. He notes that an opera based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith was just performed at the Royal Opera House in London.
He said opera "can be a really, really amazing thing."
Granner said he's been enjoying his time with The American Tenors including getting to perform alongside Gulley, their newest member.
He calls Gulley a "great guy and amazing singer." But Granner has more of a connection with the singer than just opera.
Gulley's high school Spanish teacher was Granner's aunt. She told the young Gulley that he should watch the 2003 PBS special because her nephew was in it. Later, she told Granner that Gulley seemed to be hooked.
"She said 'Maybe one day, Ben, you'll be one of The American Tenors.' And sure enough, Ben is one of The American Tenors," Granner said. "That was a really special moment ... to bring him into this group and singing at such a high caliber."
That's not to say he isn't also a fan of fellow tenor McConico, who Granner calls "seriously old school."
"He's a young guy, but he's really totally in a Lawrence Welk world. It's awesome," Granner said. "He's so, so retro. I hate to say he's Lawrence Welk, but you really get an appreciation of what that is. He's got that smile. He really hits a certain demographic in a great way. People love him."
When Granner isn't singing anything from arias or, his favorite, a newly arranged version of "Shenandoah," he's also busy.
And as he gears up for the holiday season, Granner will be taking his one-man "A Christmas Carol" show to New York. Granner voices all the characters of the classic Charles Dickens' story, which has an accompanying children's book.
Granner also is co-founder of KCMetropolis.org, an online journal of the performing arts for Kansas City. The online venture came about after the Kansas City Star laid off its art critic in 2008.
The site's mission is to cover the performing arts in Kansas City — from big events to small church events. Granner said the site is doing well and just celebrated its third anniversary on Oct. 8.
"If you got something going on in your town, and nobody writes about it, it disappears," he said. "It's time to recognize journalism as an art form, it's still really an art. I think of writers as artists just as much as opera singers."
If you go ...
WHAT: The American Tenors
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: $25; $10 students. Season tickets $50. Tickets will be sold at the door.
CONTACT: Call 301-790-0980 or go to www.hagerstownliveonstage.com.
MORE: For more information about Nathan Granner, go to NathanGranner.com
To read Kansas City's online journal of the performing arts, go to KCMetropolis.org
To listen to Nathan Granner's "A Christmas Carol," go to http://achristmascarol.yolasite.com