PRESIDENT Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern yesterday led tributes to world renowned Irish tenor Frank Patterson, who died in New York at the weekend, writes Niamh Hooper.
Mr Patterson had battled a serious illness for five months and passed away in Sloane Kettering Hospital on Saturday night.
His last performance was a concert in Boston last Sunday but he was admitted to hospital the next day.
Diagnosed with a brain tumour before Christmas, he lapsed into a coma on Saturday and never regained consciousness.
He is survived by his pianist wife, Eily O'Grady, their son Eanan and his sister Imelda Malone, who were at his bedside when he died.
He is also mourned by his mother May and brothers Noel and Maurice.
Mrs McAleese described the acclaimed Co Tipperary singer as ``a wonderful artist who had contributed hugely to the world of music and who proudly promoted Ireland and Irish music throughout the world.''
His fantastic personality, generosity and acclaimed talent - which made him one of Ireland's favourite sons - would be sorely missed.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the tenor was amongst the greatest artists this island has produced and brought notice and distinction to the great Irish musical tradition.
Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands Minister Sile de Valera, described Mr Patterson as ``a self-effacing person whose great talent was recognisable nationally and internationally.''
A fine person and performer, he brought great credit to Ireland, she said.
Fine Gael leader John Bruton said Mr Patterson had ``the purest voice of his generation, through which he was able to evoke the timeless characteristics of his native land.''
On a personal level he was kindness and humility personified and a pleasure to know.
Labour leader Ruairi Quinn said Mr Patterson was one of the outstanding figures in the arts in Ireland and had brought joy to millions of music lovers throughout his life.
``I once had the pleasure of hearing Frank singing ``Sliabh na mBan'' and afterwards the stunned audience were left in no doubt that wherever Frank may have travelled a part of him never left his native county,'' Mr Quinn said.
Born in Clonmel, Frank Patterson's musical career began as a boy-soprano before winning scholarships to study in London, Paris and in the Netherlands.
He recorded 36 albums in six language, won silver, gold and platinum discs and was the first Irish person to host their own show in Radio City Hall in New York - a testament of his huge international popularity.
He was invited to sing in the White House by both presidents Reagan and Clinton and sang with the best European and American orchestras. As one of Ireland's most famous musical exports, Mr Patterson lived with his family in New York for the past 12 years but his most cherished performance was at the papal mass of Pope John Paul II in Dublin's Phoenix Park in 1979 before a congregation of more that one million people.
In 1984 he was awarded the Knighthood of St Gregory by the Pope.
The acclaimed Irish tenor loved performing, enjoyed the recognition that came with fame and was proud of the fact that he never lost his Tipperary accent despite his long stay in the US.
``When you're a singer, the world is your oyster and if you want to be a professional you have to go and sing wherever you get a job,'' he once said. ``I never made a living in Ireland but I'm not bitter about that - it's a small country.''
His last album outsold Pavarotti.