Singing senior wows judges

Not so hard: Sherry Kayser sings “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” by Neil Sedaka at the sixth annual Senior Idol, held at Xaverian High School on Oct. 13.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Brooklyn’s senoirs showed the borough’s younger generation how it’s done.

Some of the most venerable voices set the halls of Xaverian High School ringing as they sang their hearts out in the sixth annual Senior Idol competition on Oct. 13.

The evening featured both old-fashioned ballads and modern pop classics, with contestant Hector Gonzalez crooning Gene Pitney’s “Cara Mia,” while rival vocalist Victoria Keller intoned R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” But the $500 first prize went to Marine Park resident Vincent Frisari, and his rendition of the aria “Nessum Dorma” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot.”

“You didn’t need to go to Broadway this weekend to see a great show,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), who sponsors the competition each year. “What talent we have in our community.”

Frisari said he was amazed to come in first among the 11 finalists who sang on Saturday night after being selected for the competition in September, since he’d just fought off a cough and was performing an 86-year-old operatic number.

“Being kind of an ‘American Idol’ spin off, I thought more of a pop song would win,” said the retired restaurateur and bagel salesman and native of the village of Bisceglie in Italy.

Frisari said two of his idols inspired him to take on the famous Italian vocal piece — a work that had intimidated him for nearly half of his 30-year career as a singer.

“It was Pavarotti’s last aria he would sing in every concert,” said Frisari, referring to the late, great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. “For years I was afraid to touch it. I didn’t feel worthy to sing it.”

But seeing soul singer Aretha Franklin — another Frisari favorite — perform it at the 1998 Grammy Awards during Pavarotti’s illness, gave him the bravery to take “Nessum Dorma” on.

“If Aretha Franklin has courage enough to do it on TV, why should I be afraid?” Frisari said.

Still, Frisari had to deal with his accompanying CD of the piece playing loud enough for him to hear it, and said he was in shock when the panel of judges — which included Q104.3 personality Jim Kerr and New York talk show legend Joe Franklin — voted in his favor.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m never at a loss for words,” Frisari told the audience, which included several of his musically inclined children and grandchildren, as he stammered his thank yous.

“A proud moment for Vincent Frisari and family,” declared Golden — who made a point to invite the tenor to sing at his Italian Heritage Festival on Oct. 30.

Italian Heritage Festival at Saint Athanasius Church [2154 61st St. between 21st Avenue and Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst]. Oct. 30, 7 pm. Free.

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