Three for the Road

The Tenors greet the hol­i­days on a high note

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Mike Criso­lago Pho­tog­ra­phy by Paul Alexan­der

The Tenors greet the hol­i­days on a high note

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE. Tenors, that is. Not those three tenors but rather Vic­tor Mi­callef, Clifton Mur­ray and Fraser Wal­ters – a tri­fecta of Cana­dian croon­ers that boasts both pop star good looks and top-notch op­er­atic pipes. Col­lec­tively known as, sim­ply, the Tenors (orig­i­nally the Cana­dian Tenors, when the act de­buted with dif­fer­ent per­form­ers in 2004; the cur­rent mem­bers came to­gether in 2009) the trio’s brand of up­lift­ing op­er­atic pop, or “popera,” has them har­mo­niz­ing on tunes rang­ing from clas­si­cal favourites to Leonard Co­hen’s “Hal­lelu­jah” to Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody.” All told, they’ve scored three plat­inum al­bums to date and per­formed for every­one from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to Queen El­iz­a­beth II to, most re­cently, Prince Harry and the ath­letes of the 2017 In­vic­tus Games in Toronto.

In per­son, their man­ners and charm call out their Cana­dian roots – Mi­callef’s a Toronto na­tive while Mur­ray and Wal­ters hail from B.C. – and within min­utes of ar­riv­ing

for a Zoomer photo shoot they’re hud­dled with a gui­tar and a mi­cro­phone, bang­ing out an im­promptu ren­di­tion of “When We Are To­gether,” their toe-tap­ping hol­i­day pop tune that topped the charts in 2015. It’s all in cel­e­bra­tion of their first al­bum as a trio, Christ­mas To­gether, which ex­plodes out of the gate with the strength of 10 lords a-leap­ing on a rous­ing ren­di­tion of “O Come All Ye Faith­ful” be­fore set­tling in to a blend of beloved car­ols, the group’s de­but a cap­pella record­ing, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentle­men” (per­formed with Junowin­ner Johnny Reid) and the Tenor­writ­ten orig­i­nal “Santa’s Wish,” in­spired by and in­cor­po­rat­ing the clas­sic Coca-Cola jin­gle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

If the Tenors’ last Yule­tide of­fer­ing is any in­di­ca­tion, the suc­cess of Christ­mas To­gether is as­sured. Their 2009 hol­i­day disc, The Per­fect Gift, sim­i­larly of­fered stan­dards to sip eggnog by, am­pli­fied with mod­ern ar­range­ments, guest per­form­ers and the group’s cel­e­brated har­monies. That disc went triple plat­inum – their best-sell­ing al­bum to date.

“Christ­mas and The Tenors is a beau­ti­ful mar­riage,” Mi­callef, adorned with his trade­mark fe­dora, says, “be­cause the vo­cal mu­sic and the reper­toire lends it­self so beau­ti­fully to the tenor voice.”

The abun­dance of early hol­i­day cheer also serves as a wel­come re­prieve from the con­tro­versy that landed like a lump of coal in their col­lec­tive stock­ing in 2016, when the group’s for­mer fourth mem­ber, Remi­gio Pereira, went rogue and al­tered the lyrics of the Cana­dian na­tional an­them prior to the Ma­jor League Base­ball All-Star Game. He changed the words to in­clude the phrase “all lives mat­ter” and held up a sign with the same phrase writ­ten on it, in­ter­preted by most as a crit­i­cism of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment against po­lice bru­tal­ity tar­get­ting peo­ple of colour. The other three mem­bers dis­tanced them­selves from the so-called “lone wolf Tenor” and Pereira was re­moved from the group in short or­der.

“It was a very tu­mul­tuous time, and it was very un­ex­pected but we’re very happy to be mov­ing for­ward, and we wish Remi­gio well,” Mi­callef notes tact­fully, adding that

hav­ing con­tro­versy thrust on them, “ac­tu­ally forces you to look in­ward and chal­lenge your­self even more. And that’s ex­actly what we did. This year was ex­tra bond­ing and ex­tra cre­at­ing, and we feel on top of the world right now.”

It’s a year that’s in­cluded ev­ery­thing from work­ing with their life coach to map out fu­ture goals to amp­ing up their live act. “Tak­ing chances like we never have be­fore, in­cor­po­rat­ing new styles of mu­sic into our live show; we do Queen now with the leather jack­ets and some danc­ing,” Mur­ray ex­plains. “We’re look­ing for that nat­u­ral next evo­lu­tion of the Tenors be­cause every­one gets stag­nant, and you don’t want to rest on your lau­rels.”

Sim­i­lar for­mu­las proved pop­u­lar for their mu­si­cal con­tem­po­raries, like clas­si­cal crossover group Il Divo, who’ve racked up hit records per­form­ing ev­ery­thing from R&B tunes to Broad­way stan­dards. How­ever, while the Tenors’ vo­cal range is “mag­nifico-o-o-o” on rock clas­sics like “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody,” it’s not evo­lu­tion but a re­turn to their roots of song­book and clas­si­cal stan­dards that seems to bring out their best – es­pe­cially around the hol­i­days.

“For us, mu­sic has al­ways been the fo­cal point at Christ­mas­time,” Wal­ters says, not­ing the Tenors grew up singing with their fam­i­lies and in the com­mu­nity dur­ing the hol­i­days. “I [still] al­ways sing at church on Christ­mas Eve. They gave you the op­por­tu­nity grow­ing up to prac­tise the art form, and now this is one way of giv­ing back.”

True to form, the Tenors plan to sing away the sea­son both pri- vately – Mi­callef and Wal­ters are spend­ing Christ­mas at home with their wives and kids while Mur­ray and his wife and ex­tended fam­ily head to Bora Bora – and on the road for the Christ­mas To­gether North Amer­i­can Tour where, much like jolly old Saint Nick, they’ll spread joy and good tid­ings to all the good boys and girls lucky enough to find con­cert tick­ets un­der the tree.

“Ev­ery year since we’ve been in this group we’ve had a Christ­mas con­cert, and it’s al­ways been a great re­sponse tak­ing it all across North Amer­ica,” Mi­callef says. “And we just hope that we get to share the mu­sic of Christ­mas un­til we’re look­ing like Santa our­selves.”

Dressed to Chill The Tenors in Gior­gio Ar­mani tuxe­dos. Groom­ing, Clau­dine Bal­tazar for Der­ma­log­ica/Kevin. Mur­phy/Plutino Group. Fash­ion di­rec­tor, Der­ick Chetty

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