A decade after forming in their native Canada, The Tenors are an international success story. With their robust singing and seamless blend of classical and contemporary pop textures, Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray, and Fraser Walters have scored multi-platinum sales, performed for the likes of Oprah Winfrey and HM Queen Elizabeth II and shared stages with superstars ranging from Paul McCartney to Justin Bieber. And once again, they’re ready to share their blessings, and seasonal spirit, with the new recording ‘Christmas Together’.
“Our whole career has been about finding songs we really love,” says Clifton. “The thing about Christmas music is it’s the music that takes us back furthest in our lives, because we’ve been listening to these songs since we were children.” For ‘Christmas Together’, he, Fraser, and Victor dug deep into tradition while also looking forward, coming up with an assortment of both old and new favorites — including original material – that reflects their personal and artistic growth.
The Tenors were involved in each step of the creative process behind ‘Christmas Together’, working on arrangements and production alongside Grammy Award-winning producer Keith Thomas (Blake Shelton, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight), renowned producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Alice Cooper), and Grammy Award and Oscar-winning orchestrator Jorge Calandrelli (Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, Plácido Domingo).
The new album is further enriched by experiences Micallef, Murray, and Walters have had outside the studio: All three are now married men, and Walters welcomed a daughter a year ago. Micallef has a nine-year-old son, who makes a cameo appearance on “Santa’s Wish,” a new song adapted from “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” with fresh lyrics and music by the Tenors, spinning a tale of a young boy who witnesses Santa disguised as a street musician.
Murray, who isn’t yet a dad – “I have a new puppy, though, so that’s a warmup,” he says – thinks ‘Christmas Together’ is “more playful” as a result: “We really tried to capture the essence of what it’s like to be a child at Christmastime. The wonder and mystery of it, the sense that miracles can happen.” At the same time, Murray says, “There’s a lot of nostalgia. You think of those magical times sitting around the dinner table, singing with family. These songs have been the soundtrack to our memories.”
Adds Micallef, “We’ve included classic songs like ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ but tried to go in a slightly different direction and add some rhythm.” On “Faithful,” featuring members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, they inject world-music accents while rising to operatic heights.
The Tenors’ agile and resonant voices soar throughout, whether forming lush harmonies on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – in a stirring a cappella arrangement – or dancing through playful guitars on the buoyant original “When We Are Together.” Also included is Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene’s “Mary, Did You Know?”; Fraser describes the sweetly melancholic song as “kind of a new classic, in that it’s really ramped up in popularity in the past 15 years or so. When we put the word out that we were working on this album, it was one of the songs most requested by our fans.”
That kind of feedback is vital to The Tenors, who, Fraser notes, “all have diverse backgrounds and bring different tools and abilities to the group.” Micallef, the son of Maltese immigrants, began playing piano and singing at the age of five. It was not until he was 16 – after his father passed away – that he focused his training on his operatic voice, singing the classical repertoire that his father so dearly loved. Following University, Victor continued his studies with the Canadian Opera company and also with his mentor in Italy while singing with the Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy. “So Victor’s our in-house Italian guru,” quips Fraser, “which mostly means he orders the red wine at restaurants.”
Murray, Fraser says, “jokes that he got his musical training around the campfire. His dad started a family-run fishing resort in the most beautiful part of British Columbia, and from the age of 12, Clifton and his father would pull out their guitars after dinner and entertain the guests with songs, stories, and jokes. So Clifton got to learn the trade by ear, and by feel, and then went on to sing in gospel choirs while pursuing a successful career in acting.”
Walters added, “I started singing and playing different instruments as a kid, earning an early musical education jamming with my grandfather’s band on the weekends. My mom shared her love of theater with me, in fact we were often in musicals together and I realized later it was probably just glorified babysitting! Well I’m grateful for that because it paved the way for my career as a young artist and those experiences have stayed with me all these years.”
They were all writing music as well, Fraser says. “I think we all knew we didn’t want to go down one road, or stick to one genre. Victor was in a rock band at one point, with hair down to his butt, and then sang these amazing operas in Italy.” As Micallef says, “We never put what we do into a category. We just follow our hearts into whatever comes out at that moment, so that we could do a rock festival or a symphony show.”
That eclectic virtuosity will be on display when The Tenors embark on a North American tour in November and December, starting in the USA. “We live and breathe by our live show,” says Murray. “It’s where we come from as artists, and how we got to where we are today. Everything comes down to, how do we constantly create a better experience live? We’re working with some great choreographers and directors to make sure we get everything out of each song and moment.”
That enthusiasm is shared by The Tenors. “When we create in the studio, it’s beautiful to be in that zone,” says Micallef. “But I think we all agree that there’s nothing like getting on stage and feeling that reciprocal energy go back and forth between the audience and us. It’s something you can’t put into words. It’s magic. And we can’t wait to start sharing it again.” The Tenors have performed all over the world including headlining tours across North America, Europe, Asia, and South Africa. Their widespread popularity has also enabled them to extend their talents to philanthropic endeavors with many charitable organizations including The Special Olympics, The David Foster Foundation, The Starkey Hearing Foundation, and for much needed orphan care in Bulembu, Swaziland. The Tenors have also been ‘We Day’ Ambassadors for many years, encouraging young people worldwide towards volunteering in communities both locally and globally; this has resulted in several life-changing trips for The Tenors to Africa and India with the organization.
It’s safe to say The Tenors have truly embraced the art of harmony in all of their endeavors.