The Tenors are in the midst of a gruelling 70-city tour to promote their latest CD Lead With Your Heart. The boys take a break to catch up with alive.
Audience members anxiously check their watches in Vancouver\’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre. As the house lights finally dim, they cheer wildly for the four tuxedoed young men who saunter onto the stage bathed in teal and purple light. The Tenors are home—for the first Canadian date of their Lead With Your Heart tour.
Go big and go home
The Tenors (formerly The Canadian Tenors) have been on an amazing journey since alive last met with them in Calgary (alive, “Four Regular Guys in Tuxedos,” October 2008). When asked at that time if they had any specific goals they hoped to achieve, Fraser Walters, the unofficial leader of the group said jokingly, “World domination comes to mind.”
With a name change that reflects the international scope of their music, and a new member of the group—Clifton Murray, who replaced former Tenor Jamie McKnight—The Tenors have indeed achieved world domination. Presently on the Ontario leg of their 70-city tour of Canada and the United States, they’ll be returning to the small town of Bulembu, Swaziland in Africa this August to support their charitable work there, before embarking on the final European leg of the tour.
Spending 300 days a year on the road touring can take a toll on one’s health and well-being. To cope with the demands of such a gruelling schedule, The Tenors look after themselves by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and exercise. They stay grounded and down-to-earth through their connection to family and each other. They’re still those “regular guys in tuxedos” who charmed our readers in 2008.
Since then, The Tenors have rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show where they sang with Celine Dion, singing at the 2011 Emmy Awards, and performing publicly and privately for Queen Elizabeth at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. (The Queen requested they sing one of their signature songs, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” for their private tea with her.)
You know you’re famous when …
International concerts and national television exposure have made The Tenors recognizable celebrities in their own right. Walking the streets is becoming more difficult, although people sometimes confuse them with the group Il Divo. Walters says it’s just easier to nod their heads when that happens rather than try to correct people.
Walters and Murray were in Seattle earlier this year to appear on television station KCTS’s pledge drive, which featured The Tenors’ Las Vegas PBS special. While in Seattle, they decided to go to a Seahawks game. Standing in line at the stadium waiting to pick up their tickets, they were approached by a burly firefighter wearing a fire department hat.
“Hey, are you guys The Tenors?” he asked. Walters and Murray said they were. The man replied, “Oh my God, the boys at the station will be blown away that I met you!”
“They had watched our PBS special at the station,” Walters says, “and the guys were so moved. Stories like that are incredible. Our music is not only reaching out internationally, but it’s also reaching new demographics that it didn’t before.”
In 2008, social media was gaining popularity, but tweeting hadn’t yet become a ubiquitous social media activity. Social media has played a huge role in connecting musicians with their audience in a more intimate way than ever before, including The Tenors.
“Information is instantaneous now, so your fans come with you on your journey,” says Tenor Remigio Pereira. “We like to call our fans The Tenors’ friends [TTFs]. They’ve got their own Facebook page, and they travel and meet wherever there’s a Tenors concert.”
“We even have six-year-old kids showing up wearing a bow tie and a fedora because they love Victor’s look, and they want to copy what he does on stage,” says Walters, a tribute to the ability of their music to touch people of all ages.
Perhaps a Tenors concert should come with a caveat. Warning: attending this concert may change your life. Numerous fans have contacted The Tenors to share personal stories of how their music has inspired them to run marathons, lose significant amounts of weight, and volunteer in Africa.
“We received an email from a solider in Afghanistan during the war. He bought a ticket for a friend of his and asked if we would sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her at the show. She was so moved that she checked out our website and saw some of the causes that we’re a part of, and she ended up going to Bulembu to teach for six months,” says Pereira.
Bulembu is a former mining town whose inhabitants were ravaged by the AIDS pandemic, leaving many vulnerable children orphaned. The town is being revitalized through the establishment of community enterprise, education, and health care. The Tenors support the Bulembu Foundation.
“It was a life-changing experience for her. We hear many stories like that, so it really makes us proud that our music can impact someone’s life in that way,” says Pereira.
“We realize our music is very powerful, and it’s transformational,” agrees Murray. “It reminds us how important the music really is, to take it seriously, and to treat it with respect, because it’s a very powerful tool.”
Paying it forward
Some of The Tenors’ own dreams involve giving back. They’ve been involved in Bulembu since 2008. So far they’ve raised more than $2 million for the Swaziland town. Not content to simply raise money, they have visited Bulembu twice.
“Both times were amazing experiences, and we’re going a third time this summer. Every time we see a progression—roads were paved, a brand new school was built. This last time around we had the chance to bring our loved ones. I got really emotional because my son wasn’t there, and I watched [my] Kats hold this little girl in her arms,” says Tenor Victor Micallef. “At first the children are a little shy, but once they get to know you, they give you hugs, and they’re so gracious. It was pretty powerful.”
Pereira agrees, “There’s nothing that can prepare you for what you see there. We saw kids taking care of kids. Some had seen more tragedy in the first two weeks of existence than some people have experienced in their whole lives.
“When you come back here and you’re lining up on the red carpet and you’re being asked questions, you sometimes think how superficial we are on this side of the world. We don’t know what’s going on. You do come back changed completely. You don’t take as many things for granted anymore.”
According to Murray, Walters “takes the cake” as the healthiest Tenor. Despite their hectic touring schedule, Walters makes looking after his health a priority by eating nutritious foods, taking supplements as necessary, and exercising.
He’s selective about what he puts in his body, and always carries raw almonds, protein bars, and protein powders with him.
“Working out is an important part of every day on the road,” he says.
He also brings along a guitar and a notebook with him so he can write poetry or song lyrics. He loves reading and writing, and prefers reading biographies or nonfiction.
In 2000, Walters played soccer at the University of British Columbia and was a member of the national track and field team. He thought he was the healthiest he’d ever been, until he discovered that he had atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). This diagnosis changed the course of his life as he was forced to give up competitive athletics.
Always active in musical theatre, he changed his focus to music. Besides leading him to become a Tenor, music also led him to find the love of his life. While touring with David Foster, the well-known Canadian musician, singer, composer, and record producer, Walters met his wife Kelly, a singer from New York; they’ve been married for more than a year.
Now based out of Los Angeles, Walters says, “We live close to the beach, because we love the outdoors. I like to surf, paddleboard, skateboard, run, and mountain bike. When I get home, my goal is not to be in a car or a motorized vehicle for as long as possible.”
Growing up in Ottawa, Pereira was active in baseball and hockey until an injury sidelined him and he picked up the guitar. Since then, all types of music, from rock to opera, have been his passion.
Pereira has written television and movie scores, but he’s currently producing an album for a young rapper from Toronto. “I like to nurture young artists who I believe in and see them have a chance at a career because it’s such a tough business, and not everyone has the opportunity,” he says.
Pereira is also proud of the ways The Tenors have been able to use their music to impact lives. The Tenors wrote the theme song for Free The Children, the international organization run by Marc and Craig Kielburger. They also support the Horatio Alger Association, which provides scholarships for underprivileged children.
The Tenors, who write some of their own songs, are working on a publishing deal that would allow them to write for other artists too.
“I wrote a country song the other day,” Pereira says. “Obviously, I wouldn’t be the one singing it, but whatever comes out, comes out. I love producing, building tracks for artists, creating symphonic parts, and playing all the instruments on the songs. I love that process of creating and birthing a new song. It’s a labour of love.”
The newest Tenor joined the group in 2009. An actor and pop singer, Murray’s love of music began when he was 12, singing along while his father played guitar and sang for guests at the family’s Nimmo Bay fishing resort in Port McNeill, BC.
Like Walters, Murray was on the sports path, but at age 20 he developed a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). This condition can cause sudden cardiac death in young athletes. Although being told he couldn’t play sports again devastated him initially, he returned to his first love, music.
“If it wasn’t for my heart condition, I wouldn’t have gotten into performing arts school, I wouldn’t have got a call from The Tenors, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. I guess I’m a living embodiment of leading with your heart, because my heart basically guided me to where I am today,” Murray says.
He credits his heart condition with keeping him focused on staying healthy. He uses exercise to de-stress. “I love cross-training, doing a full body workout, and squats with weights. I like to do high reps with lighter weights. It’s better for my heart,” Murray says.
When not on the road, he lives in Vancouver, where he works out at the gym in his building and uses a steam room to remove toxins from his body. “It’s great for singers because you get that moist air through the lungs, which is good, it cleans out the vocal cords after they’ve worked really hard,” he says.
He always keeps a healthy snack close by, such as nuts, trail mix, or a power bar or shake, to keep his metabolism up. He also takes a multivitamin and uses oil of oregano to stay healthy while travelling.
Being on the road 300 days a year is bittersweet, according to the man of many hats. Micallef’s hats have become his signature trademark. He estimates he has a collection of 40 to 50 hats of various styles. It’s a fashion habit he picked up from his grandfather.
It’s tough being on the road for long stretches of time when Micallef has to leave his four-year-old son Zachariah and his wife Kathleen at home. He uses Skype to keep in touch, but Zach gets upset when Daddy leaves.
“It’s sometimes quite humorous,” Micallef says. “My wife came to New York with me, and we left him with my in-laws for a few days. My wife got home last night and I asked him, ‘Are you happy that Mommy’s home?’ He says, ‘yeah,’ and I say, ‘But now I’m sad I’m all by myself. What should I do?’ And right away, he’s quick with the response, he says, ‘Well, come home.’”
Micallef says, “There are pros and cons [to]. One of the biggest pros is having brothers by your side to share this experience with. It’s kind of like an arranged marriage. We were introduced to each other not knowing each other, but now we’ve become like family. And when you’re missing your own family at home tremendously, they’re supportive, and they’ll say, why don’t you bring them along for this leg? They understand.
“The Tenors have always been a group about the heart, and that’s why our new CD really defines our theme. We want people to know that leading with your heart is what we believe in, and we want everybody to follow their hearts as well.”
Win The Tenors’ newest CD!
Ten lucky readers will win a copy of The Tenors’ latest CD, Lead With Your Heart. Enter for your chance to win at alive.com/contests.