The Tenors soar ‘Under One Sky’
Paul Hyde, [email protected] 8:44 a.m. EST January 21, 2016
The Tenors are upfront about it: their songs are all about good vibes.
“Inspiration and love are the two defining elements in our music,” said group member Clifton Murray. “We only choose songs with a powerful message because we want people to be able to escape from their difficulties and connect with the universal truths of love, family, hope and inclusivity.”
The Canadian vocal group arrives at the Peace Center on Thursday, Jan. 28.
The Tenors, with the unique combination of two opera singers and two pop vocalists, are touring the world on the strength of their fourth studio album “Under One Sky,” which debuted last year at No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover charts.
The 13-track recording highlights the group’s signature blend of classical and contemporary pop, with hits like Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever,” the inspirational “New Day’s Begun” and the soaring “Nella Fantasia.”
The Tenors (in addition to Murray, the group includes Victor Micallef, Remigio Pereira and Fraser Walters) have gained a devoted following through PBS specials, appearances on “The Today Show” and other TV programs, and almost ceaseless touring.
The Tenors’ current schedule includes a return visit to Queen Elizabeth in April on the occasion of her 90th birthday. It’ll mark the fourth time the group has performed for the Queen, who particularly likes the Tenors’ rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The group’s videos of that song have earned several million hits on YouTube.
“The Queen said that she loves the variety in our repertoire which is a great thing for her to say because that’s what defines our group, the unique combination of two pop and two classical singers and our range of styles,” Murray said, speaking from his home in Vancouver, Canada on a rare day off.
The fantastic foursome’s show is powered by a five-member band performing against the backdrop of huge digital screens.
“It’s a big production, the biggest we’ve ever done,” Murray said. “Our core fan base, the TFFs (Tenors Friends Forever), tell us it’s the greatest show we’ve ever done. We’re super-happy with the response.”
In Greenville, the group will be joined on the Peace Center stage for a few numbers by a choir from the A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School.
“It’s really a magical moment in the show when a local children’s choir comes out and sings their hearts out,” Murray said. “It really elevates the experience.”
The video screens create a narrative, for instance paying tribute to moms while the Tenors sing the classic Joe Cocker track, “You Are So Beautiful.”
Dads get their due, meanwhile, with the number “My Father’s Son.”
“We’ve really focused on what the songs are about and the big screens tell the stories,” Murray said.
“Under One Sky,” the feel-good title track of the group’s new album, gets to the heart of the inclusive message the Tenors want to communicate through their show, Murray said.
“It’s about bringing people together and focusing on our similarities instead of our differences, sharing this music in the hope that people forget about the craziness for a while or let go of some of that negative energy,” Murray said. “We’re all in this together so we let the music be the universal language that we can all understand and that can bring us together.”
The group will feature about nine songs from “Under One Sky” among the two dozen or so numbers in its Thursday concert.
The response to the show has given the Tenors (formerly known as the Canadian Tenors) a stronger sense of the importance of their musical mission, Murray said.
“I know it’s a cliche but when you get thousands of letters about how music has changed someone’s life or brought them out of the darkness or helped them grieve over a lost loved one, you understand the incredible responsibility to treat every show as if it’s your first or your last,” Murray said.
The group has to be nimble, too. Last time the Tenors performed for the Queen, they received a last-minute call from her personal butler at Windsor Castle.
“He called on the morning we were driving to the venue,” Murray said, “and asked if we could sing ‘God Save the Queen.’ We said, ‘Absolutely, no problem.’ But we didn’t actually know ‘God Save the Queen.’ So in the hour-long car ride, we came up with a four-part a cappella arrangement. We rehearsed it like we’ve never rehearsed anything before. Our English driver never felt so patriotic.”
The Tenors maintain an uptempo schedule, with 300 days on the road every year. After performing in Greenville and several other U.S. cities, the group embarks for Europe and Asia.
“It’s sort of a perpetual moving train,” Murray said. “We really live on the road. But it’s a magical ride.”
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YOU CAN GO
What: The Tenors
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28
Where: Peace Center Concert Hall, downtown Greenville
Tickets: $25 to $55
Information: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org