The Tenors bring pop, opera to Symphony Hall


The Tenors, with guest Robin Meade, at Atlanta Symphony Hall, 8 p.m. Wednesday, tickets $45.50-55.50, available at Ticketmaster and the Woodruff Arts Center box office; 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Ga. 404-733-5000, www.woodruffcenter.org/, www.tenorsmusic.com/

Clifton Murray, of the pop-operatic supergroup The Tenors, which performs at Symphony Hall on Wednesday, knows that it’s the simple songs that trip you up.

So it was, during a recent command performance before Her Majesty the Queen, when they were informed, with an hour’s warning, that they’d be singing “God Save the Queen.”

None of the four knew it. “So we basically, in the hour-long car ride, learned a four-part a cappella arrangement,” said Murray. “We rehearsed that thing the whole ride, and that driver never felt so patriotic his entire life.”

Not content to trust his memory on the lyrics, fellow tenor Remigio Pereira jotted a few words on his microphone hand. Unfortunately, they weren’t using microphones in the modest room.

“So, in the middle of song, Remi did a sort half-salute to look at his hand,” Murray laughs. “It worked out well.”

Singing for the Queen, appearing on “Oprah,” embarking on a 70-city North American tour and seeing their January album, “Lead With Your Heart,” go platinum in their native Canada, these are all hallmarks of a busy year for the vocal ensemble.

The high point seems to have been a surprise appearance by Canadian vocal goddess Celine Dion, who joined the group in the middle of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the Oprah broadcast. The Tenors’ expressions during that moment, visible on YouTube, are priceless.

Murray, who grew up singing for patrons at his parents’ helicopter fishing resort in British Columbia and came to national attention on “Canadian Idol,” spoke by telephone about the group’s melodious journey.

On the contrast between his rural beginnings and his globe-trotting life:

We started in a Central Canada church basement, and now we’re doing 5,000-seat halls, and we’re performing all over the world. There are so many pinch-me moments. And it was music and performance that got us there, not some deal.

On the make-out sessions that their romantic tunes such as “Lead With Your Heart” and “Me He Enamorado De Ti” have inspired:

We’ll take a small credit. … You bring people together, a little bit of love is bound to happen.

On the difference between their group (formerly The Canadian Tenors) and other tenor ensembles:

On the creative side, we’re the owners of the company. In tenor groups in the past, somebody has the idea, they bring people together, and they own it. But the music comes from us. We pick the songs, and we’re more like a band than a tenor group in the traditional sense.

On the enlarged heart that sidetracked Murray’s athletic career (he was a high jump champion in his province) and the atrial fibrillation that did the same for leader Fraser Walters:

It is a bit of a coincidence and quite ironic. We both have heart conditions. I was on the path of sports in college. It was our hearts that led us on this path.

On his favorite boy band:

I’m in the best boy band there is. It just happens to be a man band. We’re not turning this article into a boy band conversation.

On whether singing competition shows such as “Canadian Idol” are good for singers:

It’s a double-edged sword. As a young artist, it’s a great way to get yourself out there. Canadian Idol helped me get to The Tenors. It put my name out there, my voice out there. … But if you get into the business through the singing competition world, there are so many complications creatively, contractually, that maybe you lose a little bit of control of the artistry, becomes more of a machine. But maybe that happens without the competition as well.

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