Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CANADIAN TENORS PREVIEW: They croon, we swoon

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First came the Three Tenors, operatic legends who crossed over to pop stardom.

Next came the imitators, from the Irish Tenors to the cheekily named Three Mo' Tenors.

Then came Il Divo, the Armani-suited "popera" quartet created through a worldwide talent search by shrewd American Idol judge Simon Cowell.

Il Divo, consisting of a Spanish baritone, Swiss and American tenors and a French pop singer, is a champagne boy band that earned the swoon of approval from Oprah Winfrey.

Now Canada has its own quartet of pop-classical heartthrobs, the Canadian Tenors. Making their first local appearances Friday, Saturday and Sunday in pops concerts with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the big-voiced four were assembled in 2007 through a talent search by Victoria composer Jill Ann Siemens.

Comparisons to the mega-selling Il Divo are inevitable, but don't dub these vocalists Il Beavo.

"I guess it's par for the course," says Vancouver-bred Fraser Walters, the blond tenor, about the comparison. "But that's like saying any four-piece band that came out after the Beatles was trying to be them.

"We have a very different way of delivering our performance.... We use humour and just have a ton of fun onstage. It's not scripted.... We hear often that it's like we've invited people into our living room."

Walters has a musical-theatre background. He played Haldir in the short-lived Toronto stage production of The Lord of the Rings, and got the call to join the Canadian Tenors the day after it closed.

The quartet is based on a balance between two operatic voices and two more pop or musical-theatre voices. Its repertoire ranges from operatic arias to pop tunes, folk songs and musical-theatre numbers.

The Winnipeg gig is the tenors' first pops-orchestra appearance. The WSO will be augmented with bass, drums, guitar and piano, Walters says.

Tenor Remigio Pereira, who is a professional guitarist, will spice up the concert with some romantic strumming that reflects his Portuguese heritage.

The tenors, who range in age from their mid-20s to mid-30s, will likely change up their look from suits to jeans, says the 28-year-old Walters.

Last year was one of constant travel and showcase appearances aimed at stirring up interest in the Toronto-based group. They gave 80-plus concerts on five continents. They warmed up crowds several times for high-profile speaker Bill Clinton, performed on Canada Day in England's Trafalgar Square and shared a stage in Israel with tenor Andrea Bocelli.

One of their most glamorous gigs was a star-studded charity party during the Toronto International Film Festival. Producer-composer David Foster accompanied them.

"Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Kevin Costner were all in the first few rows," Walters recalls.

The strategy of building buzz apparently paid off. Universal stepped forward to distribute the Canadian Tenors' self-titled independent CD. It was released on Nov. 25 with its tracks remastered.

A personnel change that added Clifton Murray to the group, which also includes Victor Micallef, has rendered the quartet's publicity photos out-of-date.

The Canadian Tenors with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
Jan. 23, 24 and 25


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2009 D1

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