Let Clifton Murray make one thing clear – The Tenors as they are – Murray, Remigio Pereira, Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef – won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
“We’re not a rotating, revolving door where it’s just a name and singers that can come and go,” he said. “It’s Fraser, Clifton, Remy and Victor. That’s the Tenors.”
Not that there was any friction or doubts about the future of the Canadian quartet, which hits Westbury, New York tonight for a gig at The Theatre at Westbury. The topic came up when Murray was asked how four talented singers put egos aside to make a cohesive unit that has sold millions of records and packed venues around the world.
No, the answer doesn’t involve fistfights in the rehearsal room as they battle for positioning in a song.
“What makes this group special is that we are four solo artists,” Murray said. “We came from that background and we all wanted to be solo artists in the past. But when we came together, we realized that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; that there is something quite special when we sing together and we have all chosen to have our egos take a back seat to keep this group alive and to keep creating something beautiful with the harmonies and with each other. It’s not always easy, but we really work at sticking together and communicating and respecting each other’s desires to shine and to grow as artists. And that’s why we do a lot of writing. I co-wrote eight songs on this album, and we let our creativity blossom in this group. Being owners of the company also makes it easier, so we’re not owned by anyone, and at the end of the day the creative buck stops with us.”
And so far, they’ve been making all the right moves, with their latest, Under One Sky, debuting at number one on Billboard’s “Classical Crossover Albums” and “Classical Albums” charts. Impressive stuff, but not as impressive as the music the quartet make together. Weaving seamlessly through originals and poignant covers, The Tenors set a mood that carries through from start to finish, where – like Murray pointed out – egos are set aside to let the song do the talking.
“For me, the ultimate goal is to really get out of the way of the music and allow it to work through you where you’re not even thinking about the song,” he said. “You’re merely a vessel for that message and that melody to get to the audience.”
Singing is in the blood of Port McNeil’s Murray, as his grandfather and father handed down the craft to him. But Murray is also a talented actor who has appeared in several films and television shows. That begs the question, if he had to choose, which way would he go?
“I already made that choice,” he laughs. “It’s singing all the way. From Day One I’ve been watching my dad sing and tell stories and ever since I saw him do that at our small fishing resort, I just fell in love with it. That instant gratification and that immediate connection when you sing a song, there’s nothing like it. It’s a powerful connection for the audience and for the singer, and I love it.”
That doesn’t mean that the Silver Screen has seen the last of him yet.
“I’ve been singing and acting for the same amount of time professionally and I definitely want to do more acting,” he said. “I’d love to do both if I had my pick, but if I had to choose, it would be singing. There’s just something magical about getting out there and letting the music speak through you, and right now we’ve got The Tenors ship and it’s firing on all cylinders, so we’re just seeing how far we can take this.”
Murray’s acting chops do translate to his performances on stage though, and he credits his training in that area for helping him get his musical message across.
“Learning how to carry yourself on stage, learning how to find your moment, find your light, speak clearly, enunciate – all these little things are perfect training for what we do as The Tenors,” he explains. “We tell a lot of stories, we engage with the audience and with each other, and we’re all about being genuine and being truthful. And acting is the study of self. ‘Know thyself’ is the Shakespearean approach to acting and the philosophy behind it. And so when you’re in a groove that is all about singing from the heart, connecting with people, meaning what you say, living what you sing, and being able to be free to be yourself, it really makes a difference with your performance. Sometimes, when you’re uncomfortable on stage or you don’t have the background to express yourself clearly, your message could be misunderstood. And I’m very thankful for the training that I’ve had in acting, and I absolutely believe that it strengthened my craft as a singer and as an entertainer with The Tenors.”
It also helps when singing something like Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” one of the standout tracks on Under One Sky. As you may recall, the song was written by Clapton after his four-year-old son Conor tragically died in 1991. It’s one of those tracks that is so closely associated with its author that it seems impossible for anyone to attempt recording or performing it, but The Tenors pull it off with grace and the respect it deserves.
“I believe that a song like that, although heavy for Eric when he sang it, has a different message for each person if they choose to sing it or when they’re listening to it because everyone has their own story to put into the song,” Murray said. “And that’s for every song. Obviously, Eric’s story is deeply saddening and whenever anybody hears that song, they will think of that, but when I sing that song, I don’t always think about the story behind its creation. Sometimes I think about my own family members or my loved ones and what would happen if I lost them, and I’m able to put myself in whatever situation that song takes me to and I allow the music to work through those memories and those feelings, so that when people are listening to something or hearing something genuine and real, I think that elevates the experience for the singer and for the audience.”
To Murray and his fellow Tenors, that’s the bottom line every time they step on stage.
“We want to treat every single show as if it’s someone’s last, and we’re very honored to accept that challenge.”
The Tenors play The Theatre at Westbury in Westbury, NY tonight, Friday, November 13. For tickets, click here.