Review: The Tenors wade unabashedly, and pleasingly, through fields of Christmas cheer

The Tenors at the Jubilee Auditorium on Tuesday night

The Tenors played a slick, entertaining pre-Christmas set at the Jubilee Auditorium, says reviewer Tom Murray. Dan Lim / Supplied

The world is not lacking in tenors.

Aside from the groundbreaking Three Tenors there’s the 3 Welsh Tenors, The Irish Tenors, The Four Tenors, The Countertenors, The Australian Tenors, even The Redneck Tenors, to name just a few. In Canada we have The Tenors, formerly (go figure) The Canadian Tenors, a carefully manufactured unit that caught fire back in 2008 for their rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Since then they’ve been a constant presence on the classical charts in North America and a fixture on PBS, where their specials are wildly popular.

They’re a slick and entertaining little vocal three-piece to be sure, moving easily between pop songs, opera, ballads and Christmas tunes, plenty of which could be heard at the Jubilee Auditorium on Tuesday night.

In town for their Home For the Holidays: Christmas Classics & Hits tour, the trio of suit-clad singers (Clifton Murray, Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef) brought a little early holiday musical cheer and mild comedy to a respectably sized crowd primed for the easy-listening pleasures on offer.

Some might categorize them as merely corny, but this reviewer begs to differ; The Tenors wade in vast fields of corn, unabashedly so, and for that they should be justly applauded.

They established their range early on by leaping from an operatic piece to Suspicious Minds, tipping their collective hats back to Elvis (and the original Three Tenors) with O Sole Mio/It’s Now or Never, wandering into the front rows for some one-on-one action with a few lucky fans. Blue Christmas continued the early Presley homage, but they really hit their stride with an ominous, pulsing Little Drummer Boy; you really felt that the ox and lamb kept time, something that will forever haunt many members of the audience. Santa’s Wish incorporated the chorus for the New Seekers’ I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing into its own chorus, the effect of which was to cause a sudden jonesing for a Coca-Cola.

There was plenty more where that came from.

A jaunty Feliz Navidad, a sweetly sung solo take on Roy Orbison’s Crying by Clifton Murray, a dramatic take on The Lord’s Prayer, and a majestic turn on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. It was a bit like hearing live versions of everything you’ll hear in the grocery store over the entirety of December, only louder and with running commentary in between numbers.

Their celebrated version of Hallelujah (I know, I know; everybody has a celebrated version of Hallelujah these days) was notable for the incorporation of a children’s choir, which did spot duty throughout the evening, and a jarring guitar solo straight out of the hair metal ’80s.

You really can’t pull a production like this off without a tight, flexible band, and The Tenors definitely had that. Left to their own devices as the singers left the stage (presumably to buff their shiny shoes) they launched into a gently rocking Christmas instrumental. The Tenors graciously called them over from their stations to help out on a nicely arranged a-cappella version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and bedecked them in some truly garish Christmas sweaters.

It was a swell evening of family-friendly fun. Please don’t blame The Tenors if you’ve now got early onset Christmas music PTSD a full month before the actual event; they’re only doing their holiday duty.

The Tenors

When: Tuesday night

Where: Jubilee Auditorium