The Tenors Are Coming! … so it must be Christmas!

Iconic Canadian vocal group The Tenors are hitting the road again this year to spread some Christmas and Holiday cheer with their new seasonal tour called the Wonder of Christmas. The band is set to perform two shows in Southwestern Ontario this time: Caesars Windsor on Dec. 15 and The Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts in Brantford on Dec. 22.

The Tenors also get into the seasonal spirit with a guest appearance on a new Bing Crosby Christmas album “Bing at Christmas” recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.

We had a fun Christmas conversation with tenor Fraser Walters ahead of the tour.

Here you are once again getting ready for a Christmas season, and The Tenors are gearing up for a new Christmas tour. You guys and Christmas are one and the same, aren’t you?
We kind of go hand-in-hand. It’s like our best friends.

Along with the tours, you guys made an exciting appearance on the new Bing Crosby album with the London Symphony Orchestra. How did that opportunity come about?
We got the call from the record label Deca Records in London, England. And it’s almost like when we first heard about it, we were excited but it didn’t quite land on us how momentous of an occasion this was. We started to arrange the song and then I think it started to land on us as we would tell family and friends. Yeah, the estate of Bing has asked us to do a duet with his original vocal tracks.

And as we started to put it together, there was a moment in the studio when we heard his beautiful rich baritone come through the speakers, and we were all so moved that we were literally sharing this musical opportunity with him.

And the fact that it’s supported by his family is really kind of the icing on top, and it was such a beautiful experience to put it together in the studio, to hear our harmonies working together with his and the beautiful orchestrations. So, we really hope that people check out that album.

And there’s just a couple of other collaborations on it, two of which are the Pentatonix that sing was him, and then the other one is that famous David Bowie duet of the Drummer Boy. So, we feel like we’re in amazing company on that new release.

Did you get to pick that song or did they give you the song?
It was selected for us. But it’s kind of hard to find a better song than The Christmas Song. It’s not one that we had recorded before or even performed in concert, but it really matches our style so well. So, we’re thrilled to be able to add that to our repertoire going into this Christmas season.

Did you guys have to make any concessions to adapt to singing with the Bing track?
That’s a great question. It was a unique process, because you hear some of those original strings, even though the London Symphony Orchestra recorded, there still are some natural artifacts from the original recording. And so it’s almost like when you listen to the track, it’s like you’re listening to an original LP, and we just wanted to serve the style and sort of the history as best we could. So we really listened to it, and whereas, a lot of our arrangements take a couple of hours to do, this one took like a couple of days.

We really took the time to design what felt like a really natural arc for the song. And so we kept him on that opening verse to establish the great Bing Crosby on his own song. And then we enter in the second verse, as sort of one tenor at a time, and then we get into three-part tenor harmony. Then on the next section you hear Bing start, and then the tenors come in like a beat later on a three part harmony. And that was kind of the moment when I told you when we were sitting in studio and we heard it all gelling together. That was the one that was quite moving.

Was there something that you learned from Bing or Bing’s singing from that recording session?
Well, I learned when I was reading into the history of the song about Mel Torme and Robert Wells, the writers, they wrote the song in just over half an hour. And so there’s something about it that literally feels divinely inspired, because it doesn’t make sense that the song was written in half an hour, but it took us two days to arrange our harmonies for it. You know what I mean? But it is such a special work of art. But yeah, that’s something kind of unique about that song. It’s just absolutely sort of genius and divinity wrapped into one.

Performing with others isn’t new for you guys. Do you have a favorite who you’ve sung with so far? For example you got to perform with David Foster again at the Walk of Fame.
That was actually a really cool event. We just did it on Saturday, and it’s going to air on a CTV, and we took his song The Prayer, and we rewrote the lyrics to honor Jim Treliving, the great Canadian businessmen and philanthropist. He’s the one that started the Boston Pizza franchises, and he’s been one of the, well, he actually is the longest running dragon on Dragon’s Den on CBC. And so we were chosen to honor him.

And so David was at the piano and he was singing some of our lyrics that we had written for that. He made a joke about how we rewrote the lyrics to his song, and he thinks we made it better. It was a very sweet of him, but that was a fun thing to put together. He is such a powerhouse producer. He’s worked with Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Celine Dion of course, Whitney Houston back in the day, and Barbara Streisand, Michael Bublé.

He’s just one of the world’s best and to be able to be on stage with someone like him. And we’ve also been able to work in the studio with him. It feels like these are sort of the teachers that you get to come across in your career who just have so much wisdom to pass down. It’s almost like the ancient knowledge that they got from their teachers, and we feel so lucky to be carrying it now as tenors, and sometimes in the work we do, we get to share it with the next generation as well.

On the topic of collaborations, you had a chance to perform with John Mann in the Spirit of the West. What memories can you share?
We met John in the Southern part of Africa. It’s a little town called Bulembu in the kingdom of Swaziland. It’s a pretty unique and beautiful place, and we’ve been working there for quite a few years on a project that helps to take care of a lot of orphans in that part of the world. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV, and so John came over as well to do some work in the schools alongside us.

And he wrote a great song for Bulembu, and we performed together on several occasions over there, but he was just really the voice of a generation in Canada. We’ve heard it said that their song Home for a Rest is sort of a defacto national anthem for kids who go off to college. So, he really left an incredible imprint on our country, and with his charitable work around the world, so he’ll be dearly missed.

Going back to your Christmas tour, there’s always a stop here in Windsor Ontario at Caesar’s Windsor.
It’s hard to beat the energy in that room. There is such a feeling of, I want to say it correctly, it’s sort of like extravagance and with the lighting and the size of the stage and that beautiful hall, which fits about five thousand people. There’s just an energy there that is kind of hard to match on the rest of the tour. Don’t tell any of the other cities I said that, ha-ha. So, we always know that it’s just going to be one to remember and now it’s become a tradition, so we wouldn’t want to miss it on our Christmas tours.

Not that I have anything against it, but why so much Christmas?
Well, Christmas is a great time of year for us to be performing. We feel like The Tenors and Christmas music sort of fit so well together. There’s just such rich melodies and so much opportunity for harmonies. There’s always sort of a positive inspirational message. Of course there’s opportunities to get a little bit more serious and talk about some of the heavier subjects at that time of year, like be it loss or hardship. But it’s really a journey that we get to take with our audience, and we feel uniquely positioned to be able to bring that joy of the season to our audience.

What’s Christmas like at your house?
We don’t get home until about December 23rd, in some years the 24th, so if you really want the honest truth, Christmas for me is like pajamas and slippers and like a warm drink, eggnog or otherwise included. And really it’s just family time. I just actually said goodbye to my family. I’m on the way to the airport. I’m here in New York where I live, and it was a tearful goodbye, because I’m going to be on the road for a month and had to say goodbye to my wife and my two little daughters.

And it definitely is a sacrifice. I don’t think the audience necessarily thinks about that side of it all the time, not that they have to at all. But our job is to entertain these wonderful people who have paid their hard earned money to come out for a couple hours of respite from this crazy world that we all live in. And so we take that responsibility very seriously, but it definitely is a sacrifice. And to answer that question, Christmas for me is just leaning into family and comfortable clothes.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
I guess it’s hard to pick just one. I grew up with two older brothers, and my mom and dad out in British Columbia, spent some time growing up in Prince George and Vancouver. Those early years in Prince George, I’d say the memories always included probably 10-foot snowbanks, and we were not sort of scared of the cold. In fact, we embraced it, probably much like Windsorites do.

So, it’s a great time of year. I absolutely love the seasons. Being here in New York, we just watched this beautiful fall season. The leaves were just incredible. And so I feel lucky to live in a place where we get to experience all the seasons, and of course, all across Canada, no matter where you are, that’s a big part of the experience of living in my native country.

Every year in my house we like to do a gingerbread house on Christmas Eve. Do you have any traditions?
You know what’s so funny, yesterday we literally did. I came home for 24 hours, and because we were away for the last three weeks, we were in Vienna and Los Angeles and Toronto doing a bunch of different gigs and it’s been quite the whirlwind. And so yesterday when I got home, that’s exactly what we were doing, was making a gingerbread house with my little daughter, Hope, who’s three years old. And she was getting very creative with how to hang Twizzlers to make them look like a rope of Christmas lights and of course only sort of half the candy ended up on the gingerbread house because we were all eating it intermittently. So yeah, it’s just that sense of sort of family and community at this time of year that’s like the most important tradition for us.

Kelly and yourself introduced a new member to the family and to The Tenors’ family, earlier this year.
Yeah, we did.

How’s Lulu doing?
She’s so good. I just gave her a big kiss on her forehead. You’re making me a little emotional just as I was leaving the house there.

She’s an amazing little girl. When she was born, I kind of joked, she was a dainty 10 pound, three ounces. So my wife is a warrior, and Lulu went straight into three to six months onesies. So, she’s a light for our family. I mean Hope, every time you asked her for the nine months leading up to the birth, “What do you want a brother or sister or a sister or brother,” even if you change the order thinking she changed her answer. She always said sister, and she got her dream and she’s so good, always asking to hold Lulu, and Lulu is kind of the newer thing I guess, she’s making so much noise. She’s sort of half talking, half singing. So we know that, my wife’s a singer as well, so both our girls have no hope, they’re going to be on stage.

Do you ever get to bring the family out to any of the shows?
We do, and actually they just traveled to Los Angeles over the November 16-17-18 weekend. We were there doing the Christmas tree lighting at the Grove, which is right in Hollywood for a man named Rick Caruso. He puts on a huge production every year. It’s the biggest Christmas tree on the West Coast, and they do the whole fake snow thing because I think it was 75 degrees that day.

It’s a great family event, and so both my girls were in the audience and Hope was just loving it, like watching us dance around.

And speaking of collaborations, Tori Kelly was on that show, and she’s such an amazing singer and just really a beautiful spirit to go along with it. So, we feel very grateful for all the wonderful people we’ve met along the way. And it seems to just continue.

Last question for you. When might we see another Tenors studio album?
Good question. We’ve been working on it. We’ve been doing tons and tons of writing in Nashville, and we are putting all the tracks together over the next couple of months, getting the recordings done. But I think the plan is going to be for that record to come out in the fall of 2020, so that’s the goal.

Photo: Paul Wright
Photo: Paul Wright
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