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Canadian Tenors trio spreading ‘Christmas’ cheer

Victor Micallef (from left), Clifton Murray and Fraser Walters from The Tenors perform during the 85th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in New York. | Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

The Tenors seriously want to spend “Christmas Together” with their fans.

The title of their new holiday album succinctly describes the Canadian trio’s (formerly The Canadian Tenors) mission statement this year, having kicked off their current tour Nov. 18, which stops at North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall on Dec. 15. In between, they’ve managed to “keep busy” with a slew of holiday gigs, including their debut performance at the lighting of the holiday tree in Rockefeller Plaza in New York and a performance on “Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings: Holiday Magic” on Freeform.

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 15
Where: Pfeiffer Hall, North Central College, Naperville
Tickets: $65-$85
Info: finearts.northcentralcollege.edu

They can add those appearances to an already A-list resume, having performed at The White House, the Olympics, the Emmy Awards and at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth.

The trio (downsized from a quartet following the departure of Remigio Pereira after the now infamous lyrics incident at the All-Star Game in San Diego in 2016), originated in 2004 with a different lineup and remains dedicated to creating music that crosses all genres (sung in four languages).

The Tenors: Fraser Walters (from left), Victor Micallef’ and Clifton Murray. | Dave Lim

“We’ll always be the Canadian tenors, but we realized over time that as an international group you want to have every country in the world take ownership of the music,” said Clifton Murray, who along with Victor Micallef and Fraser Walters comprises the current lineup. “We will always be ambassadors for Canada. We have great pride in being The Tenors from Canada.”

The group is also on a diplomatic mission (of sorts) to change the perception of what a “tenors group” is generally perceived to be (the most famous being The Three Tenors — Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti). Murray is quick to note his is not your grandma’s tenors.

“We bring together so many different styles of voices — classical, musical theater, pop, rock, folk. We bend all these storylines into one harmonious mosaic of sound. … Frazier was in the Grammy Award-winning group Chanticlear. Victor was a classically trained opera singer. [My background] is gospel and musical theater. So it makes us unique in the world of tenors groups — not having three opera singers or three pop singers. This give us a large repertoire of music, including opera, within which to perform. We’re reinventing the concept of what a tenor group can be. We’re not just guys in suits.”

Their Christmas album (their fifth studio effort overall) combines several of those genres amid a mixture of holiday pop classics and hymns, including their No. 1 Canadian single “Santa’s Wish” (which feature a new twist on a very famous Coca-Cola jingle).

“This [album] was definitely a labor of love,” Murray said. “It took a year and a half to make this Christmas album because we wanted to get it perfect. All artists want the next piece of their work to be the best. We wanted to top everything we’d done before. We sought out the best arrangers and producers.”

Murray grew up in the central coast region of Vancouver, British Columbia. His parents owned a small fishing resort and an 8-year-old Murray would help serve the guests in the dining room while his father performed music on guitar and tell stories. “When I was 12 he brought me out to sing songs by Elvis, Roy Orbison, John Denver, Bob Dylan — all these old folk and country songs my parents were always singing and listening to. He’d take the audience on a journey through the music and stories.”

Murray said he learned a lot from his father about music and performing, and while he has had no technical music training, he began writing songs by the time he was 14. The church gospel choir and musical theater fueled his passion for singing. All of it eventually led to an acting career (including a role in “Smallville”) but eventually music came calling full-time. The Tenors provided the perfect opportunity to combine all of his favorite music styles.

“I joined the group about two years after Frazier and Victor. I heard their voices and incredible harmonies and power of the vocals and [I knew I had to be part of it],” Murray said.

His favorite Christmas song of all time? “O, Holy Night,” he said emphatically. All three of us sang in church growing up and it’s the most rousing, emotionally fulfilling song a tenor can sing at Christmas time. You hit that high note and the end. And the song’s message is so beautiful.”