- Publisher: Testimony Magazine
- Editor: Stephen Kennedy
When my favourite group The Tenors (formerly The Canadian Tenors) released their new CD Lead With Your Heart, I read the lyrics, saw they had collaborated with Christian artist Natalie Grant on the track “Amazing Grace”, and said to myself: I wonder if they’re Christians? So I asked them.
The Tenors are difficult to label because their repertoire includes a wide range of material from Rita MacNeil, Dylan and Cohen to Puccini. They’ve performed twice for Her Majesty The Queen, filmed a PBS special in Las Vegas, and have shared the stage with Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, Neil Young, Paul Anka, David Foster, Natalie Cole and others. A highlight for the group was winning Best Adult Contemporary Album at the 2013 JUNO Awards.
This fan-girl tracked down Toronto’s Victor Micallef, the guy with the hat, and asked him about living out his faith as a Tenor. With The Tenors, Micallef sings, “I stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.” This line captures Micallef’s humble nature and his commitment to his faith and family.
Raised in the Church, Micallef got his start in music singing and playing piano at two or three services every Sunday for years, and lent his voice to many funerals and weddings. He didn’t have formal voice training until his later teen years. “My mom and dad, God bless them, they did an amazing job raising me in a home full of love and faith,” says Micallef.
The Tenors can perform 300+ dates in a year around the world, and this year has been their busiest so far. Performing and music has been a nearly life-long passion, but Micallef admits to having a love/hate relationship with the career that keeps him from his family.
“When I’m away from my family, it’s the hardest thing for me. I love what I do when I get on stage. I love performing. I love performing with these guys, it’s been a beautiful journey, but I do miss my family.” Micallef said. “My faith gives me strength to rely on and inspires me greatly.”
When asked how he lives out his faith when touring, Micallef cited prayer, mediation, and visiting the local church wherever he happens to be as crucial elements for him. “If we don’t take time to slow things down for ourselves then we’re missing out on what makes life beautiful. That time to reflect and have that conversation with God is a moment to analyze what you’re doing in life and how well you’re doing it.”
Micallef is married and has a young son. His love for his family is nearly tangible even through the phone. “I look at what I do and say wow, thank you for this. I’m blessed to have a family who supports this kind of career. My wife is at home raising my son by herself practically…She is truly a pillar of strength for me,” says Micallef.
I asked Micallef if he found it difficult to keep his marriage strong, to remain faithful, when he’s on the road so much. He turned the question in an unexpected way. “I could say the same thing about her being home by herself,” said Micallef of his wife. “We’re pretty strong in our relationship, and we built that relationship on trust and communication. I call home 3-4 times a day, Skype. You can’t assume they know [how you feel], you have to let it be heard.”
The title track “Lead With Your Heart” from the new album was co-written by Canadian songwriter/producer Bernie Herms (husband to award-winning Christian artist Natalie Grant) specifically for The Tenors. The song has become something of a mantra for the group. “We’ve never had a lot of money in marketing dollars, it’s all been word of mouth. We’ve faced a lot of challenges, but we’ve always led with our hearts and that’s made the decision for us,” says Micallef. “We’ve built our audience and our repertoire on what we are, and being true to ourselves.”
Though Micallef admits all of the group’s members have strong family backgrounds and grew up in Church, he says The Tenors are not a Christian band. “Though we’ve been on the Christian charts a few times and our music seems to live in that category because of the message it carries, as a group we haven’t expressed anything that ties to our faith,” says Micallef. “We get messages every day from people who feel their faith is strengthened from our music, that’s awesome…But we want everyone to experience what we’re doing and not feel alienated.”
What was their reaction to being introduced by Michael Bublè as ‘eye-candy’ at the recent JUNOS? I imagined him sinking deeper into his chair and rolling his eyes. His response made me laugh out loud.
“We try to look good, we take care of ourselves and dress well – because it’s about the whole package. Fans want to hear you and see you, so what you display is important. But we don’t let it go to our heads. If we do, we’ll pound each other down. We’re all brothers.”
The Tenors use their celebrity platform to support and raise awareness for important causes. The Tenors have visited and raised over two million dollars for the Christ-centred Bulembu ministry in Swaziland. In North America, they’ve teamed up with the Horatio-Alger Association to give scholarships and mentorships to youth, and are proud supporters of the Toronto-based Free The Children.
On September 30th, The Tenors are performing a benefit concert in Edmonton to raise support for Bulembu, joined by the Bulembu children’s choir. “Over the past few years through concerts and awareness we’ve helped raise 2 million dollars for that organisation,” Micallef says. The group visited Bulembu in August and performed a private concert for the King. “It’s gratifying to see people working together to change a situation. Makes you realize that’s God’s presence, right there. It’s an amazing feeling.”
To learn more about The Tenors, visit www.tenorsmusic.com.