Music Spotlight: The Tenors

With Newfoundland connections sewn deep into their roots, platinum selling trio The Tenors return to Newfoundland with passion and creativity planned on Oct. 11


Dan Lim Photo

Music buffs will undoubtedly be familiar with classical pop trio The Tenors. It’s unlikely to have missed their meteoric rise, one complete with multiple Juno wins, millions of platinum album sales, high profile appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Oprah, Primetime Emmys, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, XXI Olympic Winter Games and performances alongside music legends Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Sir Paul McCartney, Sting and Stevie Wonder.

Roots in Newfoundland

All of that and more is enough reason to rush and buy a ticket to see The Tenors perform alongside the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra on October 11th in St. John’s. But being the avid supporters of our own that we are, we’d be pleasantly surprised to know that one-third of the powerhouse vocal trio has deep roots here in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Clifton Murray has been coming to our Atlantic island since childhood. His grandfather, Walter Davis, was something of an innovator and pioneering humanitarian in these parts, championing work with the Newfoundland Tuberculosis Association in the 1940s-60s, while his grandmother, Olga Davis, was one of the first nurses on the Christmas Seal. 

It should come as no surprise then that Murray is fond of his home-away-from-home. He had hyped the place to death ahead of the Newfoundland Tenors debut some years ago, but his bandmates were ill prepared for the waves of kindness and hospitality that would befall them.

“They were a little surprised,” Murray shared from his home in British Columbia. “I gave them a lot of heads up, but at that point it was mostly about the people, the festivities, the screech-ins and what to expect from my family. The first time we were at Mile One we were singing with these Olympic skaters. We all went back to my aunt Charlotte’s house and the food was going and we were celebrating. By the end of the night we had Olympic style skaters hanging from the rafters and we’re singing songs and telling stories. That was sort of the energy of the whole weekend, getting screeched-in and everyone they meet being so open and fun. Just the sense of that open door policy. It was the people I think that really surprised them the

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most. Everyone really feels like they’re a part of a community or small family in a way.”

Eager to incorporate the island in Tenors lore, the band made the at times unenviable west to east trek to the island in 2017 to film the video for their Christmas cover of Auld Lang Syne. 

Chasing the Sun

“That was one of the coolest three days I ever had with the boys,” Murray admits. “We wanted to film a music video that felt like three brothers on the road getting away from it all, reconnecting with mother nature, but also your own souls and with each other. That’s actually what happened, which is sort of uncanny in a way. We’ve been through a lot together and this is sort of the galvanizing of our spirits to look to the future with hope and let the past be the past. It was sort of a cathartic experience for all of us and the grandeur and wonder of Newfoundland that really drew us in so much. 

“Going to Western Brook Pond and Cape Spear with the fog lifting just in time for the sun to hit our eyes before we had to drive across the rock to get to the sunset on the other side – it all worked out so beautifully. There were tears shed along the way, memories solidified forever in our hearts and it was all set to the stage of the beauty of Newfoundland. I think we captured that essence in the video itself. Every time I look at it I get a warm feeling of pride that it was in Newfoundland and we got to experience it and it worked out so well.”

For Murray, his road towards super-stardom truly stems from family roots. Murray’s grandfather, George Murray, was a nationally renowned Canadian tenor known for his performances on radio and television during the 1940s-60s.

Years later, a chance meeting with a former cameraman for the CBC led Clifton to finally see archived footage of his grandfather in action. 

“This feeling came over me of legacy and of carrying on that gift of music my grandfather had started and my father had took with him in his own way. I felt the connection with him that I never had before,” he explains. “I realized there was some meant-to-be type energy in what I was doing and it sort of galvanized my convictions for this chosen path in life.”

Call it destiny or serendipity, but that bug for the stage has always been there. From his early days serving patrons at his father’s wilderness adventure resort Nimmo Bay in British Columbia at eight years old, Murray knew singing was in his blood. His father would captivate a room with his singing and guitar playing, something that resonated with his young son in a big way.

Dad’s Pride

“I would watch in awe his ability to just take over a room with just a guitar and songs and stories,” he recalls. “I think I was around 12-years-old and he saw me watching from the kitchen and he called out to me and said ‘Boy, come out here.’ I sat with him and we sang, I think the first song was Old Man Came Home From the Forest by Gordon Lightfoot. We started singing and it was this feeling that I had, finally that look that my dad had of total pride and love for me. It was like, okay I want that feeling again, and that energy of the audience watching my dad and I sing.”

Murray would sing and perform alongside his father every summer until the age of 23, where he made the decision to pursue his dreams in performing arts. 

Initially beginning as an actor and stage performer, Murray would keep music in his heart, inevitably landing on national reality television sensation Canadian Idol. It was a surprisingly poor exit from the series that truly lit a fire under the soon-to-be Tenor.

“I walked off the stage and I was just mortified that I had just crapped the bed on national television,” he recalls. “There was some kind of fire that was lit in me in that moment of despair and embarrassment that I’m never going to feel this again.”

But his brief tenure on the show proved to be a golden ticket. The management team at Jeffrey Latimer Entertainment contacted producers of Idol, searching for a fourth member of the then Canadian Tenors. Murray fit the bill perfectly. His audition would take place in October 2008. By January 2009, he was a member of the rising foursome. 

“Ever since joining The Tenors it’s been trying to get better everyday, trying to step up my game and learn from the guys, who have been my best teachers. They all come from such unique

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backgrounds and advanced musical ability,” Murray admits. “I was absorbing all of their knowledge and information and learning as much as I could as fast as I could. I think we all did that for each other, just picking up little tricks. I think that’s what makes our group unique in a way, the guys all coming from different genres and coming together to make this mosaic of sound. It gave us the opportunity to sing a wide variety of genres.”

The Magic Dust

Coming full circle back to Newfoundland and Labrador, The Tenors will take to the stage on October 11th, promising something diverse and ever-mesmerizing for the entire family, and then some. 

“You’re taken on this journey of songs that is so wide-ranging. There’s something for everyone in the family in the show,” he says. “It really is a representation of who we are as a group. It’s so much fun and we’ve elevated the game recently with more playfulness, more joy. There’s a lot more colours now of The Tenors.  St. John’s, Newfoundland is going to be a night of celebration, of music and stories. We’re going to get people on their feet, make them feel deeply. To top it off, having the NSO with us is literally the magic dust that takes everything to a whole new level.”

For tickets to The Tenors at Mile One Centre on October 11th visit the box office, and 

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