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Review: Fine-voiced tenors exude Canadian charm

Talented singers keep it heartfelt, not hyped


What: The Canadian Tenors

When: Last night

Where: Alix Goolden Hall

Repeat performances: 7:30 tonight,

Cowichan Centre, Duncan;

7:30 p.m. tomorrow, Port Theatre, Nanaimo

Tickets: $30; 250-748-7529, Duncan;

250-754-8550, Nanaimo

Rating: 4 (out of five)

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The Nylons are entertaining, the guys from Il Divo are slick and sexy, but for my money it's the Canadian Tenors.

These four fine-voiced fellows are appealing because they're funny, relaxed, and spending an evening with them is like hanging around old friends -- who can really sing.

Only officially together since Monday, when the newest member of the team was released from prior commitments at the Stratford Festival, the four troubadours performed for 600-plus people in Alix Goolden Hall on Friday. Singing favourites like Rita McNeil's Home I'll Be, Sempre Vicino and Because We Believe they made their audience believe in them, big time, and came back for two encores after enthusiastic applause and foot stamping.

The tenors are steeped in talent, have a strong artistic base and are all classically trained but they exude a seriously Canadian feel. No over-the-top histrionics, no oozing charm, or cheesy remarks such as Il Divo's recent "let us pleasure you." Instead they are personable, droll, heartfelt not hyped, and authentic.

No Armnani suits-- yet, but who knows once their new CD is released at Christmas. The tracks have recently been completed, including orchestration by the Moscow Symphony.

Last night, lyric tenor Fraser Walters, a former member of the Grammy Award-winning 12-man a cappella vocal ensemble Chanticleer, showed off his honeyed high notes and sweet vibrato in an East coast folk song while Remigio Pereira, who has a rich old world-style tenor (and is also a guitarist, composer and songwriter) sang a solo rendition of Forget Me Not, a favourite of Beniamino Gigli

Newest member Jamie McKnight was relaxed and appealing onstage with his youthful looks and soulful delivery, no doubt thanks to his strong theatre background. And Victor Micallef, who has studied extensively in Italy, turned heads with the power of his voice in the popular Spanish song, Granada.

Together they packed a powerful punch. In pieces such as Always be There and Luna, as well as French folk songs, eastern ballads and Italian favourites the quartet came together in interesting harmonies, yet each voice was distinct and clear, showing off the four unique sounds.

"We are working to have a sound where you can hear the texture in each piece, where we can keep the colour of the individual voices and, when in concert, make them sound as if they are unplugged, not over miked," said the tenors' co-producer Robyn Cathcart.

He noted the most recent incarnation of the group (this is now the fourth) fell apart after less than a year when one of the members left, which meant the remaining three had a hiatus of more than half a year while a replacement was found.

"The essence has not changed, but the reality is that being in a group like this is extremely demanding. The members have to work unrelentingly hard and be completely committed. We have been rehearsing intensively all week, now that Jamie is with us," said Cathcart who teaches at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and is stage director and instructor for the Opera Studio.

"Like a great recipe, we think we have the balance right now and the sounds are so delicious."