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PALM SPRINGS -- Australia’s hottest musical export, The Ten Tenors bring their lavish celebration of vocal power to the McCallum Theatre from Feb. 15 to 17.
Founded in 1995 by a group of college friends who felt constrained by the strictness and seriousness of their classical and operatic music training, the group has focused from the very beginning on entertainment rather than on the art of opera.
The Ten Tenors big break came in 2002, when they were invited to perform as part of the televised Eurovision Song Contest. Within hours, the remainder of the European tour they were on was sold out, and they were on their way to becoming one of the world’s most successful touring acts, making their US debut in 2003.
Nowadays The Ten Tenors circle the globe 10 months a year, performing as many as 250 shows on five continents. The group has been seen by more than 90 million people around the globe. They have performed alongside such diverse artists as Rod Stewart, Andrea Bocelli, Alanis Morissette, Willie Nelson and Christina Aguilera. In January they appeared on Oprah as part of Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure.
Two of the group’s members, Keane Fletcher and Dion Molinas, are openly gay. Recently they very graciously made time in their hectic touring schedule to answer a few questions about life as a member of The Ten Tenors, the group’s upcoming shows at the McCallum, and their personal lives.
Bottom Line: You guys appeared on "Oprah" on Jan. 18 as part of Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure. What was that like? What do you think that means for the Ten Tenors? Does it permanently cement the group’s status as not only Australian but worldwide icons?
Keane: It was such a surreal experience. We spent the day on the beach with Oprah and her guests, sang for the cameras, and then it was back to the hotel. It seemed to happen very fast.
Dion: I think each and every one of us were both humbled and honored by the opportunity to be part of Oprah’s visit to Australia, and to add our own Australian flair to the occasion. There is no denying the influence Oprah has in America and also worldwide, so to be able to appear on her show can only mean good things.
Keane: The group feels very young and fresh at the moment, and we’ve really embraced a lot of contemporary repertoire. … There can be a misconception that the group is all about singing opera. I think Oprah has helped to break that mold for us.
Bottom Line: How long has each of you been with The Ten Tenors?
Dion: I have been involved with the group since 1997, so I have been fortunate enough to watch the group grow. The group came from very humble beginnings. We used to play all the outback towns throughout Australia, driving ourselves around and setting up our own stage and sound equipment.
Keane: I’ve been with the group for 12 months now. I joined just before Australia Day (Jan. 26) last year. I was just coming out of a touring musical and was looking for something different, and the Tenors happened to be auditioning for a new member. I have a contemporary background, and the most classical piece of music in my repertoire was “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story. I auditioned with that and the rest is history.
Bottom Line: Do you ever take time off to do other projects, such as musical theatre or traditional operas?
Dion: This project keeps us busy almost all year round, so there’s not a lot of time to do other things. Most of my down time is spent with family and friends, although I do like to constantly annoy my housemates by singing in the shower.
Keane: We don’t have a lot of time off, but I always try to perform as much as I can when I’m home for the holidays. Those carols won’t sing themselves.
Bottom Line: The group chooses to perform a wide range of music, from hard rock to pop to classical and opera. Of everything that you perform, do you have a favorite genre?
Dion: The majority of us have had some form of classical training, but…we have guys that specialize in other genres. We have pop singers, musical theatre singers, and of course classical singers. This is what allows the group to perform a variety of styles with great success in the show. I’ve had two years of classical training, but then I turned my direction toward musical theatre where I had another three years of training. That said, I do have a particular love for the more contemporary songs in the show.
Keane: I can’t say that I’ve got a favorite, but I do get to sing a lot of folk-pop in the show like Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” and “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s nice to be given such intimate moments in the show after all the big rock numbers that come before and after. I get all the falsetto bits in the show, too, so there’s a bit of a running joke that I’m the soprano of the group.
Bottom Line: What are the differences between singing solo and singing with nine other performers?
Dion: When you are singing solo you are afforded the luxury of freedom, which means you are able to interpret it as you please, within reason. When singing as an ensemble…you are constantly listening to those around you to create the best blend possible.
Keane: There’s a great sense of teamwork performing with the other guys. Everyone gets their solo moments, but it’s a real ensemble show, and I think our attitude onstage reflects that. And nine other guys do come in handy when you forget your lyrics.
Bottom Line: You guys are on tour 10 months a year, 250 shows a year. How difficult is that? Does it affect your personal lives?
Dion: Being away from home and from loved ones can be a trying time, but as an artist you have to also be very thankful that you are able to work on a consistent basis, which doesn’t often happen in this cutthroat industry.
Keane: As far as personal lives go, I think we’ve all adjusted to the touring routine, and our loved ones at home are very understanding of that. Obviously it’s not a lifestyle that you can sustain forever, but it’s such a great feeling to be able to go out and perform with your mates night after night that the pros outweigh the cons.
Bottom Line: I think Bottom Line readers would be interested to know if you’re partnered and, if so, for how long. If you’re not involved, what is gay life like on the road? Are there gay groupies hanging out by the stage door?
Dion: I am currently single, and have been for quite some time. I hope to someday meet the man of my dreams, but until then I am quite content. Ideally, I would like to meet someone to enjoy my career with.
Keane: I have a partner of three years back home and he’s very understanding of my touring lifestyle. Skype has definitely been a necessity on the road, and I always make sure I come back with lots of duty-free as compensation. As for gay fans of the group, I can’t honestly say I’ve met many.
Dion: Sorry to say, I don’t have any gay groupies. But I am accepting offers of interest.
Keane: Make sure that when you come to the show you make lots of noise so we know you’re in the building.
Bottom Line: What is the best venue you’ve ever performed in?
Keane: Well, Whitehaven Beach with Oprah is definitely right up there. Really, though, there have been so many highlights that it’s hard to pick the best. … The Oslo Opera House was amazing. The stage was set out on the water, and in the summer the sun doesn’t set until after midnight, so we got to ride a boat out and do our 9 p.m. show in broad daylight. And I had a few champagnes before the show. It was very cool.
Dion: For me the best venue I have performed in would have to be the Royal Albert Hall in London. It’s an iconic venue, and any performer would love to perform there.
Bottom Line: What can you tell me about the show we’ll be seeing at the McCallum here in Palm Springs/Palm Desert? Are there particular highlights that audiences tend to love?
Keane: For starters, don’t let the name The Ten Tenors fool you. This show has some classical songs, yes, but it features some big rock numbers like “I’d Do Anything for Love” by Meatloaf and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (by Queen), which the crowd always goes wild for, as well as a few numbers that even surprised me when I found out we were singing them—the Eurythmics “Must Be Talkin’ to an Angel” being one of them.
Dion: When choosing the repertoire for this show, we wanted to choose songs that had been successful worldwide. Whether it be a classical or contemporary piece, every audience member will be sure to recognize them. It’s high energy, high octane, and above all just good fun and great singing.
Keane: There’s something in it for everyone, whether or not you’ve seen or heard us before. I want to see people rocking out in the aisles.
IF YOU GO: The Ten Tenors performs February 15 – 17 at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. Tickets range in price from $35 to $75. To order, call the box office at (760) 340-2787 or visit the website, mccallumtheatre.com. For more information on The Ten Tenors, visit their website, thetentenors.com