The Tea-Drinking Tenors

14th September 2018

Tenors Unlimited – aka the ‘Rat Pack of Opera’ – are on tour and will be bringing their eclectic mix of opera and pop classics to The Radlett Centre later this month. Al Gordon meets them…

“Keeping a group together is like a marriage in that it needs good communication, respect and love,” Paul Martin – one third of Tenors Unlimited – tells me, as he reflects on the band’s 15th anniversary (and the reason for their latest tour). “We have seen and done so much, but the greatest achievement to date is the fact that we all believe there is still so much to do.”

The other two thirds of the group, Scott Ciscon and Jem Sharples, met a decade and a half ago while working in London. They got on “really well” and decided to set up a group that would allow them “the freedom to do what we wanted to do and write the songs we were passionate about.” Paul, who joined them a couple of years later, shared that vision.
The moment they realised they really had something unique to offer was when they learnt Come What May from Moulin Rouge for a friend’s wedding. “It felt as if we were creating a new sound,” they explain.

Their new show, pragmatically entitled In Concert with Tenors Unlimited is an eclectic mix of repertoire from opera to pop, and includes classics and old favourites such as Everything (Michael Bublé), Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers), Recipe For Love (Harry Connick Junior)and the iconic Nessun Dorma. How did they go about compiling the new setlist? “As we always do: we sit around and argue about it until we are all happy,” laughs Paul. “It’s also flexible in that the songs may change during the tour if we feel we want to do that,” he continues.
It’s not just covers, either, as the show includes songs written by the group themselves such as Carry You, composed by Paul in aid of charity Harrison’s Fund, which is workng towards a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

“We are writing a ton of songs at the moment – some that are right for the group, some that are outside the box. We all enjoy the process and bring our ideas to the table… sometimes very embryonic and sometimes the finished article.”

Where does their inspiration come from? “We all work in different ways but often it stems from a thought or a melody that was rattling around in your head… next thing you know, it develops into something bigger and bigger.”

As well as ‘communication, respect and love’, the group claim the nation’s favourite hot drink is an essential part of their longevity: “Cups of tea and a belief that we have a message that needs hearing in our songs and unique sound.”

Sometimes they’ll drink something stronger, though… “We had a very surreal moment when we found ourselves sharing a glass of wine with Sting (and Trudy) after a particular show. Like you do…”

They’ve already sung alongside many celebrities such as Lionel Richie, Beyoncé and Simply Red, and I wonder if they have a little black book of other people they’d like to perform with. Paul and Jem aren’t admitting – “There are so many artists doing amazing things out there that it would be hard to choose” –but Scott plumps firmly for Seal or Metallica… “Now that would be an interesting session!”

Although they’ve chosen to remain in the UK for this particular tour, they have performed all over the world. What’s their favourite country? “We always feel really welcome when we go to the USA – not to say we’re not welcome elsewhere, of course. That said, there’s something magical about singing in a villa on say, Lake Maggiore in Italy. If we had to give one answer, Italy might be our favourite at the moment – great food, great wine, fantastic coffee.”

‘Great food’, I understand, is one of their shared interests; they all admit to a passion for cooking – and eating. “To be honest, there’s not much we won’t eat (or try) and while at home it’s always easy to fire up the BBQ, throw on a few steaks and relax. When spending a bit more time in the kitchen, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the variety of dishes we all can whip up; anywhere from a French bistro menu, traditional Sunday roast all the way to an authentic Indian curry or two.”

To offset the steaks and curries, and to keep up with the phyiscal demands of touring, they all have a keen interest in sport. Although American, anglophile Scott is into cricket and often opens the bowling for his Sunday side. Paul has also recently started playing for his local club… “In fact, we often travel with a cricket bat and ball and have been known to play a few overs before a gig in hotels all over the world,” he shares. Jem, not to be left out, talks about his love of touch rugby.

But for now, the focus is all about the tour. One thing they’re in agreement with is that they “want to create great work that people want to see and hear”.

‘In Concert with Tenors Unlimited’ is coming to The Radlett Centre on 29 September. For tickets, visit Their currect CD, ‘The Journey’, can be purchased online from via iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay.

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