There’s a common misconception among theatre ‘muggles’ that those who work in musical theatre are unable to sing any other genre of music. We live in a time balancing precariously on a double-edged sword, in which it seems any celebrity who can carry at least some semblance of a tune is warranted an instantaneous West End badge of merit (although there are of course a great number who have a decent set of pipes and more than prove their worth on the stage), whilst musical theatre performers are neatly labelled in their box and held ‘in their place’ within it. Having experienced the vocal range and abilities of a diverse selection of musical theatre performers outside of their respective shows on many an occasion, I can categorically refute this notion as complete and utter nonsense.
Those who choose to walk down the path of theatrical musicality do so for precisely that reason: that they choose to, not because that’s all they are capable of. The shows currently playing in the West End reflect this point perfectly, with audiences offered the opportunity to enjoy a variety of genres from straight-up musical theatre to generational rock and pop: We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia, Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys and the list goes on. Certain individuals are also helping to change this stereotypical image of the musical theatre world, one of the most effective being West End leading man Ramin Karimloo whose debut album shows off his versatile voice in a combination of musical theatre songs and classics in the more commercial music market. If a single person can achieve so much on his own though, what will happen when not one, but seven band together to challenge the stereotype?
You may or may not have already heard of The Tenors of Rock; if you haven’t, don’t worry as you soon will. An all-male group formed by individuals with experience in musical theatre, TOR are set on pushing beyond the boundaries to bring their own unique sound to the rest of the world. The group is comprised of some of the best male rock voices in the country, all of whom are seeking to “reinvent the standard male vocal group and create a seriously high profile rock experience.” The seven male vocalists – who, between them, have a wealth of West End theatre credits to their names, including the likes of Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia and Les Miserables – include Gareth Chart, Jaymz Denning, James Fox, Hugh Maynard, Dai Richards and Jonathan Williams, along with band creator Gareth Richards. Band member Jonathan Williams put the concept and mentality of TOR into better words than I, or anyone else, I suspect ever could: “A wild group of individuals with a bond of unbreakable strength, bound at the soul to create a formidably unique collective identity. A pack of dangerous animals, a single brood born of cold hard Rock, nursed on loud noises and who grew up screaming their truth at the world. A new breed, ready to make a statement carved in stone!”
The Tenors of Rock cover a wide and varied collection of popular songs, always adding their own particular twist to each track to truly make it their own. Gareth Richards works with producer Matthew Brind on the vocal and musical arrangements. The group have recorded several tracks at Terminal Studios, including such popular tracks as ‘God Gave Rock & Roll To You’, ‘Tears In Heaven’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and mash-up renditions of ‘Grenade/Price Tag’ and ‘Walk This Way/Here I Go Again’. The stunning results can be heard through their website http://www.tenorsofrock.com/ or Facebook page, which has already amassed a following of hundreds of fans.
The Tenors of Rock (previously known as The Rock Tenors) are already making quite the name for themselves, not only through their recording sessions, but their live performances too. They supported David Hasselhoff at his London concert this year, performing onstage with him for the ‘Knight Rider theme’ and ‘Jump In My Car’. They have also teased at a number of upcoming gigs, but so far have made no official announcements as to the where and when’s of it all.
I’ve followed the progress of TOR for some time now, having got to know Gareth Richards and Jonathan Williams during the recording sessions for the cast album of new musical My Land’s Shore, both of whom feature on there in principal roles. Impressive as I find their voices alone, the collective power of TOR is a force to be reckoned with in my book. Those who buy into this premise of the limits that musical theatre hold need to take themselves on the Tenors of Rock experience; it’s one hell of a ride, and by the end of it, they’ll be left in no doubt as to the endless possibilities open to this talented group of people.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 12th July 2012