The Tenors — Fraser Walters

McNeill’s Murray snares first Juno

The Tenors' Clifton Murray takes Juno for Adult Contemporary Album.

On North Vancouver Island, singer Clifton Murray has traditionally been referenced with the honorific “Port McNeill born and raised”.

Now he’s got a new title: Juno winner.

Murray, the former Canadian Idol contestant and film and television actor, was named along with fellow members of the Tenors the Juno Award-winner for Adult Contemporary Album in Sunday’s annual awards gala in Regina, Sask.

Beating previous Juno winner and international star Celine Dion, among others, the Tenors — formerly the Canadian Tenors — won their first Juno for their latest release, 2012’s Lead With Your Heart. The record is a showcase for the classical crossover the group has popularized, spanning the classical, rock, opera and spiritual genres, and includes collaborations with trumpeter Chris Botti and gospel singer Natalie Grant.

“We’d sort of come to peace with the fact that were probably not going to win it,” Murray said Tuesday from Raleigh, N.C., where the Tenors are kicking off a U.S. tour this week. “Being in the category with the great Dion and all she’s done, along with Raylene Rankin, who’s an iconic figure in Eastern Canada and had her song used in the memorial section just before the category was announced.

“Even (presenter) Jian Gomeche seemed a little surprised when he was reading it off.”

Murray and the Tenors were a recurring sight during Sunday’s Juno Awards broadcast, appearing as both winners and presenters (Marianas Trench, for Group of the Year), as well as performing their version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, which appears on Lead With Your Heart.

The Tenors include Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef and Remigio Pereira. Murray joined the group in 2009, following his top-12 appearance in Canadian Idol. One of the group’s first big breaks after Murray joined, ironically, was singing the Leonard Cohen hit Hallelujah with Dion on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010.

The group also performed Hallelujah at the 2012 Grammy Awards show and later went on to play for Queen Elizabeth before being presented with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“All of these things have built up to this tipping point for the success of the group,” said Murray. “I already feel like a small-town boy from Port McNeill living the dream. The Juno is just the cherry on top.”

Lead With Your Heart is the Tenors’ third album and the second with Murray as a member. He also sang on the 2009 holiday album The Perfect Gift.