Since earning a spot on stage with The Ten Tenors in 2008, Newcastle-born singer Ben Stephens has quickly became accustomed to living out of a suitcase – and enduring practical jokes – while touring the world with the Australian vocal group.
But when The Ten Tenors bring their mix of classical and rock songs to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on August 11, it might just give Stephens a chance to get his own back.
How did you get the gig with The Ten Tenors?
I was in Jon English’s rock opera Paris, at Gosford, and a well-respected agent who came to see the show signed me straight away and got me a job in Korea in the musical Jekyll & Hyde. Then I heard that The Ten Tenors were looking for someone. So I sent them a video, and they interviewed me via Skype from Germany and, sure enough, I got the job.
What was it like singing to a TV audience of 10million viewers on Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure?
It was absolutely mind-blowing. I felt like a child in a dream through the whole experience. We flew in [to the Whitsundays] from Canada and the Harpo organisation made sure it was all hush-hush and we couldn’t even tell our parents about it. Oprah arrived by helicopter, and there we were on the beach singing.
Given that there are 10 of you, and it’s almost a cricket team, do you tour with an 11th man?
When we tour Europe it’s generally for three or four months in the heart of winter, and people can get sick very easily, so we will tour with 11 tenors there. For the rest of the world, it’s just the 10 of us.
Any songs that you’d like the group to try?
There was one song ... I’d been saying to management and our musical director ‘Can we please just do it?’ and that song was Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. We’ve finally started singing the song and it’s one of the highlights of the show.
Your favourite song on the new album, Double Platinum?
It’s the Meat Loaf track, I Would Do Anything For Love, because a certain Ben Stephens gets a big solo right at the end.
Best thing about being in a big group?
It’s such a tight group of friends, not just fellow performers.
If a minor issue happens, we’re quick to fix it up and then get to the pub to have a drink and talk about it. And if that doesn’t work we revert to cage fighting.
You blokes clearly have a sense of humour. Are you practical jokers?
Absolutely. We had a new guy starting with us recently, and generally when people have their first concert on stage with us they go through quite a strong hazing period [laughs]. My first show was in Chicago and the guys gave me the wrong directions to the theatre. There I was lost in this big city thinking: ‘You bastards! Where have you sent me?’
What don’t you want the group to find out about you?
They don’t know my family in Newcastle have bought half the tickets to our show at the Civic Theatre. There will probably be a lot of cheering for me that night, and the guys won’t know why.
What can we expect from the show?
We want to showcase what a tenor can sing. When most people think of tenors they think of The Three Tenors. And, yes, we do sing classical songs, but we also do songs by Freddie Mercury, Phil Collins and Meat Loaf. People can expect a rocking good night.