The Canadian Tenors quartet - Remigio Pereira, Fraser Walters, Clifton Murray and Victor Micallef - is hitting a high note in its musical career.
Since the group's debut in 2007, the foursome has crisscrossed the world, performing a unique blend of classical and contemporary pop. They've even shared the stage with Tuscan tenor Andrea Bocelli in Tel-Aviv. And next month, they'll perform with Sting and Sheryl Crow at One Night Live, a benefit concert for the Women & Babies program at Sunnybrook Hospital.
But Victor Micallef isn't just celebrating his career; his personal life reached a peak last year with the birth of his first child, Zachariah. That's when Micallef dumped his Plymouth Voyager minivan and bought a 2008 Toyota RAV4 SUV.
"The Voyager was a gift from our in-laws. I think it was their hint: 'Maybe it's time for a family, folks?' Because it was an older car, it was having some problems. You could smell the fumes inside the car - that was a big concern having a child so we invested in a new vehicle last May.
"I love my RAV. It's just such an awesome vehicle for me. As far as spacing in the car, it's perfect.
"It's not a glamorous car. But it still comes to the party and says, 'Hey, the guys are here.' It has more personality than if I pulled up with a Corolla," says the Maltese-Canadian tenor, who started playing the piano at age four. Formal voice lessons followed at 16.
It's still a hip vehicle, too, Micallef says. "When I pick up the other Tenors for a gig and we show up it's not like, 'Oh, he's coming in with the family van.' It still has that coolness to it."
The RAV4 marks another first for Micallef. "Believe it or not, this is my first [vehicle]purchase. … "I've been lucky because I have a very large family, so I've always had hand-me-downs. Hand-me-down Pontiacs and my dad's Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. I never had really prestigious kind of cars," says Micallef, who lived in Florence, Italy, for six years to study under Franco Pagliazzi. He moved back to Toronto in 2004 after he was accepted into Toronto's Canadian Opera Company Studio Ensemble.
"I've had good luck with vehicles. All the vehicles I've driven were pretty reliable cars: the Plymouth, the Pontiac, the Oldsmobile. I never had problems with them. They were all hand-me-downs - most of them had over 200,000 klicks on them."
His sister-in-law actually sold him the RAV4, but, deep down, he's a little ashamed of switching from North American cars to a Japanese one. "I know. I know. I did look at the American cars as well. They're good cars as well.
"RAV4 is made in Canada," he adds. But while the 2009 RAV4 is built in Woodstock, Ont., they just started rolling off the line there in December, so his wheels weren't Canadian-made. "Oh, really? Oh. I'm sorry about that," he says apologetically.
"It's a little embarrassing - I usually like to support Canadian-made cars. Hearing all the good reports from my sister-in-law and her customers made me feel comfortable going that route.
"I got a family discount, so that helped my decision-making, of course."
Behind the wheel, Micallef's musical tastes vary. "If you look at the CDs in my car, there's a stretch from Sting to Bocelli to Pavarotti to the Eagles.
"I like to sing in my car, especially in the summer. When my window is down, I'll forget and I'll be singing in opera voice and warming up to get to a gig and I'll notice heads starting to turn as the RAV passes. It is embarrassing. Sometimes I sink into my chair a bit, but it's what I do."
When The Canadian Tenors travel together in the Toyota, it's the same story. "Sometimes we're going to gigs and we're refreshing our memories on harmonies and stuff. The RAV actually becomes a studio space. We're very busy so you take every moment possible," he laughs.
"It's funny for people who are watching us go by. We'll be at a stop light singing to the top of our voices and someone will be looking over like, 'What are those guys doing?' The guys aren't stuck on one genre of music. We like a broad range of stuff. … I think it keeps the ear fresh and our creativity fresh."
He likens the guys in the group to cars. "Because we have the four different voices, it's like having four different vehicles. You have four vehicles and you can do any stretch of road because you have a sports car, you have an off-road truck.
"If there's a song that's a real pop feature we might get Clifton or Fraser to do the feature on that. If it's more classically driven, it might be Remigio or myself.
"That's the beauty of this group. We keep things fresh and, on the road, we're always listening to a different CD."
Incidentally, The Canadian Tenors CD debut hit stores a few months ago.
Their tour schedule is getting busier by the day, and plans are in the works to perform in China and Japan.
If success continues at this rate, Micallef might have his dream wheels sooner than he thinks. "I've always been a huge Ferrari fan. It's my dream car.
"There are a number of Ferraris that I love. And lately that Aston Martin Bond car - it's a beautiful car. It's glamorous. But it's a pipedream right now." firstname.lastname@example.org