Veteran Broadway performer Marion J. Caffey conceived and directed Three Mo’ Tenors, which has already introduced 11 African-American tenors to audiences. But the show is about more than just the three men performing onstage. It is a story about the history and the future of exceptional Black tenors who deserve to be heard.
The show stars two rotating casts of versatile, classically trained African-American tenors who bring down the house with their deft genre-hopping performance. The show starts with Verdi and Sondheim, but soon the music of Motown, Ray Charles and Usher has the tenors grooving onstage and the audience dancing in the aisles.
A tenor is a male singer with a high voice, although not as high as a counter tenor. A tenor’s voice lies above the bass and below the soprano and alto. The typical range of a tenor extends from the C below middle C to the C above middle C.
It is unusual for tenors to sing in harmony, a characteristic that adds to the uniqueness of Three Mo’ Tenors.
The Three Tenors
In the 1990s, Spanish singers Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and the Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti shared the stage and performed as the Three Tenors. Their concerts brought opera to a wider audience.
Marion J Caffey was listening to the Three Tenors when he realized that a properly trained tenor trio could sing pop and rock songs in addition to opera. Since the veteran Broadway performer knew some classically trained African American tenors, he developed his own Tenors concept to showcase those talents and to question why those voices weren’t being featured on opera stages.
Three Mo’ Tenors presents a challenge for its performers. On top of training their voices to switch rapidly between the drastically different forms of Broadway, opera and pop music, these tenors must learn choreography for each song.
The vocal vacillations required during a Three Mo’ Tenors show could put the tenors’ vocal chords out of commission in as little as month if they performed every night. The show tours with more than three singers. This way, the cast rotates performers, who get to rest and protect their vocal chords.
Kenneth D. Alston, Jr. (Counter Tenor)
Alston has his BA in Vocal Music Performance from Morgan State University. As a member of the world-renowned Morgan State University Choir, he has traveled and performed for audiences in Germany, Switzerland, Osaka, Japan, Prague, Czech Republic, and Martinique. Alston is a charter member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the world’s largest music fraternity. He has performed as a featured soloist on an episode of the HBO original series The Wire and was asked to sing at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
James N. Berger, Jr. (Tenor)
Berger has been singing since age 2. He was first introduced to opera at age 14. He won 2nd place in the Rosa Ponselle Competition. Berger studied at the Catholic University of America, where he majored in Vocal Music Performance. He performed several roles in Madame Butterfly and Die Zaubertflote. At age 21, Berger became a member of the Washington National Opera Company under the artistic direction of Placido Domingo. He toured Japan, performing in Tosca, Othello, and Sly. He continued his studies at the Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium.
Ramone Diggs (Tenor)
Diggs is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music. Diggs played the role of Moyse in the U.S. premiere of Toussaint Before the Spirits for Boston Modern Opera Project. He also portrayed Remendado in Carmen, Gonsalve in L’Heure Espagnole and Le Couf in Les Mamelle de Tirésias. Diggs is the 2001 winner of the Marilyn Horne Foundation Award Competition. He has been a winner of the Mario Lanza Competition in Philadelphia and the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition in Texas.
Victor Robertson (Tenor)
Robertson played Rodolfo in Francesca Zambello's production of Puccini's La Boheme at The Royal Albert Hall in London. When he reprised that role in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of La Bohème in Los Angeles, it earned him the coveted Ovation Award. Recent engagements include Count Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, and the title role in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. He received acclaim for a concert with the Richard Tucker Foundation and the Cleveland Opera called Night of the Rising Stars. He made his debut with the Los Angeles Opera as Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess.
Phumzile Sojola (Tenor)
Sojola hails from Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. He has been a part of the Three Mo' Tenors international tour since 2006. Sojola debuted the role of Arthur in Nathan Davis' jazz opera Just Above My Head with the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. Other roles include Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte and The Messenger in Aida. Sojola has been a Young Artist with Glimmerglass Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera and Dayton Opera. He studied at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and the University of Kentucky.
Three Mo' Tenors opened in New York City in August 2000. Three Mo’ Tenors has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, The White House, Kennedy Center, The Mark Twain Awards, Fox News, and the NAACP Image Awards. The concert was awarded its own TV special as part of PBS’ Great Performances.
Three Mo’ Tenors have performed in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Toronto. Outside of North America, they’ve performed at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in Armenia, as part of a program hosted by The U.S. State Department. The CD A Taste of Three Mo’ Tenors was recorded live at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre.
Show creator Marion J. Caffey said, “The tenors of Three Mo’ Tenors embody a musical repertoire of extraordinary breadth. Through song and dance, we hope to elevate the stature of African-American musical performers in the world. Our goal is to sing our way into history.”
“A lively and unexpectedly moving show.” –The New Yorker
“A rich, distinctive approach to classical singing as well as contemporary music.” –SeeingBlack.com
“Nothing short of brilliant!” –Amsterdam News
“Dynamic chemistry.” –The Current Online
“An evening that made you want to burst into song yourself.” –The Boston Globe