The Ten Tenor’s cover of Hallelujah is by far their most popular video with 11m YouTube views over 6 years. Formed in 1995, the Ten Tenors are an Australian ensemble that has now released over 20 albums comprised of pop and rock covers interspersed with opera music.
As is well known, there are many covers of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. It is also known that at first the song was barely noticed. Now, the beloved song has so many interpretations that it has every chance of overtaking The Beatles’ Yesterday as the most covered song of all time. Let’s listen to what the Ten Tenors do with the iconic song.
The Ten Tenors’ staging of Hallelujah as a lushly orchestrated, choreographed Broadway-style show stopper is clearly on the more sentimental, more pious, end of the spectrum of Hallelujah covers. It is a far cry from the apocalyptic gruff-voiced declamatory readings of Leonard Cohen’s live performances on his final tours. It is also a long way from the dignified stoic 1991 version by John Cale, which, along with Jeff Buckley’s sexual-tension-infused take, kicked off wider interest in the song.
The popularity of covers of Hallelujah is due to its sublime melody and the complexity of the lyrics, which allow for radically different readings. It also has to do with the number of movies and TV shows that feature the track. Leonard Cohen famously decried the over-exposure of the song, though he later accepted that the piece has sufficient substance to withstand both the exposure and the variety of interpretations. Here’s a song where Ten Tenors’s style is less divisive – Bohemian Rhapsody
It is truly remarkable how Hallelujah has found a home in so many hearts. If you are a Leonard Cohen fan, then the Ten Tenors’ cover of Hallelujah is probably not for you. Nonetheless, there are many fans of Hallelujah who have scant interest in Leonard Cohen. For many listeners, Hallelujah is one of the most beautiful hymns ever written and, for many, it is inconceivable that the song has darker depths that point to religious doubt and sexual angst. Such listeners might even regard the Ten Tenors’ take as one of the best ever. It certainly pulls out all the stops.
In contrast, Bohemian Rhapsody is an overblown pop confection that thrives under the Ten Tenors’ arrangement and choreography. Rather than countering the original, it amplifies the dramatics. The stirring orchestral arrangement of the song, the range of voices, and the power of ten tenors singing combine to make for a fun, camp cover of the Queen Song. Surprisingly, the video only has 238,839 YouTube views.
As one might suspect from the group’s name, which points to it being a concept act (why not 8 tenors, say, or even 3?), The Ten Tenors has seen many memberships change over the years. The current members are Cameron Barclay, the first New Zealander to join, Michael Edwards, Daniel Belle, Nigel Huckle, Adrian Li Donni, Sebastian Maclaine, Jared Newall, Boyd Owen, Grady Swithenbank and Riley Sutton. They are all trained singers.
The Ten Tenors regularly tour Australia, and they have toured Europe. High points for the ensemble were appearing on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon (32 million viewers) and performing at the 2012 UEFA Cup in Warsaw, Poland. The Ten Tenors’ next tour of Australia starts in April 2023.