The anticipation for US fans is over – I’m thrilled to be able to tell you that Alfie and Michael will bring their Ball and Boe Together show to the New York City Center venue for one night only – May 23 2017! Tickets available here!

Their album Together was the top selling UK release of 2016 and went on to become the Christmas Number 1 and has recently returned to the top ten of the UK chart. Together is a compilation of musical theatre and popular classics including a Les Miserables medley, Somewhere, Music of the Night, When You Wish Upon a Star, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Speak Softly Love and For Once in My Life.

Here they are on the UK tour last year:

Buy two tickets to the show – click here – and you’ll get a copy of the album included! The album was recorded in New York last year and you might see some NYC locations in the official video!

 

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Voting is now open to find the 2017 best ever Alfie Boe song!  You should be able to vote for more than one song too:

Thank you to those who sent in their nominations – only two songs had not been nominated before:

Goodbye (from the deluxe version of Trust) – nominated by Sally Sadler

Anthem (from Together) – nominated by Dawn Phelan

The nomination of Goodbye makes Trust our most popular Alfie album – it now has ten songs in the long list (now containing 46 songs and coming in at just shy of three hours) so put your feet up and click here to listen.

Interestingly, despite the album being Christmas number one, just one song from Together was nominated; Alfie’s previous album, Serenata, had eight nominations for best song upon release and one, Addio Sogni Di Gloria, was the winner in 2015.

Voting will close on 2 April 2017 and the top ten will be revealed next Monday – get voting!

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Alfie’s been busy over the last couple of weeks, appearing on various radio programmes with Katherine Jenkins, of course promoting Carousel, which is only a few weeks away now:

Danny Pike, BBC Surrey – click here – 2hr 9m

Dominic King, BBC Kent – click here – 13m

Nick Coffer, BBC Three Counties – click here – 1hr 34m

Bernie Keith, BBC Northampton – click here – 2hr 45m

Midweek, BBC Radio 4 – click here

Steve Wright, BBC Radio 2 – click here

And here is Alfie and Michael on Lorraine this morning:

This week saw Dame Vera Lynn celebrate her 100th birthday and of course Alfie has a guest spot on her latest album – you’ll remember that I have one copy to give away to someone picked at random.  The lucky winner who correctly said that Alfie sang A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square at the Queen’s 90th birthday concert in 2016 was:

Jane Mann

Congratulations – please click here to send me your address!

Thank you to everyone who has sent in their favourite Alfie songs for the fourth annual best ever Alfie Boe song – if your favourite isn’t listed in the longlist, you only have a couple of days left to tell me!

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Autism – most of us have heard of autism and a fair amount of us probably think we know what is meant by the term autism, but do we?  There are a huge range of issues faced by people with autism and one of the problems causing difficulty is a lack of understanding amongst the wider public which is where World Autism Awareness Week (WAAW) comes in.  Brought into being by the National Autistic Society (NAS) to highlight World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, WAAW, which runs 27 March – 2 April 2017, aims to further raise awareness and understanding in public attitudes.

This year, the charity is being helped with it’s annual campaign by up and coming music duo The Beautiful Secret, whose new single, What’s Inside, is the anthem for World Autism Awareness Week:

Released tomorrow, the song shows ‘what’s inside’ Katie-Rae, shown in the video.  Katie’s aunt, Rachael Hawnt, is one half of The Beautiful Secret (alongside Ashley Cutler) and after hearing Katie say that “no one ever listens to me”, wrote What’s Inside in response.  Rachael said about Katie-Rae, “she has autism and learning difficulties and had many fears and phobias from the get-go. She has struggled with social situations and depression all of her life, but she is still a strong and loving person with a fantastic artistic flare and a big, big heart.  We wanted to write a song to help raise funds and awareness for autistic people. The first person I went to talk to was Katie-Rae; I told her I wanted to write about the way she felt, a real perspective from a real autistic child.”

The fundraising and awareness aspect of teaming up with the National Autistic Society came later and is something that Katie-Rae herself feels very proud of. Speaking this week, Katie said “I’m not brave enough to get the word out there myself so my aunt is doing it for me…it makes me happy that it’s going to help people”.

Highlighting understanding is the key to both this song and this year’s World Autism Awareness Week and Katie-Rae’s own words encapsulate perfectly the issues she and many other autistic people face on a daily basis.  Speaking about school, Katie told me that

No one cared how we felt, people thought we were crazy.  We’re not crazy, we’re just different.  People didn’t really understand, even the teachers, until Miss Young helped us explain to the other teachers how we feel and how we think.

The fundraising head of NAS, Kate Donohue, agreed that “very often, young autistic people felt that no one ever listened to them”, which is why the song is so powerful.  To have Katie-Rae appearing in a video highlights just how powerful the song is – and also shows how brave this young lady is, despite what she thinks.

What’s Inside, by The Beautiful Secret, supporting the National Autistic Society is available here:

All proceeds go to NAS.

Click here to find out more about the fundraising and awareness work of the National Autistic Society.

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One of the difficulties in being an unsigned artist is how to gain exposure for your music and reach new audiences.  The beauty of independent musicians is that you can make the music you want but the catch is that you then have to do all the promotion yourself.  Therefore, musicians and their managers are always looking for new ways to reach out and sell the music.

In the last ten years, one such way is to become a Caffe Nero Artist of the Month or to be listed for the monthly playlist.  Artists are also invited to play live in a selection of Caffe Nero locations and I recently spoke to Mark Sullivan, who is currently criss crossing the country in a camper van (musicians have such a glamorous life), on the Caffe Nero tour.  Sullivan has been a musician for a long time and I asked him why this touring approach was important and he said “I knew I wanted to get on the tour as it’s a really good way of reaching an audience…it pushes me as an artist to connect with people in such an intimate setting”.

In order to be considered for the tour and playlist, artists need to have produced music that is available on properly mastered CDs (mp3 tracks are automatically rejected) and although Sullivan was in a good place, musically, after winning the soloist category of the 2015 Rock the House competition, his EP wasn’t ready for release until now.  Recorded in the USA with acclaimed producer Steve Greenwell, the three track EP entitled Still Good For Nothing (the title comes from a line from the second track, Bird At Night) showcases Sullivan’s warm vocals and classic, guitar led pop.  In particular, Warm Your Bones is a lovely song to listen to and eminently catchy, while the video is just pure romance:

I love a music video that tells a story!

Although Sullivan has a lot of material written in preparation for more recording, in addition to this three track EP he has just three more ready to release and he hopes to do this later in 2017 / early 2018.  The question of EP versus album then brings us neatly back to why Sullivan wanted to tour with Caffe Nero.  As Sullivan says “although I have enough material for an album, I don’t have enough reach and so I need to build an audience and raise my profile before releasing an album”.  Playing and selling his own music in venues around the country, renowned for supporting unsigned artists, is designed to help accomplish both those aims.

As for Caffe Nero themselves, supporting up and coming artists is something that enables them to have new and interesting music on their playlists each month; live music is the icing on the cake although exposure to customers via the wi-fi login would also be a factor in getting the music heard. Ultimately, though, it’s the live music that helps gives musicians the impetus and profile to become more successful – Jack Savoretti was the first to play these tours and he’s done quite well since!

Mark Sullivan’s EP, Still Good For Nothing is available here:

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Welcome to the fourth annual Best Ever Alfie Boe Song poll!  In each of the previous three polls, a different song has come out on top:

Bring Him Home

Addio Sogni Di Gloria

Love Reign O’er Me

This year, we have a new album of songs to be considered and so I’m now asking for your nominations.  The current longlist of songs can be found on Spotify here – if your favourite isn’t there, nominate it on the form below:

Nominations will close at the end of the week and the poll will open next week.

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Will Dame Vera Lynn become the first centenarian to hit the number one spot in the album chart when her new album, Vera Lynn 100, is released tomorrow?  I wouldn’t bet against the original Forces Sweetheart as her last album achieved the top spot just a few years ago, meaning she would beat her own record as the oldest person to achieve a number one album.

On this album, Dame Vera’s original vocals have been set to new orchestrations, courtesy of Morgan Pochin who of course have produced and arranged several of Alfie’s albums.  The result is a masterclass of gorgeous accompaniments that show off Dame Vera’s vocals to perfection whilst bringing out the best in each duet partner.

Unsurprisingly, my favourite track is the album opener, We’ll Meet Again featuring Alfie Boe; the arrangement allows Alfie’s voice to soar but never to overshadow our Forces Sweetheart in one of her most famous songs.

Of the other duets, The White Cliffs of Dover with Alexander Armstrong and As Time Goes By with Aled Jones stand out for me.  Armstrong’s TV persona on Pointless is very much that of a smiley, affable gentleman and you can hear the smile in his voice on his track, just as you can hear the same in Jones’ voice.  Cynthia Erivo, on When You Wish Upon A Star is also beautiful and elegantly understated.  Of the songs that aren’t duets, the highlight is Sailing which I wasn’t aware that Dame Vera had recorded but apparently I’m not alone in that!  The recording has not been widely known and is a real find on this album.  I loved it.

The warmth of these tracks seems to reflect the way Britain in general feels about Dame Vera; rarely, if ever, can there have been a singer who so transcends one genre of entertainment whilst also representing such a precise period of history.  So closely linked is she with the Second World War that even those who were born long after the event still know her to be the “Forces Sweetheart”, regardless of who has held the title since.

This album is a delight to be enjoyed by all – we all know the songs so we can all sing along and indulge in one of our favourite national pastimes, nostalgia, whilst listening to an array of wonderful singers paying tribute to a national treasure.  I’ll leave the last word to Dame Vera herself:

It’s truly humbling that people still enjoy these songs from so many years ago, reliving the emotions of that time…and it’s so wonderful for me to hear ‘my songs’ again so beautifully presented in a completely new way.

I have one copy of this album to give away – just answer the question below* and the lucky winner will be drawn at random on 24 March!

Vera Lynn 100 is available here:

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…in Korean!  This was his one off appearance in Seoul, Korea and he sang a varied programme of classical, opera and musical theatre – and one song in Korean.  I understand the song is traditional but I have no idea what they are singing about!  The audience, soprano and conductor all seem very impressed though and his pronunciation seems, to my untutored ear) in time with the soprano:

The second song is one of my favourites from Alfie’s operatic repertoire, Brindisi from La Traviata.  Alfie looks as if he is enjoying this rare venture into operatic waters although I think he may have wanted to dance at one point and the dress had other ideas!

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More than six years after it was released, Love Was A Dream yesterday topped the UK classical charts.  Looking back, the last time I wrote about this fabulous album (my favourite after Trust and the best classical album), it had just entered the top ten classical album chart, then standing at number 4, ahead of Serenata at 6 and You’ll Never Walk Alone at 7.  This news is especially exciting for those of us who love this album as it’s probably one of the least known of Alfie’s albums.  Recorded and released with Linn Records before Alfie signed to Decca, the album is now part of Alfie’s back catalogue under the Decca umbrella.

From Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, you really understand the depth of feeling he has for Franz Lehar and for Love Was A Dream.  The opportunity to make the album came at a low point in Alfie’s professional life and clearly has an emotional connection for him, not least because Lehar was a favourite of his father. Alfie says:

That album has a real sentimental feel for me – vocally and emotionally and even technically….It was a really warm experience…one of my favourite albums I’ve done, certainly the most personal.

Anyone familiar with Alfie’s story knows that Lehar’s music is a personal favourite for him and his father, Alfred.  As well as singing You Are My Heart’s Delight (track 5) for his first D’oyly Carte audition, Alfie spent many a  Sunday lunchtime in the Boe household  listening to Alf senior’s music and Alfie  says that Richard Tauber was one of his father’s favourite singers.  Tauber became particularly well known for singing the song; indeed it comes from a 1929 operetta, The Land of Smiles, written for his voice by Lehar.  Here’s Alfie at the 2012 Proms in the Park:

The remainder of the tracks (click here to see the complete list) are taken from other Lehar operettas dating from 1905-1934.  Tracks 2 and 9 are from The Merry Widow (1905), an operetta that Alfie performed in with ENO in 2009 although Vilia (track 2) is sung by the Merry Widow herself.  Track 12 (Farewell, My Love Farewell) was the song that made Richard Tauber a star in 1922 and he then went onto originate a number of roles for Lehar  – the rest of the track list comprises songs that were created for Tauber’s voice.

Love Was A Dream is, for me, the perfect album for Alfie’s voice and my favourite classical album.  For me, it’s a much more romantic album than Serenata, which was promoted as his most romantic album yet (of the Decca albums, yes).

Love Was A Dream is available here:

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Last week I gave you my top Six Sensational Songs from Alfie Boe and asked for your nominations – I was deluged with them!  Thank you to everyone who sent in their six (it is possible to choose just six!) and in no particular order, the first set was chosen by Betty Valentine.  This is what Betty had to say about when and where she was Boed:

I started following Alfie in early 2011 when, like a lot of us on this side of the Atlantic, I saw him in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Miserables on PBS. I was blown away by his voice and stage presence and actually travelled to London that fall to see him live in the West End. Since then I have followed his career, collected his music and have seen him live twice more.

Betty’s six songs are:

In My Daughter’s Eyes, chosen because, as Betty says “the song always makes me think of my deceased parents”. If you are either a daughter or a mother of a daughter then this song can’t fail to move you.

Betty chose Come What May because of the “romantic sentiments of long lasting love” – and I chose this video because I love Laura Wright and because Alfie makes me laugh in it!

In Betty’s words, she picked this song because not only is it beautiful, “the melody and the words… form a beautiful poem of thanksgiving for nature and our world”.  A lot of you agree as Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna made it all the way to the number two position in our very first Best Ever Alfie Boe Song poll in 2014.

Recondita Armonia was chosen to highlight Alfie’s operatic talent and I chose this video as it’s a great excuse to see Matt and Alfie again!

A Living Prayer and Abide With Me were both chosen for their beauty and also, for the “healing and comfort derived from them in difficult times”.

Thank you Betty for sharing your Six Senational Songs with us.

If you would like to share your six favourite songs with us, please send them (and your reasons why) in this form:

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