Alfie Boe

All posts tagged Alfie Boe

The Journey is the second album from classical crossover artist Thomas Spencer and has been a long time in the making and reflects his desire to find his own voice in the crossover world.  I spoke to Thomas last week about the album and about his own personal journey through the world of music.

Thomas hails from a Derbyshire village and after music A level, decided to study acting in London.  A change of heart though saw him enrol for voice training at Trinity College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music before going onto a post graduate musical theatre course.  The logical outcome of all this was to work in musical theatre but when Thomas found that he was losing out to singers and actors with a bigger profile, his response was to try a different approach and began recording an album in his London flat with his musician / composer brother, Oliver.  Credere was the end product and the brothers quickly decided that they wanted to record another, using mostly their own material.  It’s unusual for classical crossover artists to record known material and although The Journey does contain this, the majority is (mainly Oliver’s) original compositions.  Of this choice, Thomas says “we wanted to find our own voice, our own material, our own style of music”.

The result is a unique sounding album that lulls you into thinking you know where this musical journey is going to take you; it’s only when you’re a few songs into the album that you realise this is not taking you in the expected direction at all which for me, is great.  There is something for everyone on this album, whether new to classical crossover or not although, as we know from Alfie Boe, there’s only two kinds of music, good and bad; part of what makes good music good is the unexpected (and goodness knows Alfie Boe in particular is nothing if not unpredictable) and it’s the original songs on this album that stand out.

The Journey is released on 23 June and this is a super busy time for Thomas as he is also coming to the end of a multi date project with choirs around the country.  Beginning in the middle of May, Thomas has been travelling the length and breadth of the country working and performing with community choirs.  Whether singing solos or as part of the tenor section, singing his own music or teaching and participating in workshops, Thomas says that “no two choirs sessions have been the same, each night is unique with differing abilities, ages, sizes…it’s nice to be kept on my toes”.  Most of the choirs have their own repertoire and Thomas gave a wry chuckle when he said that Bring Him Home and other Les Mis songs seemed to be perennial favourites with choirs – I expect he’s sung that a fair few times over the last few weeks.  Having said that, Thomas has also sung Gilbert and Sullivan and other musical theatre songs in the course of this tour and even learnt some Welsh folk songs courtesy of a week with Welsh male voice choirs.

When asked why a community choir tour, Thomas answered that “having sung in choirs all my life I felt it was a good way to get involved in community and to spend time talking about and performing music.  I’ve been lucky enough to train at some good places and it’s great to be able to share some vocal technique, biology of the voice and what I do before performing”.   Nearly all the songs on The Journey lend themselves to choral adaptations so it would be interesting to see if any of the choirs Thomas has worked with add any to their repertoire.

The Journey is available here:

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Will Barratt has been performing in London’s West End (Jersey Boys, Phantom, War of the Worlds, Producers) for a while now but he became someone to look out for amongst Alfie Boe fans when he understudied Alfie’s Billy Bigelow in ENO’s Carousel; he literally took over from Alfie half way through a show after Alfie came down with an ear infection.  Two more shows the next day followed, both to rave reviews. I interviewed Will after the end of the five week run and although he was quick to point out he had no expectation of performing the role, in the event that he did, said that “it was good to get on for a couple of shows together, like a preview and opening night in two shows”.  Additionally, Will said that although Alfie was sad to have to miss the show, he was “so pleased that I got on – he was dead happy for me”.  If you want to hear Will singing the soliloquy, click here for a pre-show talk and performance at ENO (soliloquy starts at 23m).

As Will’s only role in the production was to understudy Billy, I was keen to find out about the creative process and rehearsal period; how much was he involved?  It turns out that both Will and Molly Lynch, who understudied Katherine Jenkins as Julie, were as fully involved as Alfie and Katherine from day one.  Whoever plays the part, the blocking and direction is the same, it’s the thought processes of the actor that differs.  Will says that “Alfie, Katherine, Molly and I, we all got on, we worked through stuff together…Alfie was also going through the process of figuring out the role, he didn’t know what it was on day one either.  We were all doing it together”.

Now, you might be wondering about the headline of this piece – Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  This is the title of Will’s self penned debut album, released in 2015 and showcases his seemingly effortless talent for singing, playing multiple instruments and song writing.  Of the songs themselves, Will says that “all the songs on this album contain bits of me, my life, history, wants and needs, aches and pains, ups and downs…they are my confessions”.  He leaves it up to us as to whether he is a justified sinner or not!

Being self penned, this album is not what you might expect from a musical theatre performer – there are a few songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a musical but on the whole, the songs are a mix of upbeat, rockier, pop and jazz with a hint of Americana that really get you up and out of your seat.  To me, a great song is one that you instantly sing along to or you can’t sit still to and both the opening track, Give Me Some Time and Demon, towards the end, had me up and dancing straight away.  These two songs, together with Fearless (below), a beautiful ballad and the almost Buble-esque Never Thought, are my favourite songs.  Interestingly, Give Me Some Time and Never Thought are songs originally written when Will was at school, just reworked and rearranged to give a more sophisticated sound.

Will’s fabulous voice handles all these styles with great versatility and is a joy to listen to.

Confessions of a Justified Sinner is available here:

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It’s no secret that Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, having had such a success with Together in 2016 are teaming up for a new album this year.  Now you can pre-order – and there’s a DVD available too!  Take a look at the video:

Click here to place your pre-order from the official store – what are you waiting for?

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Alfie Boe fans love to keep up with all things Alfie and one of the things that they often ask about is the charities he supports.  Alfie is either an ambassador or patron of several charities but one that is particularly close to his heart is the Trinity Hospice, located on the Fylde Coast.  Serving both adults and children, Trinity relies on fundraising to find all the £5 million annual costs.

Alfie became a patron several years ago after being approached by the fundraising team to see if he would consider becoming an official supporter of the hospice.  Alfie of course hails from Fleetwood – just up the road from the hospice – and press officer Shirley Morgan says they “were absolutely thrilled when we got not only a ‘yes’ , but the news that he would become a Patron”.  Since then, Alfie has supported Trinity with public messages of support which generates a lot of interest both locally and around the world; an example of this is the Trinity Tea Parties of the last couple of years in which Alfie urged everyone to “put the kettle on” raise money.  This aspect of Alfie’s support is crucial as donations increase dramatically whenever Alfie supports them publicly.  There is an increase in activity, which can be traced back to Alfie supporters who are a fabulously loyal bunch.  Many fans see it as a way of giving something back to a performer who brings them so much joy, and Trinity are very grateful for their generosity.

Aside from the public messages of support, Alfie also takes time to support Trinity in less obvious ways.  One such way was about a month ago,  when Shirley Morgan had a call from the nurses at the hospice to say that one of the patients – a long time Alfie fan – had become very ill, and her family had been talking about how much Alfie’s music had meant to her. She had even named her medicine pump after him! It was a Friday lunchtime, but Shirley called Alfie’s team at Vector, in the hope that a few words of support from Alfie could be passed along to the patient.  In Shirley’s words, this is what happened next:

I knew it was a big ask because he was due on stage in Carousel that night – but his team said they would see what they could do. I had to leave work a bit early to drive my son home from school, but as I stepped through my front door at 6pm my phone pinged. It was a message from Alfie’s team, and I immediately thought I must write it down and get it back to the hospice as soon as I can. But when I opened the email and looked more closely I realised it was actually a video, recorded for our patient that afternoon by Alfie, sending love and support. He said he would be thinking of her as he was on stage that night. I downloaded it onto my iPad and went back to the hospice. I wish I could tell you how much joy it brought, not just for the lady in question, but also for her family, who were at her bedside. If only I could have caught it on camera – she simply could not believe that he had gone to so much trouble and that she had him, talking directly to her, in her room, just as he was going on stage in London. It’s a moment I won’t forget. Sadly, she died a few days later. Her family gave me permission to share the story with you; until now we haven’t told anyone, but they want people to know how much it meant and what an amazing memory it has given them.

I don’t know about you but when I first heard that story I shed a tear or two, and I know I speak for all of you when I say a huge thank you to the family of the lady concerned and best wishes going forward.

As mentioned earlier, Alfie’s fans love to support his chosen charities so stay tuned as there will be more news about Alfie and Trinity in the next few weeks.

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We’ve done it, we’ve counted down to the 2017 Best Ever Alfie Boe song so let’s take a look at the top ten so far:

10 – Parlami D’amore Mariu

9 – In My Daughter’s Eyes

8 – Wheels of a Dream

7 – Forever Young

6 – Anthem

5 – Addio Sogni Di Gloria

4 – Keep Me In Your Heart

3 – Love Reign O’er Me

2 – Rank Strangers

And so that leaves only one song at the top and it’s no surprise that after two years at number four, Bring Him Home returns to the top:

This was the first time I heard Alfie sing Bring Him Home live.

Bring Him Home, is without question Alfie’s most popular and famous song.  The vast majority of fans who have come to know Alfie since 2010 (myself included) have done so through Les Miserables, Jean Val Jean and Bring Him Home – Alfie’s star really was born at the 25th anniversary concert.  Everything that has come since started on that day and ensures that Alfie will continue to sing Bring Him Home for as long as the demand is there…forever!  Of course the problem with this is I find it really difficult to write anything at all about Bring Him Home.   So, instead of my thoughts, let’s go back to what Alfie said about it in his autobiography:

It is such a spiritual song, it’s so special.  When Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil wrote it they must have been so excited…It is a prayer, it’s actually called The Prayer, it’s not officially called Bring Him Home and I treat it as such every time I sing it.  I pray.  That’s what makes it work.

Interestingly, when I interviewed Alfie for the Club 24601 series in 2015, although he mentioned Bring Him Home as being a great song, he actually picked the Soliloquy as the song with the greatest emotional and vocal range.

Thank you for sending in your suggestions and voting – I love seeing the different songs that make it into the top ten each year.  Enjoy the summer concerts – click here if you haven’t yet got a ticket.

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Stranger in Paradise on Parkinson:

This is of course from Kismet, the much mocked (by Michael Ball and Alfie at least) production at ENO where Alfie and Michael first met.  Now, I happened to watch this performance on Parkinson and liked the song and the singer but that was it – certainly, I didn’t have the same reaction as when first hearing Alfie as Jean Valjean.

Kismet first appeared as a musical in 1953 before making it’s way to London a couple of years later.  Stranger in Paradise is the most famous song from the show, certainly in the UK and in 1955 there were six versions of the song in the UK chart, Tony Bennett being the one to hit the top spot.  Since then, the song has been recorded by more artists than we’ve all had hot dinners but I can’t find one I like better than Alfie.

The summer tour is almost upon us so if you want to review one of the shows (Hampton Court and Greenwich are taken) please fill in the form:

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Recently returned from Cape Town where he created the role of John Crichton-Stuart in the new musical Tiger Bay, a role written especially for him no less, John Owen-Jones tomorrow releases a compilation album, Bring Him Home.  A mix of musical theatre songs taken from three previous albums,  John Owen-Jones (2009, Unmasked (2012) and Rise (2015), there are also three new tracks to delight fans: Maria, Why God Why and Suddenly.  In addition to this, John is soon to embark on a short solo tour of Wales – click here for dates and venues.  All in all, with Tiger Bay moving to Cardiff in November and a trip stateside in September, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for John.

Given his super busy schedule, it was a delight to catch up with John over coffee this week to talk about the new album although of course, you’ll forgive us if we strayed onto all things Les Mis.  Like Alfie, it was through Les Mis that I first became aware of John – the Valjean Quartet at the 25th concert to be precise.  Talking about that incredible moment where Alfie first starts singing, John says that “being in the room when we first rehearsed that and everyone’s hair was blow off when Alfie hit that top note”.  Lovely to hear that the other Valjean’s thought that as it’s the same for most of us too.  As for Alfie, Les Mis is the show in which John first rose to prominence; at 26 he was the youngest actor to play Valjean.  He says of this time on Broadway that “I was very lucky at 26 that I had the chance to play Jean Valjean and I grabbed it with both hands”.   Since then he has returned to the role several times, most recently on Broadway again and for a short run in Dubai and doesn’t rule out another stint in the future “if the opportunity is there again, why not?”

Of the three new tracks on Bring Him Home, one is related to Les Mis and that is Suddenly, the song that was added to the movie version and as yet, has not been recorded by many people.  As such, it sounds fresh and exciting which is no mean feat for a song from a thirty year old musical that everyone is familiar with.  In understated style, John calls the song ” a nice little tune” and it fits in perfectly with the theme of this album which draws heavily on John’s roles with both Les Mis and Phantom, both of which are huge in Japan.  John has played several sell out shows there and in once concert last year, John says that the audience refused to leave the auditorium until he came back for a further encore – the musical director came back on stage without shoes and socks!

As for the other new tracks, Maria was chosen as West Side Story was the first show in which John was ever on stage and is a song he’s always wanted to record as a result.  Apparently it took him this long to actually do it because his mum’s not keen on the song but “she can skip that one”.  Great choice of song – despite there being many versions of this song out there, John’s acting ability enables him to bring an emotional depth that is not always heard.  Similarly personal, Why God Why from Miss Saigon was the song John performed at his audition for drama school and is a song that he has performed live for a long time.

As mentioned earlier, next week sees John embark on a short solo tour of Wales and he says that the set list will consist of mainly musical theatre songs with one or two others in the mix as well.  A number of local choirs will be joining John, not to mention Rhys Meirion in Rhyl and other guest artists.  Sounds fantastic!

Bring Him Home is released on Sain Records on 9 June and is available here:

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Two years after the triumphant world premiere of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia (CQ) Alfie Boe and Billy Idol return to join Townshend in a limited run of US dates (click here for tickets).  Kicking off at Tanglewood on 2 September, the show will play two nights (9 – 10 September) at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York before finishing at The Greek Theatre, LA on 16 September.  Keith Lockhart will conduct at Tanglewood with the Boston Pops Orchestra and this will be familiar to Alfie as he has previously worked with both, when he recorded with them for their 2005 Christmas album, Sleigh Ride.  The original CQ conductor, Robert Ziegler will conduct for the other performances.

 

Alfie says that he is “thrilled to be joining Classic Quadrophenia for a limited run of US shows” and I confidently predict that quite a lot of Alfie fans will be thrilled too!  Since CQ was announced as a project in late 2014, US fans have been extremely keen to see Alfie perform this music and I urge everyone with the slightest chance of seeing it to beg, steal or borrow but basically do whatever it takes to see Alfie in the role of Jimmy – I would love to see it again.  An added bonus is the presence of Billy Idol, who was a surprising highlight for me at the original show.

When I first interviewed Alfie about CQ, he had yet to perform the show and I asked him about the recording process.  Apparently, Alfie said, it took “a good few hours.  The sound is almost like a live recording of my vocals as it was really flowing, we were really in the groove”.  I asked Alfie how difficult it was to sing and although some parts are trickier than others, the most difficult for him was getting the emotional intensity right.  “It’s an emotional piece and you have to understand what you are singing and the emotional intent behind it and then you’re alright”.

The Who’s historic rock opera Quadrophenia was of course originally released as an extensive double album in 1973 and has stood the test of time as a conceptual work honouring the Mod movement. The album, later turned into a feature film and theatrical production, follows an angst-ridden young man in London who creates a new life for himself as a member of the Mods.  Talking about the classical incarnation, Pete Townshend says ““I’m thrilled to be bringing Classic Quadrophenia stateside through the month of September. Melding the contrasting sounds of Quadrophenia with a symphony has been a really unique and powerful way to reach a wide audience of classical and pop music lovers alike. I couldn’t be more excited to see it continue in the U.S.”

Tickets go on sale on 13 June – click here.

 

Saturday, September 2          Lenox, MA             Tanglewood

Saturday, September 9          New York, NY        Metropolitan Opera House

Sunday, September 10           New York, NY        Metropolitan Opera House

Saturday, September 16        Los Angeles, CA     The Greek Theatre

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Just two songs left on this year’s Best Ever Alfie Boe Song countdown which means that there’s less than two weeks until Alfie starts his Summer Together tour with Michael Ball.  If you haven’t got tickets yet, click here.  I’m once again looking for guest reviewers so make sure you read to the end!

Song number two is a song that has featured twice before, in 2014 and 2015 and is this year’s only representative from Storyteller.  Rank Strangers is an American folk song from the early twentieth century which Alfie first sang on his Bring Him Home tour of 2012 and then recorded for Storyteller that same year.  Here is Alfie’s acoustic version from the Storyteller tour:

Rank Strangers was written by Albert Brumley, a musician and singer born in Oklahoma in 1905.  After studying at the Hartford Musical Institute, Arkansas,  Brumley toured with the Hartford Quartet and went on to write / copyright an astonishing 800 songs.  The most famous of these is I’ll Fly Away from 1932.  In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Song Writer’s Hall of Fame and his songs have been covered by amongst others, Bob Dylan, who I’m sure introduced Alfie to the song:

Alfie, I hope you know that this is true dedication on my part, to feature, yet again, Bob Dylan’s vocals on this blog!

Stay tuned next week for the reveal of the fans’ Favourite Song 2017!

With the summer tour so close, I’m looking for guest reviewers again – I need reviewers for all the shows except Greenwich so if you want to have a go, send a sample of a short review of either a concert or album via this form:

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Welcome to the fourth in the occasional series celebrating Six Sensational Songs from Alfie Boe – each post features six songs chosen by a thoughtsofjustafan reader and this time it’s the turn of Sheila Currie.  Sheila first became an Alfie fan after seeing him in Les Mis on PBS and recently saw him in concert in New York, also having the opportunity to wish him well before the concert!  Sheila says about Alfie:

I could pick many more than six songs, certainly. Alfie Boe is someone who will not pass this way again in my lifetime. His voice goes in my ear directly to my heart.

Here we go with Sheila’s songs:

A Living Prayer, also chosen by Betty Valentine, was chosen by Sheila because “this was on the first CD I bought of Alfie’s after his Les Mis performance on PBS. I loved the video especially. He takes this song of Alison Krause to a hymn like quality.”

If I Loved You, from Carousel – this one might be very popular amongst Alfie fans these days!  Sheila says “I sang this song growing up in school choir and it just pulls at my heartstrings.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water was chosen by Sheila as it ” reminded me of my early married life during Vietnam era. I loved it then just as much”.

Forever Young, chosen  because “Alfie’s reworking of this Dylan song to remind us of those who have sacrificed for us was incredible, especially the PBS Memorial Day concert”.

Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna, also chosen by Betty Valentine, was chosen by Sheila  because “this beautiful song reminds me of my voice teacher and her passion for Italian opera”.

Where’er You Walk.  As Sheila says “An old song but I can still sing it as if it was just yesterday.

Thank you Sheila for sharing your six sensational songs with us.

If you would like to see your favourite songs featured here, complete the form below, telling me your six songs and why they are your favourites.  

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