Christmas

All posts tagged Christmas

How would you like to help Alfie Boe and Michael Ball get the Christmas number one in both the singles and album chart and feel good about helping others at the same time?

If the answer to this is of course you would, then all you have to do is send some sunshine to your friends by sending them a download of Ball and Boe’s charity single, Bring Me Sunshine. Click here to download from iTunes and send as a gift.  Click here to download via amazon. And when you’ve done that tweet it with the hashtag #SendSunshine!

Let’s face it, everyone’s Christmas would be made better by listening to Alfie, Michael and friends singing this Morecambe and Wise classic:

The charity benefiting from the proceeds is Rays of Sunshine, a charity that grants wishes for seriously ill children and teenagers across the UK. The charity was founded in 2003 and has since granted more than 6,000 wishes for brave and deserving children. Their work provides hope and creates lasting and precious memories for thousands of families across the UK. The charity receives no government funding, so proceeds will enable them to help more children who greatly need help.  Some of the children in the choir appeared on stage at the 02 and raised the roof so please help them to raise as much money as possible.

Alfie and Michael are joined by other artists including Al Murray, Angela Rippon, Aston Merrygold, Bryn Terfel, Calum Scott, Collabro, Danny O’Donoghue (The Script), Gareth Malone, Gregory Porter, Imelda May, Imelda Staunton, Jason Manford, Kelsey Grammer, Lesley Joseph, Loose Women (Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Stacey Solomon, Linda Robson), Mark King, Mel Giedroyc, Miranda Hart, Ore Oduba, Pauline Quirke, Rick Wakeman, Seal, Shirley Ballas (Strictly Come Dancing), and the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Choir.

I earlier mentioned that Alfie and Michael are in the race for two number one slots this Christmas and of course they clinched the top album spot in 2016.  Having debuted at number one upon it’s October release, wouldn’t it be best thing to end a fabulous year if Together Again returned to the top spot?  The only thing to better it would be Bring Me Sunshine reigning supreme and raising lots of money for Rays of Sunshine.

Click here to download from iTunes and here from amazon, or you can text GET SUNSHINE to 84222 (£1 + standard message rate) and send some sunshine to all your friends – thank you!  Please share with the hashtag #SendSunshine as well.

thanks for reading – please share and #SendChristmasSunshine

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For many, including me, Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s take on the Morecambe and Wise classic, Bring Me Sunshine was a highlight of their second album, Together Again.  Consequently, it was wonderful news to hear that they had recorded a version to be released as a charity single to benefit the Rays of Sunshine children’s charity.  Released tomorrow, it’s hoped that the all star cast will help in the battle for this year’s Christmas number one – perhaps Ball and Boe might even make it a Christmas number one in both the singles and album chart?

Alfie and Michael are joined by the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Choir, made up of a group of children all living with a serious illness.  After getting to know the charity, Michael and Alfie have been so moved by their work that they wanted to do more, and so reached out to bring sunshine into the lives of desperately ill children this Christmas.  Other artists are Al Murray, Angela Rippon, Aston Merrygold, Bryn Terfel, Calum Scott, Collabro, Danny O’Donoghue (The Script), Gareth Malone, Gregory Porter, Imelda May, Imelda Staunton, Jason Manford, Kelsey Grammer, Lesley Joseph, Loose Women (Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Stacey Solomon, Linda Robson), Mark King, Mel Giedroyc, Miranda Hart, Ore Oduba, Pauline Quirke, Rick Wakeman, Seal, Shirley Ballas (Strictly Come Dancing), and the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Choir.

Rays of Sunshine Children’s Charity grants wishes for seriously ill children and teenagers across the UK. The charity was founded in 2003 and has since granted more than 6,000 wishes for brave and deserving children. Their work provides hope and creates lasting and precious memories for thousands of families across the UK. The charity receives no government funding, so proceeds will enable them to help more children who greatly need our help. Visit www.raysofsunshine.org.uk to find out more.  Decca will donate 100% of all profits, whilst committing to a minimum donation of 50p from the sale of each permanent download to Rays of Sunshine.

To Bring Sunshine to this and order the single please text GET SUNSHINE to 84222 (T&Cs – Texts cost £1 + 1 standard rate msg. Help: 0333 0030 580.  You can also download from iTunes here and from amazon here.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!  What a year 2016 has been for Alfie Boe – and 2017 looks set to be just as good!

Thoughtsofjustafan usually looks back at the year at New Year but I have something else planned for this New Year’s post (make sure you’re subscribed to hear about it first!) so here goes my top ten moments of this year:

  • Becoming the Official Alfie Boe Fan Blog in February this year – dream come true!
  • Keep Me In Your Heart live and emotional at Blackpool…my buttons are still just about intact…

  • A fabulous night’s entertainment with wonderful friends at Bournemouth.
  • The Together tour itself and seeing so many happy fans getting tickets – even if the sale days themselves were just a little bit stressful!
  • Alfie’s Opera Heroes on Radio 2, especially Maria Callas.
  • Alfie finally talking about Strictly Come Dancing with proper knowledge, borne from watching the show – surely we have Michael to thank for that?!
  • Interviewing The Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey – what a gentleman.
  • Interviewing Jennifer Warnes – I still haven’t got over her answer to the question about preferring duets to solo songs!
  • Alfie and Michael hitting the top chart spot – it’s been a long time coming and so well deserved
  • Alfie saying how nice it was to see me again at the Manchester meet and greet – him and Michael both loved the card from fans

alfie-card

Thank you to everyone for reading and supporting thoughtsofjustafan – I really appreciate the time you take to comment and share.  Recently, we passed the staggering number of 160,000 hits – thank you!

Thank you too for all the wonderful compliments you have sent over the year, you are all very kind.  It never fails to amaze me how widespread Alfie’s fans are – click here to see where we all are.

There are some extra special people to thank who make thoughtsofjustafan possible:

Thanks to Debbie Bannigan for believing in me and ensuring that I too, believe in me.  You are amazingly generous and thoughtsofjustafan would not continue to exist without you.

Thanks to Linda Wellington for continually providing me with photos and videos and allowing me to use them.

Thanks to Carole Hunt for continuing to allow me to use her photo for the main blog banner.

Thanks to everyone who allows me to use their videos here.

Thanks to Roberta Kappus and Carole Hunt for being fabulous reviewers again this year.

Thanks to Ellen Rook, Linda Anstee and Marie Blair for being my top social media sharers – thanks for spreading the word!

Thanks to my top commenters in 2016 – Linda McCann, Sue Redfern and Sally Cook.  Love hearing from you!

Huge thanks to Emily at Vector for all your help and support.

Finally, without Alfie’s support there would be no thoughtsofjustafan – thanks for everything in 2016 Alfie!

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes you wait a while to review a really good Christmas album and sometimes two come along together.  A couple of weeks ago I told you about Gareth Malone’s Great British Christmas album and now I’d like to share Angry Baby’s review of Prayer to a Snowflake from Mary-Jess.

At this time of year, it’s easy to write off music as tacky or overly-sentimental, especially when the shops are blasting out Slade and Chris de Burgh as though there’s been nothing new since the 70s. Thankfully, in Prayer To A Snowflake, UK-based classical-crossover artist Mary-Jess has released an album that cuts through the cynicism and provides a perfect selection of seasonal songs. Whether you’re looking for something to play when the in-laws come round for turkey, or a playlist for romantic evenings in front of the fire when all the crazy-madness is over, this could be the top choice for the holidays.

 

Mary-Jess catapulted to international attention when she won a singing competition live on Chinese TV, in front of 70 million people. Her popularity in China continues, which is why her website blends text in English and Mandarin. Back at home, she is known to TV viewers as the voice of the theme to Downton Abbey. That’s quite a CV, but behind it all is a crystal-clear voice, perfect phrasing and deliciously emotional delivery. Add to that the writing skills and musicianship to create seasonal songs which sit comfortably alongside traditional standards on this album, and there can be no doubt that Mary-Jess’s success is well earned and well deserved.

Opening with two traditional carols, Prayer To A Snowflake ticks the box as something to please the vicar. Silent Night may have been done a million times, but Mary-Jess tingles the spine with her precise soprano, produced with the acoustics of a vaulted chapel. Similarly stripped-back and simple, In The Bleak Midwinter warms the heart. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and gather the little ones around to create the holiday memories we all crave.

I Fell In Love With A Snowman provides a theme-song for falling in love this year. Softly reminiscent of fun in the snow, this track will have everyone wrapping up warm and pulling their significant other out to play like kids. Hold On To Me continues the romantic theme, joining Mary-Jess’s charmingly engaging vocals in musical-theatre-ballad style with Jaden Cornelious’s rich tenor.

Opening with acoustic guitar, In December reveals Mary-Jess’s country style. A consummate story-teller through her song, Mary-Jess paints vivid mind-pictures of winter people “…wearing crimson and evergreen” and pain “I see you in the dark, all bruised and broken”. The story-telling continues as When Summer Comes creates a soundscape of loneliness. Exploring the relatable experience of break-up at holiday time, “I’m finding it hard to sleep alone, Table for one all on my own” Mary-Jess reaches out to anyone facing the festive season newly-single.  If you want to add this to your collection, Angry Baby and Mary-Jess are giving a free download of this song as an extra special Christmas present – just click here to get your free music.

Inserted between these tracks, the story of Christmas is told through the eyes of the biblical Mary, from magnificence and submission in The Angel Gabriel, to fear and and confusion in the classical-pop ballad Breath of Heaven. Simple arrangements support Mary-Jess’s vocals – controlled and exquisitely expressive – every note perfectly placed.

Rhydian is one of the X-Factor’s success stories. Breaking the mould of the popular artist with his classical style when he appeared in 2007, he strides across the boundaries of pop, classical and musical theatre, maintaining the integrity of his own sound. Performing a duet with Rhydian is likely to expose the weakness in any partner, so it’s a testament to Mary-Jess’s technique and talent that their voices blend effortlessly throughout The Sound Of Christmas . This is no trick of a clever producer; each singer maintains a refreshingly natural range and pitch within the mix, providing beautifully blended harmonies that beg to be heard in live performance.

Quirkily titled, closing track Prayer To A Snowflake brings something fresh to the seasonal catalogue. Easily the stand-out piece of a stand-out album, Mary-Jess’s juxtaposition of Chinese musicality and classical European vocals creates an addictively melodic offering. This deserves to become a seasonal standard.

Prayer to a Snowflake is available by clicking here.

It’s December and for what seems like weeks now all the shops have been playing Christmas music – by this time, you’re either totally fed up or thoroughly enjoying every shopping trip.  Either way, odds are that at some point, you’ll find yourself singing along with the majority of songs you hear, from familiarity if nothing else.  Let’s face it, Christmas is a time of year when we look back and reminisce and for most of us, Christmas songs play a huge part in our festive memories.  Interestingly, despite the numbers of Christmas albums released each year, it’s the much loved songs of yesteryear that still mean the most.  Nostalgia plays a big part in this but might it also be a national reluctance to move away from the sounds we know and love?  If the latter is the case, then the new Christmas album from Gareth Malone might well reverse the trend and become a future Christmas classic.

Choirmaster extraordinaire Malone is releasing his first Christmas album on 2 December which aims to bring an essential British sound to the festive music scene.  The album, A Great British Christmas, is a mix of traditional and new which concentrates, unsurprisingly, on voices. Along with a number of community and school choirs, Malone’s own professional choir features on almost all tracks, with the exception of Only You – this features just the voice of Malone himself, albeit layered to form a one man choir.  Although as a nation we have listened to Malone teaching countless people to sing, we haven’t really heard his own voice before, something that is remedied on two songs, the other being an original composition, Restless.

Christmas albums don’t usually lend themselves to new music, perhaps because as alluded to earlier, tradition is everything at this time of year and nostalgia reigns.  However, A Great British Christmas features, in addition to Restless, a new song written by Malone and Kaiser Chiefs front man Ricky Wilson.  Paradise Street isn’t actually very festive but fits in perfectly to a Christmas album as it instantly calls to mind the magnificent Fairy Tale of New York that has been a Christmas staple since Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues took it to number one.  Wilson is of course an extremely talented wordsmith and his bittersweet lyrics combine effortlessly with the melody to take the listener on a musical journey; for me, Paradise Street is the stand out track.

A Great British Christmas features several traditional carols, of which O Come All Ye Faithful is the (appropriately enough) most faithful interpretation; Silent Night is the carol I favour most, not only because it has a beautiful arrangement but it’s still my favourite Christmas carol of all time.  As a regular member of a congregation with a large number of children in attendance, I’m quite used to hearing new carols and one such has been included on this album.  In fact, A Child Is Born was Malone’s very first composition and with its traditional arrangement makes an excellent addition to the already full band of Christmas carols.

Of the remainder of the tracks, Keeping The Dream Alive is the best, not least because it had me up dancing along although A Spaceman Came Travelling is also great.  I wasn’t taken with the Frozen song but then again I think I’m the only parent who’s never seen the film.  Overall, Malone’s first Christmas album is a delight with something for everyone – Christmas albums can usually be divided into two camps: those that have a Christian feel and those that don’t.  It seems entirely fitting that an album celebrating a British take on Christmas should firmly plant itself in the middle of those two camps and successfully embrace them both.  At the end of a turbulent year, this album is just what we need for Christmas.

A Great British Christmas is available here:

british-christmas

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…a Christmas medley with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

This is the second of our Twelve Days of Christmas posts to feature this series of Christmas concerts from 2012 and this newly released video from MoTab themselves has been edited from the longer Home for the Holidays video that shows the whole medley, not just Alfie’s songs.

Home for the Holidays was written in 1954 and initially released by Perry Como, who again recorded the song for release in 1959.  Since then, it has been recorded by amongst other, Cyndi Lauper and Norah Jones but the version here shows off the evergreen voice of Karen Carpenter:

The Carpenters also recorded I’ll Be Home for Christmas, along with practically everyone else who’s done a Christmas album but the video below features an Alfie favourite, Elvis, who recorded it in 1957:

Bing Crosby recorded the original in 1943 and it has of course been a standard Christmas song ever since.

The MoTab album, Home for the Holidays is available here (click here for the DVD):

home for the holidays

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…away with a tin of Roses!  For our friends in other parts of the world, Cadbury’s Roses are a selection of chocolates that are often bought at Christmas – and they mostly come in a tin as can be seen here (thanks Jayne for sharing):

This clip is from 18 December 2011 in Nottingham and precedes the clip from the Third Day of Christmas in which Matt refers to the chocolates he didn’t have.

Anyone had a tin of Roses this Christmas?

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...Hark the Herald Angels Sing at the Mo Tab Choir Christmas Concerts in Salt Lake City:

This was back in 2012 and was part of that year’s Christmas series of concerts featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Just glorious!

Hark the Herald Angels Sing as we know it today is quite different to how it was originally written.  Charles Wesley wrote the words in 1739 but the tune as know it today was written a hundred years later by Felix Mendelssohn.  However, it was not specifically written as an accompaniment to Wesley’s words – an adaptation by William H Cummings made it into one of the most well known carols we have today.

Here is a pared down snippet from Alfie at Abbey Road’s Carols by Kindlelight in 2014:

Those sexy specs are starting to make me feel like the buttons on my blouse!

The Home for the Holidays album is available here:

home for the holidays

Click here for the DVD.

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White Christmas with Matt Lucas and the result was magic – thanks to Jayne for sharing:

The actual date was 18 December 2011 and the venue was Nottingham on the first leg of the Bring Him Home tour.  There’s a lot of banter to start with and throughout which shows the great bond Alfie and Matt have.

Like the song from the Second Day of Christmas, White Christmas has become one of our best known and loved Christmas songs after being written for a film.  Irving Berlin wrote the song for the 1942 film Holiday Inn, which is a great Christmas film and of course Bing Crosby made the song his own.  Since then, pretty much everyone has recorded or performed it – the version I’m showing you is by one of my favourite singers, Otis Redding.  His version is on the soundtrack from one of my favourite films ever, certainly my favourite Christmas film, Love Actually.  Yes, it’s unashamedly a rom com chick flick but it’s fabulous and funny.  And it’s Christmas, so soppy films are just what we want.

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with Laura Wright and Jason Manford at the Blackpool Opera House.  The actual date was 17 December 2011 and became a staple of the first part of Alfie’s Bring Him Home tour:

The song was written for the 1944 film, Meet Me in St Louis and was sung by Judy Garland.  Since then, it has become one of the most recognised Christmas songs around.  Let’s hear Judy’s version:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas features on Alfie’s 2011 album, Alfie and is available here:

Alfie (alfie) album

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