Onward

All posts tagged Onward

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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If you celebrate Easter as a religious festival or just enjoy eating chocolate eggs, this time of year is a happy one.  Alfie is of course in London at the moment, appearing in Carousel – making this a very time of year for those of use lucky enough to see his wonderful performance.

As most fans will be aware, Alfie is from a strong Christian background and has often spoken of his faith and what it means to him.  He has also released a CD, Onward, which showcases Alfie singing hymns and spiritual songs.  One such, is A Living Prayer, three times voted into the top ten of Alfie Boe’s Best Ever Song:

This is taken from one of Alfie’s appearances on Songs of Praise, along with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring:

Onward is available here:

Have a very happy and Blessed Easter

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Three weeks into our third annual best ever Alfie Boe Song and we come to number eight and a song that is the only one (apart from Bring Him Home of course) to feature in all three polls:

I was initially surprised to find it in the top ten at all, never mind making it all the way to number two so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to find it still there in 2014.  A year on and I’m no longer surprised to see it feature again; taken from Onward, A Living Prayer shows off Alfie’s soaring vocals to perfection and is probably the reason why a song from one of Alfie’s lesser known albums has been eternally popular with fans.

A Living Prayer was written by bluegrass / country singer Alison Krauss and released on the Union Station album Lonely Runs Both Ways in 2004.  The bluegrass roots are evident in this video of Krauss:

Krauss and Alfie are also linked in another way – both have recorded with Robert Plant, in Alfie’s case, on Song to the Siren from Alfie.

Onward is available here:

Alfie onward

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Voting has now closed in the third annual poll to find the fan’s favourite Alfie Boe song (recorded) and the top ten is in a handy playlist for you:

There are just four songs that survived from the 2014 poll and of these four, just two have been voted into the top ten in all three polls so far.

In 2015, the top ten looked like this:

  1. Addio Sogni Di Gloria
  2. Keep Me In Your Heart
  3. A Gaelic Blessing
  4. Bring Him Home
  5. A Living Prayer
  6. Nessun Dorma
  7. My Heart is Yours
  8. Rank Strangers
  9. Forever Young
  10. Je Crois Entendre Encore

The first thing that jumps out is that the top two don’t even feature this time which means my favourite song isn’t there…although another favourite, Dimming of the Day has made it for the first time.

The second thing to note is that there is a distinct move away from the more classical side of Alfie’s repertoire, as Trust makes a strong return with four songs featured.   The remaining six songs are one each from Storyteller, Serenata, Onward, Classic Quadrophenia, Bring Him Home and Alfie.  If You Go Away is the only song to return to the top ten, having missed out in 2015 and Bring Him Home stays as the only musical theatre choice.

The top ten will start counting down from next week and will lead us right up to the start of the UK tour – anyone excited yet?

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Alright, alright, it’s actually International Happiness Day but I got the title idea from my 9yo who looked at the 2015 Happy International Day of Happiness Alfie Boe Fans and said “it’s not really Happy Alfie Boe Day is it”?  We don’t exactly see eye to eye on our musical tastes although he has been known to sing along to Alfie songs before and even uttered the immortal line (on hearing Elvis sing If I Can Dream) “this is Alfie’s song, why is Elvis singing it”.

To celebrate, these are some of my favourite Alfie tracks from each of his albums:

E Lucevan Le Stelle (Classic FM Presents) – video from first series of BBC Maestro

The song recently voted the favourite Alfie Boe recorded song, A Living Prayer (Onward) – from Songs of Praise

Funiculi Funicula (La Passione) – this was a hard choice as I could easily have chosen the whole album!

On The Street Where You Live (Bring Him Home) – from QVC, picked because my son’s choir used to sing this:

In My Daughter’s Eyes (Alfie) – for all parents and children everywhere:

Angie (Storyteller)- loved the original, this is better:

My all time favourite Alfie song (so far) is Keep Me In Your Heart (Trust) – something to do with those buttons…

Addio Sogni di Gloria (Serenata) was my favourite in the Serenata review and it hasn’t changed:

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that Love Was A Dream is missing – as far as I’m aware we don’t have video of Alfie singing my favourite song from that album.  Maybe one day…

What are your songs from all Alfie’s albums?  Let us know below:

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We’ve made it to the top three of the second annual Alfie Boe Best Ever Song poll and if you’ve been following this far, it’s safe to say that the major shock came last week with the news that Alfie’s best known dropped down to number four from top of the heap last year.  Yes, Bring Him Home no longer reigns.  So, which will be the top?

Before we get there, number three is the second offering from Onward, A Gaelic Blessing.  Written by renowned British composer, John Rutter, in 1978 as a commission from an American Methodist church, the piece is often used as part of hatched, matched and despatched ceremonies as well as being sung by choirs all over the world.  The video features Aled Jones before Alfie’s version:

Interestingly, despite composing almost exclusively religious music, John Rutter describes himself as an “agnostic supporter of the Christian church”.

Number two is something completely different, being from Alfie’s 2013 Trust album.  Keep Me In Your Heart is the highest non-classical sounding song in the top ten and is one of my all time favourites (it’s the buttons on your blouse that does it for me) and I’m obviously in good company!

The song was written by US musician and songwriter, Warren Zevon in response to receiving a terminal diagnosis of asbestos related cancer although it was the last song to be recorded for 2003’s The Wind, Zevon’s final album.  Zevon survived the album release by only a few weeks although he did manage to see it achieve a top 20 chart position, his highest position since his critically acclaimed earlier album, Excitable Boy.

Love this song but the original doesn’t do it for me I’m afraid – the buttons on my blouse are quite safe!  Now for Alfie’s version:

Adore this video with lots of my friends in – are you in there?  Let us know!

So we come to the final position, which is you’ve been following avidly, you will know goes to a Serenata song, Addio Sogni Di Gloria.  To my knowledge, he’s only sung this live once and I was one of the lucky ones there at the time.  Classic FM Live was the occasion and we were also lucky enough to grab a few minutes at the stage door that evening.

All I can say is that the recording does not do it justice – absolutely blew us all away.

The song was originally recorded by Italian singer Luciano Virgili and written by Italian Carlo Innocenzi who write music for many Italian films from the 1940’s onward.  Translated, the title means Goodbye, Dreams of Glory and the poignancy of the song sits effortlessly against the glorious soaring melody.

Thank you for accompanying me on this musical journey of discovery and thank you for choosing a song from Serenata as your 2015 Best Ever Alfie Boe Song – it will be interesting to see if Serenata remains on top in 2016!

Onward, Trust and Serenata are all available here:

Alfie onward

serenata

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Last week saw the publication of the top ten in the second annual poll to find the best ever Alfie Boe song and we are now counting down, this week arriving at numbers six to four.  Click here to see numbers ten to seven.

Number six is an old staple of Alfie’s operatic repertoire and one that he began singing again on his 2014 UK Winter tour, much to the surprise and delight of most of the fans.  Yes, I’m talking about Nessun Dorma, one of the most famous tenor arias out there and one which seeped into popular culture like no other aria following the 1990 World Cup (if you have to ask which sport, you’re obviously not from these parts!).  Alfie has named Giuseppe di Stefano as one of his favourite tenors to listen to, so I picked his version to show you:

The popular version is of course by Luciano Pavarotti but everyone who is anyone has performed the song which comes from Puccini’s 1924 opera Turandot.  The aria is sung by Calaf (the unknown prince)  who falls in love with Princess Turandot.  If he wishes to marry her, Calaf must answer three riddles correctly or face execution.  He does so but as Turandot is still not keen on marriage, he gives her a reprieve; guess his name before dawn and she can execute him, fail and she has to marry him.  Turandot then decrees that ‘no one shall sleep’ that night until they discover the name.  Reading this again, is it any wonder that quite a number of people have problems with operatic plots?!  I confess that despite loving Alfie’s version, Nessun Dorma is not my favourite operatic aria but this video will brighten up any day:

Number five in the countdown is the third survivor from the 2014 poll and the first from Onward.  Click here to find out more about A Living Prayer.

Having seen numbers five and six, that brings us to the biggest shock of the 2015 vote…number four is last year’s number one, Bring Him Home!  Be honest, how many of you saw that coming?  Not only is it not number one, it’s not even in the top three!  For me, this is good news as it means that many more fans are getting to know and appreciate the vast depth of Alfie’s recorded repertoire.  As wonderful as Alfie’s Bring Him Home is, and it will always be his signature tune, there are so many more choices available, many of which do a better job of showcasing his voice.  Click here to check them out.   Likewise, as fabulous as it always is to hear Alfie on the radio, show presenters and producers should make the effort to play more than just the obvious.

And so now you’ve got over the big surprise, who will be number one?  The top three are Addio Sogni Di Gloria, Keep Me In Your Heart and A Gaelic Blessing – the correct order will be revealed next week!

Bring Him Home is available here.

 

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The poll has now closed but I can now reveal the top ten in the second annual Alfie Boe Best Ever Song vote! As you can see, the results are very different from last year:

  • You Are My Heart’s Delight
  • Wayfaring Stranger
  • Parlami D’Amore Mariu
  • Bring Him Home
  • A Living Prayer
  • Rosie
  • If You Go Away
  • Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna
  • Rank Strangers
  • Je Crois Entendre Encore

And no, it’s not in the right order!

In 2014, the top ten looked like this:

 

  1. Bring Him Home
  2. A Living Prayer
  3. Rank Strangers
  4. Je Crois Entendre Encore
  5. Wayfaring Stranger
  6. Parlami D’Amore Mariu
  7. Rosie
  8. If You Go Away
  9. Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna
  10. You Are My Heart’s Delight

Of this original top ten, only four songs survive and they happen to be the top four – but will they be the top four this time?  You’ll have to wait and see…we’ll be counting down from Friday.

Looking at the albums represented this year, the make up has significantly changed from 2014; then, all the albums bar one had a song in the top ten but this year, only six of his nine albums have an entry.  Serenata, Trust, Onward and Classic FM Presents all have two top ten entries whilst Bring Him Home and Storyteller have one each.  Trust, named as the most owned Alfie album in an earlier poll, had two songs in 2014 as well but they aren’t the same as this year! Once again, classical and rock Alfie are showing as the most popular genres with Bring Him Home remaining the only musical theatre selection on the list.

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Who can name the song that Alfie Boe sang at his first ever professional audition?  Of course, you all can – Lehar’s You Are My Heart’s Delight for the D’oyly Carte!  The reason I’m asking you this is that I recently had the pleasure of interviewing David Steadman who was the Principal Conductor when Alfie auditioned.  Although David was not present at that first audition, he clearly remembers the director, John Owen Edwards, telling him that he had found “a fantastic tenor from Blackpool”.  Edwards later conducted our current Alfie Boe album of the month, Onward.

As we all know, Alfie was offered a part in the chorus for the tour of HMS Pinafore and as the saying goes, never looked back.  David Steadman remembers him very well from his time conducting that tour, saying that everyone in the company from the other chorus members to the orchestra, loved Alfie.  According to David, Alfie was clearly destined for great things in the music world as he had such a natural voice that came from the heart but also, crucially, he worked hard, always learnt his music and was such a lovely person.  The thing that endeared him most to everyone was that he had no idea how good he was but he took to it like a duck to water, never seeming to struggle with harmonies, always being note perfect.  The effect on the rest of the tenors in the chorus was to galvanize them to come up to the standard that Alfie was setting.  However, Alfie still clearly stood out as evidenced by a conductor from the Birmingham Bach Society who happened to see the show and afterwards mentioned to David that there was an “exceptional tenor in the chorus”.  Alfie later went on to play a leading part in the D’Oyly Carte’s recording of HMS Pinafore.

David went on to describe the effect Alfie’s voice had on a London audience for the first time; singing two or three arias at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Alfie absolutely brought the house down.  A similar experience was had at a New Year’s Eve concert in Blackpool where David conducted the National Concert Orchestra.  Alongside a couple of D’Oyly Carte soloists, Alfie also performed with his brother Michael, in front of what seemed to David like the whole Boe family in the front stalls!

Alfie himself is very thankful to the D’Oyly Carte for giving him his first chance in the music world, as seen in this quote from his autobiography, My Story:

…If you had the ability to sing, the D’Oyly Carte gave you the opportunity regardless, and that’s priceless.  They did a lot for me.

In recent years, the company has been dormant with no productions between 2003 and 2013 but there is shortly to be a forthcoming production, in collaboration with Scottish Opera, of the Mikado.  This was preceded by a successful joint production of the Pirates of Penzance in 2013.  David himself is Music Director of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Trust and is currently conducting the UK touring production of the Sound of Music, having previously worked for several years with the Really Useful Group and Bill Kenwright.

All this may sound enough to be getting on with but David is also presently engaged in writing and organising a D’Oyly Carte recipe book!  Featuring handwritten contributions from company members going right back to the 1920’s, the book was passed to David a few years ago and that was that until he had the idea of publishing a recipe book to raise money for CLIC Sargent, a leading charity for children with cancer.  Sir Malcolm Sargent was at one time, Principal Conductor with the D’Oyly Carte.

David is clearly very proud of Alfie’s achievements in his career so far and says he was saddened to read Alfie’s book and learn of his subsequent struggles within the wider opera world as he and everyone else at the D’Oyly Carte are so proud of his career.  When they last spoke, Alfie was still the same down to earth man he was when he first met him, confessing to feeling “amazed” at how things have gone for him.  For his part, David says that it was “entirely the good fortune of the D’Oyly Carte” to have had Alfie in the company.

Alfie’s album Onward and the recording of HMS Pinafore are available now:

Alfie onward

HMS Pinafore

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Hot on the heels of February’s Alfie Boe Album of the Month, Love Was A Dream, we come to the featured album for March, Onward.

Onward, released in 2007 was Alfie’s first album with EMI and the track list reflects the religious theme that the label wanted Alfie to record.  Reading his autobiography, My Story, Alfie had definite ideas about the arias that he wanted to sing (Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem) but EMI instead chose the populist route of Lord is My Shepherd, Amazing Grace etc. These are beautifully sung by Alfie but I think the label really missed a trick in not going with Alfie’s choices.  Having said that, Onward was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards so what do I know?  The following clip is from Songs of Praise, I Wonder As I Wander, one of a couple of Christmas tracks on the album:

From the recent thoughtsofjustafan survey, Onward is one of the less well owned albums (72% of respondents own it) and this could well be that some fans are not religiously inclined and do not want to buy an album of (mainly) hymns.  Alternatively, it could be that it dates from Alfie’s pre Les Mis days and is therefore less well known.  Again, having said that, most of the songs here (click here for the complete track list) also appear on Alfie’s later You’ll Never Walk Alone which recently came back into the Classical Top Ten and stayed there for several weeks.

To those who are in the former category, I would say that you definitely do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Onward.  Alfie’s voice soars over each song and as with most of his music, I struggle to think of anyone else singing them now.  As a man of faith, I think he brings something extra to this album for that reason – it was interesting that he chose Be Still, My Soul as his faith song on Good Morning Sunday in 2014.  It clearly means a lot to him.  He also sang this particular hymn on Songs of Praise, The Big Sing in 2012:

In my view, the most successful tracks are Britten’s Balulalow, Rossini’s Cujus Animam and the sheer beauty of Alison Krauss’s A Living Prayer which opens the album.  For different reasons, all three tracks showcase the depth and strength of Alfie’s voice as well as his classical training and technique.  In his book, Alfie says that he would like to re-record A Living Prayer as he felt they couldn’t do it justice due to time constraints during recording; wouldn’t it also be lovely if he also revisited Cujus Animam?

Although from reading Alfie’s story you might think that this is Alfie’s least favourite album (or at least least professionally satisfying), the material is amongst some of his most regularly performed repertoire from his early recording career.  That is probably because of the religious nature of the tracks and Alfie has appeared at a fair amount of concerts  and TV programmes with a religious feel; The MoTab Christmas Concert, Songs of Praise and The Festival of Remembrance spring to mind.

I find that I don’t listen to Onward as much as I do other Alfie albums although I do find that as each of Alfie’s albums has it’s own voice, there is often a space in my life that Onward fits into perfectly.  If peace and solace is what you need, Onward is a pretty good place to start. Click on the image below to order:

Alfie onward

Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is also available:

alfie autobio

 

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