SymFunny

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Wheels of a Dream, from his 2011 album, Alfie.  This video is from Symfunny in June 2014 (thanks Linda for sharing):

This song always makes me think of Alfie and Sarah as a family and I’ve chosen this as today is little Alfie’s birthday and as we know, the Alfie album is named for him.  Happy Birthday Alfred Robert!

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Happy New Year!

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Buona Sera at a Salt Lake City fundraiser for the Utah Children’s Center, a charity only recently added to his increasing portfolio.

Alfie originally came to be involved with the centre through a childhood friend of his wife, Sarah. The Communications Director, Courtney Garay tells us more: “Sarah Boe’s childhood friend [a supporter of the centre] reached out to Alfie and Sarah to share her passion for The Children’s Center and they were kind enough to take a tour. From that moment, they both offered to help spread our mission; provide comprehensive mental health care to enhance the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.”  In addition, Courtney told us that Alfie had helped to procure musical instruments for the children in the musical therapy programme, a cause he has a multitude of experience with through his connection with Nordoff Robbins.

Back to Buona Sera – at that point, we had heard a couple of songs from Serenata the week before when Alfie sang at another charity event, Symfunny, in aid of Parkinson’s UK but Buona Sera was not amongst them.  Thanks to Marcia for sharing:

Serenata is Alfie Boe’s eighth album and is available here:

serenata

For more information on how to support The Children’s Center, Utah, click here.

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Twitter is a wonderful thing – it tells you things you always wanted to know, like today is International Day of Happiness!  You really all wanted to know that, didn’t you?

Thinking about this made me think about all the happy moments I’ve had with Alfie and his amazing fans – this is definitely one of the top:

Love this photo! Oxford Street HMV, November 2013

Love this photo!
Oxford Street HMV, November 2013

Watching my fellow fan and fabulous friend Cecelia scuttle across the room towards Alfie at this same event also counts in my top 5 Alfie moments!

Some of my other top Alfie moments are:

Another fab friend and fan Sally sitting on the front row at Symfunny – she notoriously hates being at the front!

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Chatting to Alfie outside the Royal Albert Hall after Symfunny – amazing

Hearing Alfie sing Addio Sogni di Gloria at Classic FM Live – spine tingling

Hearing most of Trust at the Royal Festival Hall in December 2013

Seeing Alfie pop in to the Queens Theatre via the stage door (in Feb 2013) when we were least expecting it – the we being Costa Linda, one of the “two Linda’s”

Would love you to tell me what your top Alfie moments are – in person or not!  Let me know in the form below:

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I first heard songs from Alfie Boe’s Serenata at the Symfunny concert in June and it’s fair to say I’ve been in a state of excitement since then at hearing the whole album – I assure you I’m not exaggerating.  Regular readers will know that Serenata has crept into pretty much every post since the summer and I can honestly say I’ve spent a considerable number of hours thinking and writing about this album – just as well then that now I can finally listen to the whole thing,

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On the first listen through, the first track, Serenata Celeste was my favourite of the tracks I hadn’t already heard but I think now that I have a soft spot for Feneste Vascia.  Alfie was 100% correct in wanting to do these songs with an accordion – they sound so authentically Italian and perfectly support Alfie’s sublime vocals.  Having listened once or twice more since this morning (!), the tracks I love the most are, apart from the two already mentioned, Firenze Sogna, Addio Sogni Di Gloria and Rondine Al Nido.  A quick mention of the more well known numbers on Serenata, my favourite is Arrivederci Roma although Volare and Mambo Italiano are top dancing tunes.

I would love to hear and publish more of your reviews so leave me a comment!  Carole Hunt is the first guest reviewer – thanks Carole for this gem:

Serenata must be one of the most eagerly anticipated Alfie albums of recent years. It was recorded many months ago and the teasing campaign has been keeping us dangling on a string for what seems like forever. I first heard some of the content sung live for the first time during the P & O cruise back in May and since then at Symfunny and Classic FM Live,  both at the Royal Albert Hall over the summer. You could sense his excitement then that he had recorded something really special and was clearly impatient to share it with fans.

I have to admit to being unsure if it would be “my thing” but I always held onto the fact that Alfie has never let me down yet and thankfully he has more than proved me right. It is a huge departure from recent albums and showcases his voice in its purest form. I almost don’t realise that he’s mostly singing in a language I don’t understand, so clear is the diction and passion in his delivery. Over the 13 tracks the accompanying strings and accordion sometimes give a light , laid back continental feel and then the orchestra swells to give punch and high emotion .

His newly created lyrics on “My Heart is Yours” are beautiful and resonate even more knowing that he wrote them for his daughter. For lovers of those big notes, Addio Sogni Di Gloria has one particular jaw dropping moment that had me in shock the first time I heard it (I think only Alfie could get there!) and is my favourite track. Rondine Al Nido has all shades of emotion from tenderness, to that juggernaut of a voice at its finest and back again. And it’s impossible not to twitch those hips to Volare and Mambo Italiano!

It is no wonder that so many of us have fallen in love with “the voice” and Alfie has never shown us its nuances, clarity, power and vast range better than on this album. Hope you all get yours soon!

Our second reviewer is Sue Redfern:

I love all things Alfie he could sing the phone book and I’d listen! Serenata though is Alfie at his best. It matters not a jot that I don’t understand most of the words, his voice is all I need. Can’t choose a favourite track, I love the whole thing, and one added bonus is that my hubby does too! Well done Alfie, this is the one I’ve been waiting for.

Serenata is available on the link below:

serenata

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One week to go until Alfie Boe’s Serenata is released and thoughtsofjustafan is very lucky to have this exclusive interview with James Morgan, conductor and producer (with Juliette Pochin) of Serenata.

James has previously been interviewed here in regard to the Parkinson’s charity concert, SymFunny. James revealed earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with early inset Parkinsons disease and after initially keeping it quiet, decided to go public to raise awareness and funds. The music and comedy evening was hosted by Al Murray, the orchestra was conducted by James and featured artists included, apart from Alfie of course!, Armstrong and Miller, Jane Horrocks and Juliette Pochin. Click here to see more details of the evening and donate.

Q: How did you come to be involved with Serenata?

A: We were asked! We’d done Alfie’s first two albums for Decca – Bring Him Home and Alfie, and we’ve known Alfie a long time, so it was very nice to be asked to return for Serenata.

Q: Alfie fans know you through your work with him – tell me about your career other than Alfie Boe. How did you get started as a conductor?

A: I started conducting at school, and first worked professionally at English National Opera, where I was on the staff for a few years. After that I went freelance, and Juliette and I started our music production company together with some TV theme tunes (Kumars at no 42!!!). We have produced lots of different artists and as well as record producing, we also do music for movies; most recently we were in Morocco working on a Ridley Scott production and last year we did the music production for Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, Quartet. We also compose classical commissions. Last year our new guide to the orchestra for families, The Great Enormo received its South Bank premiere.

Q: Who was it who first worked with Alfie – you, Juliette or a joint project?

A: Juliette first worked with Alfie down at Grange Park Opera more years ago than either of them would care to remember! She then suggested we worked with Alfie to try to get a record deal, so we flew out to New York to record him and to fix auditions for him with the record companies. None of that worked out at the time for various reasons, so it was lovely ten years later to be asked to produce his first album for Decca!

Q: Moving on to Serenata, can you describe the recording process with Alfie and then with the orchestra in Denmark?

A: We recorded for four days at SARM – a legendary studio where the BAND AID single was recorded, amongst many other things – with Alfie and his band, then once we’d put all that together we flew to Copenhagen and did more recording with DR’s chamber orchestra. They’d also played on Bring Him Home and Alfie so it seemed very appropriate to work with them on this.

Q: What was the thought process behind adding the strings?

A: The idea was to enhance the sound of the band with the warmth of the strings to make a lush, cinematic sound whilst not detracting from a very real, Italian sound.

Q: Who chose the musicians and how did you decide how to arrange the songs for them?

A: Alfie already had his band – Murray, Matt and John Tonks – to which we added Eddie Hession on accordion and Andy Tolman on bass, and the arrangements grew from the rehearsal period before we recorded anything.

To find out more about the recording of Serenata,  just sign up to get the password to unlock part 2!

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#AlfieBoeSerenata

I will be interviewing Morgan Pochin, the producers and conductor of Alfie’s new album, Serenata.

If you any burning questions you would me to ask, just fill in the form below!

In the meantime, take a look at James’ previous interview – click here.

And here’s what happened in June the last time James met Alfie!

Please share this on twitter – use the hashtag #AlfieSerenata

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As Alfie Boe performs at his third charity concert (Caudwell Children’s Butterfly Ball, Symfunny and the Annual Hootenanny in aid of Utah Children’s Center) in as many months, it gives us a chance to look at the role celebrities play in the lives of the charities that they support.

These days, it is de rigeur for celebrities to be seen supporting any number of charities, although the level of support varies greatly. Some celebrities are only involved with a few charities which they support both publicly and privately and sometimes they lend their name to a lot of charities; this may just mean showing up to a star studded function.  However, as this Charity Times article makes clear, celebrity is very much worth the effort of interesting them in the first place.  Or it is if you have the right celebrity.

Famous names can generate a huge amount of interest for a charity, provided they are well matched to the cause.  For long term support and to keep up media and public interest levels, a celebrity with a personal connection to your cause may well be the best match.  This is all the more important if your charity is not what may be termed a “fashionable cause”.  An example of this is the hospice movement; this suffers from both being part of what the public sees as a large organisation able to generate huge amounts of funding, while the reality is that each individual hospice unit needs to do their own fundraising.

The Trinity Hospice for adults and children based on the Fylde Coast has Alfie Boe as their patron and their press officer, Shirley Morgan, says that “It’s just amazing having Alfie and his team behind us and we have found so many benefits.  What’s also really obvious is the affection his fans have for him as a person.”  Shirley kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the effect having a celebrity patron has had on her charity.  Alfie became a patron 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 Shirley says they “were absolutely thrilled when we got not only a ‘yes’ , but the news that he would become a Patron”.

Showing the importance of engaging the correct celebrity, having Alfie as Patron helps Trinity in many ways.  They were able to feature in his official Storyteller tour programme last year, which gave them the kind of national exposure they usually only dream of!  In addition, Alfie supports them with public messages of support which help generate a lot of interest and certainly lead to people getting involved. As a hospice, the fundraising team need to raise over £5 million a year to keep the doors open. Unusually, Trinity has both adult and children’s hospices on site and funding is a constant pressure.   Shirley goes on to say that donations increase dramatically whenever Alfie supports them publicly,  “there is an increase in activity, and I know that Alfie’s fans are a fiercely loyal bunch.  He lent his support to our recent Trinity Tea parties, which was raising money for a much-needed refurbishment. He encouraged people to ‘put the kettle on’ and they certainly did. We had Trinity Tea parties happening across the globe, and it was lovely to think of his fans getting behind our fundraising efforts in that way.  Similarly, Alfie’s Angels donated $2,460.10 (a familiar number!!) to mark his birthday. Many fans see it as a way of giving something back to a performer who brings them so much joy, and we are very grateful for their generosity. A group of Alfie fans bought our supporter bracelets when they were launched. The first ones went to Alfie just before he performed here in Blackpool in 2013 and it just took off from there – we were shipping them to the US, Canada and many parts of Europe. The bracelets have the message ‘Some lives are too short’ and I know that resonates with many people”.

Although Trinity Hospice is not Alfie’s only charity, it is definitely the one nearest to his childhood home.  As Alfie and his family now live in Utah, is is perhaps fitting that he has chosen another local charity to support.  Tonight, 13th June, Alfie is performing at the annual fundraising gala of The Children’s Center, Utah.

Alfie originally came to be involved with the centre  through a childhood friend of his wife, Sarah.   The Communications Director, Courtney Garay tells us more: “Sarah Boe’s childhood friend [a supporter of the centre] reached out to Alfie and Sarah to share her passion for The Children’s Center and they were kind enough to take a tour. From that moment, they both offered to help spread our mission; provide comprehensive mental health care to enhance the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families.”

Annually, the centre needs $1.3 million to ensure families are able to access services regardless of income.  To help with this, Alfie offered to provide a concert at the annual gala, and no surprise,  a lot of  enthusiasm and awareness was generated as a result. $400,000 is expected to be raised on the night.

Although Alfie is not a household name in the US yet, he is popular and well known in Utah, particularly after he appeared with the Motab Choir in 2012 and as such, this is a wise choice of celebrity for the Children’s Center.  As noted above, the best long term gains can be made from celebrities with a personal connection to the cause.  This is evident here when Courtney Garay says “Alfie has also generously procured musical instruments for the children who are in our Therapeutic Preschool Program, a program for children 2-5 years of age who are failing in a regular school setting.”

For further information on Trinity Hospice click here

To find out more about and the Children’s Center Utah click here.

What a fabulous show James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, aka known as Morgan Pochin, put on this week at Symfunny, proving music and comedy are a natural fit. Although it’s fair to say that Alfie Boe fans were looking forward to seeing him sing live the most (the entire front row was peopled with Alfie fans), the whole evening was a joy from start to finish.

Al Murray proved to be the perfect host for the evening; I had heard that he has a great reputation for quick fire repartee with the audience but had not anticipated being part of it!  I suppose sitting on the front row of a comedy gig does lend itself to being picked on so I was relieved when Al picked on my lovely friend Linda (one of the famous Two Linda’s).  However, my relief didn’t last long as she was asked who she brought with her which then led to me…cue several laughs about teachers (Linda) and school dinners (me).   Still, poor Steve the banker came off far worse although he was a great sport.

Of the other comedy acts, Jason Manford and Armstrong and Miller were my favourites.  The only thing I can possibly say about Armstrong and Miller’s act is that it was fiendishly funny but unmentionable in polite conversation! Suffice to say I will never look at train toilets in the same light ever again.  Jason Manford was also very funny, even if he did call Alfie’s fans “relatively normal”.  However, his best bit came when he sang Volare with Alfie Boe, successfully reducing Alfie to giggles several times which reminded Alfie fans of his days appearing with Alfie on his Bring Him Home tour in 2011 / 2012. Thanks to Linda W for sharing this video (and watch James Morgan when Alfie misses his entrance):

In total, Alfie sang four songs: Wheels of a Dream, which most of us thought we’d never hear live again so thanks Alfie, Mamma, Volare and Mambo Italiano.  A week later and Mambo Italiano is still going round in my head – I don’t think Alfie will have any trouble at all selling huge numbers of his next album, Serenata.  Seeing Alfie and James Morgan work together again on songs they had just recorded was also special.

Other musical highlights were Rebecca Ferguson’s acapella  version of Amazing Grace and Juliette Pochin singing Carmen.  It was a delight to hear Juliette and also to see her and James working together on what has been a highly personal and emotional project.  James and Juliette conceived the idea for Symfunny after James was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s just over a year ago.  After keeping it a secret for a while, they finally decided to use their talent and contacts in the entertainment world to raise some money and awareness for this disease.  Just before the interval, the audience was shown a short video of another sufferer of early onset Parkinson’s, Shamsa, and her husband and daughter.  Shamsa was only 28 when diagnosed and her bravery in showing us her life is amazing.  James recorded an audience shout out to her and her husband, Sarfraz, so I hope it made them smile.

The evening was rounded off with Al Murray and Alfie leading us all in a rousing rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.  The perfect musical end to a concert that began with James conducting Good Vibrations which shows that he at least has a sense of humour about his situation.

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The time was 11.30pm (approx), the place, the stage door of the Royal Albert Hall, the occasion… Alfie Boe answering fans questions!!!

Seriously, after a fabulously entertaining evening at SymFunny, a few hardy (or maybe plain daft???) fans waited in the what seemed perishing cold to see Alfie Boe.  Now, those fans who went to the Storyteller concert at the RAH in April 2013 may remember a similar wait in the definitely freezing cold – and he didn’t come out on that occasion!  This time, our patience was rewarded by Alfie posing for photos, signing programmes etc. and answering our questions.  Forgive me if I can’t remember everyone who asked a question but the interviewers include Carole, Sue, Gill, Karen, Lesley and Pauline as well as myself.

Alfie was his usual charming self and we were thrilled that he stopped for a few minutes as he was on his way back to the airport to fly back to Utah, via Germany and LA, if you were wondering!  That man’s air miles must take some beating! As one commenter recently said, “it’s like watching ping pong”.  Upon being asked when he would be back in the UK he said that he was spending as much time as possible with his family as the end of the year would be really busy – we know, Alfie!!  Alfie remained non committal about summer appearances apart from mention of a few corporate / private events, although it remains to be seen if they are in the UK or US.  There may be something in the offing in Edinburgh in July as Alfie has today been linked with a performance at the Edinburgh Castle festival on 19 July, although this has yet to be confirmed.

For fans who have booked for the tour in November / December, who for fans who haven’t yet decided, Alfie said that two or three tracks from Trust will be on the set list as well as songs from all the other albums.  Unfortunately, I was too star struck to ask if that meant just the Decca albums or everything – must try harder next time!!!  My personal guess would be that a fair amount of songs from Serenata will be there as the most recent album.

For those of you who were on the cruise, he thoroughly enjoyed himself…apart from being in his cabin all the time!  If there’s a next time, fans will have to entice him out and about!

Before all this though, Alfie performed four songs at the end of the concert, and the one I can’t get out of my head is Mambo Italiano (thanks to Linda W for sharing):

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