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:
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