Music

Exciting times for Les Mis fans as not only will Alfie Boe be starring in the West End concert version later this year, but John Owen-Jones will be sharing the role with him! John remains the youngest actor to play Jean Valjean and most recently, took over from Alfie on Broadway. Speaking since the announcement, John said “It’s been nearly ten years since the last time I played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables in London. I’m really excited to be going back to the role in what will be such a special version of the show. I am also delighted to note that when I appear in this production at the Gielgud Theatre, I shall have appeared as Jean Valjean in every London theatre in which the show has played!” John also featured as part of Club 24601, which took place to mark the thirtieth birthday of Les Mis.

Aptly, John has today released his fifth studio album, Spotlight. The songs are mostly from the world of musical theatre and have clearly been chosen to form a coherent narrative throughout, beginning with From Now On and ending with Goodbye from the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can and Rocky Horror Show’s I’m Going Home. Choosing some classic songs that join together with newer tracks, the result is sheer class.

Beauty and the Beast’s Evermore is a song that has begun to be recorded by several artists and no wonder; the beautiful melody perfectly suit the range and strength of John’s voice. The last note alone is worth the album price – John says it might be the longest note he’s ever recorded and it surely must be!

The Prayer is a duet made famous by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli but has been sung and recorded by many artists since it’s first appearance. On Spotlight, John duets with fellow Welsh singer, Lucie Jones and the result is magical. Lucie’s lovely voice blends exquisitely with John’s and leaves the listener wanting to hear from them both. Other highlights from the album include I Dreamed a Dream, a version which has been specially arranged to incorporate musical motifs reminiscent of Jean Valjean, rather than Fantine, for whom the Les Mis song is written. It is a very restrained performance and brought to mind the eloquence of John’s Bring Him Home.

Climb Every Mountain has a very dramatic opening, whilst I defy anyone to listen to Raise Me Up without standing up and singing along at the top of their voice! The inclusion of Spandau Ballet’s Through the Barricades is a surprise but a happy one – the track is nicely understated and as John says, would work in a musical. Ending with a toned down version of I’m Going Home, John first shows us Goodbye, from the short lived musical, Catch Me If You Can, based on the movie of the same name. Upbeat and catchy, t’s a perfect musical theatre song and good to hear something that a lot of the audience might not be familiar with.

Spotlight is available to order here.

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Midway through our quest to find your favourite Alfie Boe Live Song 2019 and we come to a song that has reached number one in the past and not been out of the chart since, also being popular on the Best Recorded Song chart:

Love Reign O’er Me from Classic Quadrophenia has been a firm favourite with Alfie and The Who fans alike since we first heard it at the world premiere in 2015. Judging by it’s assured place in our chart, people still love it as much as they did four years ago.

Looking back at the many times this song has featured in song charts or Six Sensational Songs (it’s second only to Bring Him Home in number of selections), the one thing everyone says about it is that Alfie’s voice is at it’s best when he sings it. And you don’t listen to this song, along with Alfie, you experience it.

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The song at number six makes my heart sing – my favourite ever Alfie song!

Yes, it’s Keep Me In Your Heart – and this video reminds me that I’ve loved this song for five years now!

Although Keep Me In Your Heart has featured in the Best Alfie Boe Recorded Song on several occasions, this is the first time it has entered the Best Live Song chart, despite being nominated in 2018.

I’ve written about the origins of this song so many times now that you should all be able to tell me about it! It was of course written and recorded by Warren Zevon in the first place, but for me, it doesn’t come near to Alfie.

Thanks for making me so happy by voting my favourite song into the chart!

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Since it was announced that Alfie Boe would feature on a new work by composer Rachel Fuller, fans have been beside themselves with excitement. Add in conductor Robert Ziegler, who conducted the world premiere of Fuller’s Classic Quadrophenia in 2015 and excitement levels rose even more.

Animal Requiem was created by Rachel to celebrate, remember and honour all the animals we have loved and lost, as well as those animals affected by cruelty or neglect around the world. The piece was also created for animal lovers and workers wherever they may be. The audience were urged to bring photos of lost pets and the resulting board was very moving.

The evening began with a beautiful performance of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, along with poems from Ogden Nash, read by actor Peter Egan, himself a noted campaigner for animal rights. Both were wonderful.

After a short break, Egan again took to the stage, this time to introduce the premiere of Animal Requiem, before which he read the poem Just A Dog. The pet owners in the audience understood and agreed with the sentiments exactly. Robert Ziegler took to the stage to conduct the London Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Chamber Choir of London who performed the first few parts of the requiem beautifully. Fuller’s music accompanied the familiar requiem words in a new way whilst always remaining true to what we might expect from a requiem. The Prayer of St. Francis was especially moving in this respect.

Alfie then took to the stage (or, being in a church, the pulpit) and sang Psalm 142 and Agnus Dei; there was a palpable frisson of anticipation when he appeared.

As Alfie mentioned afterwards, singing this type of music in this setting (St. James’ Church, Piccadilly) took him back to his Royal College of Music days, when church music was a staple of his repertoire. As expected, it was glorious to hear Alfie’s voice performing as it was trained to do, without amplification, soaring above, but not competing with the orchestra. The setting was perfect and he held the audience in the palm of his hand for the entirety. Soprano Katy Batho was also lovely – the two of them coming together for the finale were sublime. The last song of the evening was Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. As he wasn’t able to be there, Alfie sang this for him, accompanied by a guitarist and the orchestra – you could have heard a pin drop. It also demonstrated the depth of Alfie’s vocal versatility perfectly:

https://youtu.be/s0EDvZ7aQHY

It was an honour to be present at the premiere of this exciting new work and I’m sure that the entire audience felt the same, judging by the standing ovation given at the end.

Animal Requiem is available now to download and to pre-order on CD here.

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Number seven in this year’s countdown to find your favourite Alfie Boe Best Live Song is a new entry, the first this year and is from Alfie’s Bring Him Home tour:

Nominated and Filmed by Chelley, In My Daughter’s Eyes was a fixture in Alfie’s live set for a few years and is from his second Decca album, Alfie. Although this is a new addition to the live song poll, the song has featured in the top ten for best recorded song on a couple of occasions.

In some of the many interviews Alfie gave around the release of Alfie in 2011, he said that he chose the song for his daughter, Grace, as he had already chosen Song to the Siren for his son, also Alfie and for whom the album is named (Alfred Robert was born on New Year’s Day the following year).   Besides being a beautiful song, I think it holds a special resonance to anyone who is or has a daughter. In My Daughter’s Eyes was written by James T Slater for Martina McBride’s 2003 Martina album:

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My New Year resolution in 2018 (I haven’t made any this year!) was to listen to more music that was ‘new’ to me. Some of it was new to me but not to most of the rest of the world and usually involved artists that everyone has heard of but I had never really listened to. Having said that, I did find in all but one case that I knew more songs by these artists than I had previously thought. Billy Idol, Tom Petty and Glen Campbell fall into this category.

Eleven artists later (the resolution failed at the last hurdle, being too busy in December…then it was January and…oops!) and I’m taking the opportunity to look back at some of my favourites.

My first favourite is Billy Idol, who worked with Alfie in Classic Quadrophenia and whom Alfie himself recommended to me in an interview in 2015. Although I knew of Billy Idol, I hadn’t really listened to the music that much and was consequently surprised when I knew quite a lot of it. This was the song that caught my ear:

I enjoyed all the other ten artists and it was difficult to choose the ones I like best, but, as I regularly ask you to choose your favourite Alfie Boe songs, I thought I’d go for Tom Petty and Glen Campbell. But it was really hard! All these three were inspired by Alfie’s recent choice of music so maybe that’s why I like them so much??!!

I love bluegrass sounds and rhythms so it’s no surprise that I chose this in the Glen Campbell piece:

I decided on Tom Petty for this series after hearing Alfie sing Wildflowers at Scarborough last summer:

But, the Tom Petty that I remembered and found I loved belongs to Won’t Back Down:

Thanks for taking this journey with me – suggestions welcome for ideas you want to see on thoughtsofjustafan in future!

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In at number eight in our quest to find your favourite Alfie Boe live song this year is a song that entered the chart in 2018 at number four and is from Together:

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, June 2018

Alfie has been singing You’ll Never Walk Alone for a long time, and not just because he’s a Liverpool fan! This version in the glorious setting of St. George’s Chapel showcases Alfie’s classically trained voice superbly.

Despite it’s undoubted footballing connotations in the UK, the song is of course originally from the 1945 musical, Carousel, which Alfie appeared in 2017. However, Alfie’s character, Billy Bigelow doesn’t get to sing this song and it was a pleasure to hear Brenda Edwards’ Nettie sing it in the ENO production. Here is Alfie at the VE Day celebrations in 2015:

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Alfie Boe will shortly be appearing at the premiere of Rachel Fuller’s Animal Requiem and the good news is that you can now pre-order the album! Due out on March 8 2019, Alfie features on some tracks; click here to pre-order:

To download on 31 January, click here.

There are still a few tickets available for the premiere at St. James’ Church, Piccadilly, click here.

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The question today is how well you know what Alfie Boe did in 2018?  A week ago I asked you the questions, now it’s time for the answers – and you’ll see if you won a prize!

  1. What UK album chart position with As Time Goes By did Alfie achieve in 2018?  Number 10 (week of release)
  2. On which bass baritone’s new album did Alfie guest on in 2018? Bryn Terfel – Dreams
  3. How many summer concerts did Alfie do in 2018? 5 (Kelvingrove, Kenwood, Fleetwood, Scarborough and Llangollen)
  4. Which song was voted number one in the latest best ever recorded song poll? Anthem
  5. Which TV show did Alfie host for the second year running in December? Christmas Carols on ITV
  6. What was the name of the daytime TV programme Alfie was featured on in November? Homefront Heroes
  7. Alfie sang at St. George’s Chapel this year – who got married there in 2018? Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank
  8. In which countries did Alfie sing live at in 2018? UK, USA, Japan
  9. Which two Classic BRIT awards did Alfie and Michael Ball win? Best Album and Best Group
  10. Which two charities did Alfie become ambassador for in 2018? Rays of Sunshine and Willow Foundation

Who got ten out of ten? I should hope everyone?!

There was a competition attached and the two winners of a signed St. George’s Chapel programme and a Blackpool Illuminations programme are:

Katharine Peace and G Heys

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