Opera

Fans of both ITV’s The Voice and Alfie Boe were thrilled when they found out that one of the finalists from this year’s series, Belle Voci, were confirmed to support Alfie at his Scarborough show in June.  With just a couple of days notice, Emily Burnett and Sophie Rohan, who form the operatic duo, were just as thrilled, if not more so, to be supporting one of their musical inspirations.  They were even more delighted when Alfie popped into their dressing room on the day of the show and asked if they would share the stage with him on a couple of songs.  Here they are on You’re The Voice, appropriately enough:

I spoke to Emily recently and asked how Belle Voci got the opportunity to sing with Alfie.  It turns out that it’s all down to Jennifer Hudson turning for them on The Voice.  Deciding to audition for the show as a way to get footage for their website, neither Emily or Sophie expected anyone’s chair to turn and were “absolutely amazed.  It’s opened so many doors for us, we would never have sung with Alfie without it.”

As a result of getting to the final three, Emily and Sophie were signed by an agent and thus found themselves performing with one of their musical idols.  They say never meet your idols, but Emily was relieved to find that Alfie was “such a nice guy, loved working with him.”

Emily and Sophie met and formed Belle Voci a few years ago when they were both working in a pub (chef and waitress).  Both trained as singers, at Durham University / Royal College of Music and London School of Musical Theatre respectively and were looking for a way to forge a career in music.  Opera evenings, weddings and corporate events followed before the chance to do The Voice came along.  Just prior to appearing on the show, the duo decided to record and release their eponymous first album, showcasing seven operatic arias and Over The Rainbow, using the arrangement by Roderick Williams.  As the album concentrates on opera, I wanted to know why Rainbow was included – it turns out that it’s just because Emily and Sophie love to sing it.  Emily then said that “we hope that someone might like Over the Rainbow and then discover some of the other, operatic tracks and like them as well…it’s almost like drip feeding opera, introducing people to it who might not have had much before.”  Sounds remarkably similar to something Alfie would say – “there’s only two types of music: good and bad.”

I earlier mentioned that Alfie is one of Belle Voci’s musical inspirations, one reason being that they are “inspired by the musical choices he makes…we want to be like him, he’s so bang on trend with everything.” Emily and Sophie were at the Classic BRITs this year and thought it was awesome that Alfie and Michael won two awards.   Il Divo also gain a mention for their harmonies, as well as Katherine Jenkins (“she’s built an insane career for herself”), Laura Wright and Beyonce -Emily “loves her sass!”

Belle Voci’s album is available here:

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After the nominations closed for the 5th annual Best Ever Alfie Boe song (recorded) last week, I’m pleased to say that the poll is now open for votes once more!

Thanks to those who sent in their nominations – we have five new additions this year!

Bridge Over Troubled Water – nominated by Brenda Licence

You’re The Voice – Gill Jansingh

You’ll Be Back – Pauline Merrick

A Thousand Years – Karen Blower

He Lives In You – Ann Quelch

I originally started this poll to highlight the depth of Alfie’s repertoire and we have songs from all his albums to date, so we have more than accomplished this.  Whenever I talk about Alfie to non fans (yes, there are such people!), the song they always mention is Bring Him Home, twice the winner of this poll.  While it is the song for which he is always known, wouldn’t it be great for something new to top this year’s vote?

Voting will remain open until the end of this week and then the first song of the top ten will be revealed the week after – get voting!

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Although the summer is drawing to a close, don’t worry, because that means that it’s a little bit closer to the release of Alfie Boe’s eagerly anticipated solo album.  Set to be released in November, it’s something that Alfie fans have been looking forward to for a while now.

Before then, there’s the small matter of the now annual Best Ever Alfie Boe song poll, now in it’s fifth year.  We have another album, Together Again, to include in our favourites so let’s see if anything can knock Bring Him Home off it’s pedestal – newer fans, it’s not always been at the top of the poll!  How about this one for example – it was very popular at the Oxford Street HMV album signing last year!

The time has come for your nominations please – the longlist can be found on Spotify so click here to listen.  If you don’t find your favourite here, please fill in the form below:

Nominations will close on 30 August and voting will open the following week.

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Opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel is releasing his first album for five years in September and I’m thrilled that Alfie Boe will be a guest!  Titled Dreams and Songs, the album is a collection of songs that Bryn loves.

Recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios, the album also features soprano Danielle de Niese on Amazing Grace, tenor Joseph Calleja on Granada and Katherine Jenkins on Tell My Father.  In addition, Dame Emma Thompson and Ron Brydon join Bryn on Do You Love Me from Fiddler on the Roof and The Golfer’s Lament, respectively.  There is also a world premiere recording of The Shepherd Poet Of Passchendaele, written especially for Bryn by Penclawdd-born Sir Karl Jenkins, the most performed living composer. The song is inspired by the story of Welsh poet Hedd Wyn, who died on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele (the Third Battle of Ypres), with poignant lyrics written by Sir Karl’s wife – Lady Jenkins, Carol Barratt.

Alfie will duet with Bryn on John Denver’s Perhaps Love, recorded with Placido Domingo in 1981 – this will be tremendous with Alfie and Bryn’s voices.  Of course, Alfie and Bryn have known each other for a long time; Bryn appeared at the Royal Opera House whilst Alfie was a student in the Vilar Programme – click here (from 4.19) to see footage of the two of them together.  However, since then, the pair have performed together, most notably at the South Bank Awards, singing the Pearl Fishers duet.  This performance was the winner in an early thoughtsofjustafan poll to find your favourite Alfie Boe duet – duets have taken on a whole new meaning for Alfie since then!

Acclaimed worldwide for tackling the biggest opera roles, Sir Bryn’s new album – his first in five years – shows his lighter side with a collection of his most loved songs, recorded in brand new orchestral versions. He says, “This is some of my favourite concert repertoire. Songs and duets, some humorous encores that I just adore to sing. And how lucky I am to share the album with some incredible artists, and to record at the amazing, iconic Abbey Road.”

Alongside the release of Dreams and Songs, Sir Bryn Terfel continues to give major performances around the world. Following his title role in Falstaff at London’s Royal Opera House, he will be reprising his title role as Sweeney Todd at Zürich Opera in December. He will also sing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall on 5th October for a special concert which includes music by Verdi, Wagner, Mozart and more.

Dreams and Songs can be pre-ordered here:

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It’s been a very busy time for Alfie fans until recently and we haven’t had time to feature many fan stories, so this post sees more from our occasional series, Six Sensational Songs.

Today’s choices come from Chris Coats, who first saw him singing Stranger in Paradise on TV and thought “wow, what a voice.”  These are Chris’s songs:

You Are My Heart’s Delight, chosen by Chris as it reminds her of her grandparents, who loved Richard Tauber.  The same reason goes for Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss, from the same Lehar album, Love Was A Dream.  Sadly I can’t find a video of this but Soundcloud is the next best thing:

Core ‘ngrato, from Alfie’s first album, Classic FM Presents, was Chris’s mum’s favourite song and “had to be on the list”.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Chris first saw Alfie on this very TV appearance and it makes the list because it was the first time she heard THAT voice.

Mattinata, from La Passione, because “it’s such a lovely tune.”

The last of Chris’s six songs is from Serenata, Non Ti Scordar Ti Me and once again, I can’t find a video!

Yet again, I’m astounded that four new tracks have been added to our choice of six sensational songs, this time, very much in Alfie’s classical repertoire.

If you would like to see your choices featured, please fill in the form:

Finally, if you haven’t yet seen the news, Alfie will be switching on the Blackpool Illuminations on 31 August!

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…the Pearl Fishers Duet with David Kempster:

Although this duet, Au Fond Du Temple Saint, is a concert staple for baritones and tenors, the song is of course from Bizet’s 1863 opera, The Pearl Fishers.  It is this opera, in the 2009/10 ENO season that gives us the memorable opening from Alfie’s autobiography: “Bizet nearly killed me.  I don’t blame him, it’s not his fault.” Alfie was talking about the chlorine poisoning he suffered whilst preparing for the show, which became, as it happens, one of his last for ENO – Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert was just around the corner.

Set in ancient times on the island of Sri Lanka, the opera tells the story of how two men’s vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess.  After the initial premiere, The Pearl Fishers was not performed again until 1886 and since the mid twentieth century has become one of the most popularly staged operas worldwide.  ENO has restaged twice more since Alfie took the role of Nadir.

Lovers of Alfie Boe’s classical repertoire will also be familiar with his South Bank Award performance of this, with Bryn Terfel in 2011.  Alfie has performed very little opera since then but as he caught us all by surprise on the Serenata tour of 2013, by singing Nessun Dorma, Recondita Armonia and Caruso, never say never to hearing it again one day.  With Alfie, you just never know what to expect.

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Only a few days until March begins which means we’re moving closer to seeing Alfie Boe perform live, either in the US in May or back in the UK over the summer.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at Tricia Howard’s Six Sensational Songs.  Tricia, like all of us who have done it, says she found it “so hard to narrow it down to even six songs as I get chills just about every single time I hear his voice. I had to pull out all of my Alfie track lists to decide.”

Bring Him Home.  Tricia says  “I am pretty sure this is going to be on just about everyone’s list (and for great reason – it is “his song” after all). My first Alfie experience was him in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis playing Valjean  It was also my introduction to Les Mis in general and when he came out and sang that song…. my entire emotional psyche was shaken. His connection with the piece is so genuine – it’s one of the most unbelievable musical experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. I’m an actress and opera singer as well, and his vocal control in this song is impeccable which just adds to it all.”

Again from Les Mis, Who Am I, chosen because the first time Tricia saw Alfie live was at the Imperial Theatre reprising the role of Valjean and she got front row centre orchestra seats.   Tricia says “when he sang this song onstage he was making eye contact with me the whole time and I was there mouthing every word with him. He truly is a gifted actor – it’s not all just about his voice, it’s everything.”

Brindisi from La Traviata, with Natasha Marsh.  Tricia chose this because “this makes my opera heart SOAR. When I am on the subway listening to this song I am so empowered to get through the day. I always pretend I’m Natasha Marsh getting to sing alongside him.”  I’m with you on that one, Tricia.  This was on BBC’s Children in Need but the song is actually from Natasha’s album, although it later appeared on Alfie’s You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Dr Jimmy from Classic Quad.  Tricia chose this because “I grew up listening to The Who and this was always a favourite of mine. What I really love about this entire album is this is the type of music that Alfie LOVES to perform. He talks about it in his autobiography (he actually mentions both Billy Idol and Michael Ball in the book which makes my heart happy that he got to perform with them both) and I think it’s so amazing that he is living out his dream. He has such a wide range of talent.”

Tell Me It’s Not True, Blood Brothers, chosen because this was the first song Tricia ever heard of Alfie’s outside of Les Mis and it really sunk in that he was my all time favourite artist.

Rosie, from Trust (to my knowledge, still the only time Alfie has sung this live) at the Royal Festival Hall.  Tricia speak for all of us I think when she says “it just astounds me how wide his ability is. Not many people can go from Puccini to Elvis to Lloyd Webber to Sinatra and absolutely KILL ALL OF THEM”.

Thank you so much Tricia for sharing your song choices with us – just one new addition to the list this time but the inclusion of Bring Him Home means that it is now the most popular choice, taking over from Love Reign O’er Me.

If you would like to share your Six Sensational Songs with us, please fill in the form:

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The latest in Alfie’s Six Sensational Songs features Janet Baldwin who first found Alfie on Classic FM.  Janet says that “even then his wonderful voice stopped me dead in my tracks on my way out to work!  I actually saw him for the first time on TV on the Classic Brits … and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Here are Janet’s choices:

When You Wish Upon A Star, chosen by Janet because “Alfie’s version of this song helped me back into the real world after a serious illness”,

Torna A Surriento, from Alfie’s appearance at the Michael Ball Prom, Michael gives him a rather long intro and the song starts at 1 min 25.  Janet says that “Spent a happy holiday in Sorrento following in Alfie’s footsteps doing our own La Passione tour, visiting the Amalfi coast.”

Be Still My Soul.  Janet says that this has always been a favourite hymn but “Alfie makes it special”.

In My Daughter’s Eyes – Janet chose this simply because she loves the song – the perfect reason!

Funiculi Funicula, with the Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir (one of my favourite videos, In always sing along, or attempt to anyway!) – Janet chose this as she used to enjoy singing this with her local operatic society.

A Thousand Years at Scarborough this summer. Janet says that this “brings back special memories of a rainy night in Scarborough! Looking forward to reuniting with my ‘Boe Buddies’ in December”.

Thanks Janet for sharing your songs with us – again, such a variety of songs represented, with four of Janet’s choices not having been chosen before.

If you would like to see your Six Sensational Songs featured here, then please fill in the form:

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It’s been a while since we looked at Six Sensational Songs and with so much happening in the next few months, it might be a while until we feature the series again, so let’s go into the weekend with six fantastic songs chosen by Kathryn Richards.  Kathryn has been following Alfie since first seeing him on Parkinson in 2007.

Stranger in Paradise, was chosen because it was indeed the first time Kathryn heard or saw Alfie and the song that made her fall in love.

E Lucevan E Stelle, chosen because this was the second time Kathryn saw Alfie and as he was singing opera, she thought “wow what a voice”.

God Give Me Strength, chosen because “I love this song and the video of him at the Scottish Proms was really good.”

Marechiari, chosen by Kathryn because “it always puts a smile on my face, a very catchy tune”.

Torna A Sorriento, chosen because “it transports me to Italy, a great summer song”.

Agnus Dei, chosen after Kathryn ” bought You’ll Never Walk Alone CD and the lovely haunting sound to Alfie’s voice gives me goosebumps and tears.”

I’m still astounded that fans continue to add new songs to our Six Sensational Songs playlist; of Kathryn’s six, four have not been chosen before.

If you would like to see your six songs featured, please fill in the form:

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With the Together Again tour coming ever closer, and the Australian tour even closer, it’s time to find out which song is really the fans favourite.  Thank you to everyone who sent in their nominations, we have six new songs added to the list.  Will last year’s winner, Run, win again?

 

 

Voting will close at the end of next week and we’ll begin counting down shortly after!

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