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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