With just three weeks to go until SymFunny at the Royal Albert Hall, I’m very pleased to announce that the conductor, producer and composer James Morgan, one half of Morgan Pochin agreed to answer a few questions!
Most of you will know James through his work with Alfie Boe; James and his wife Juliette Pochin have worked with Alfie a number of times, notably on the Bring Him Home album and tour. Excitingly for Alfie fans, James and Juliette have been working on Alfie’s new album.
SymFunny is a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 4th June in aid of Parkinson’s UK and was set up in response to James being diagnosed with the disease. As well as Alfie, other confirmed acts include Jason Manford, Sarah Brightman, Armstrong & Miller, with Al Murray just announced as compere.
I started by asking James how he got the idea for SymFunny:
A: I’d kept my Parkinson’s secret for a year, but in the end decided that I could do more good and raise awareness and money by talking about the condition. I thought that by using my contacts in the music industry I could help create a special event which would boost both awareness and fundraising.
Q: The concert is in conjunction with Parkinson’s UK; what can you tell us about the charity?
A: It’s not one of the UK’s biggest charities, but it’s really active, and at the forefront of funding innovative research for a cure.
Q: You have just finished recording Alfie Boe’s new album, due out in September, is there a chance we will hear some of that material at SymFunny?
A: Yes, a good chance! I think we’re certainly allowed to do one song….it’s definitely our best collaboration yet with Alfie, and we think it’s going to delight existing fans, and hopefully attract a lot of new ones.
Q: Alfie’s first Decca album, Bring Him Home was also produced by Morgan Pochin. How has the recording process changed between then and now?
A: We did both Bring him Home, and Alfie. Bring Him Home was an unbelievably quick turn around – I think it was two weeks from getting the go ahead to sending to the manufacturing plant. Alfie sang live with the orchestra and recorded it all incredibly quickly. This time, there’s been more time to plan – we even got to rehearse!
Q: Juliette and Alfie have duetted before, on First Night – will Juliette also perform at SymFunny? And if so, what is it like to conduct your wife?
A: Yes, Juliette will be singing- conducting her is as in life, I do what I’m told! Seriously, it’s always a particular pleasure to conduct her, particularly in pieces we both love.
Q: Following on from that question, can you describe your working relationship with Juliette?
A: It depends what we’re doing, really. We usually start around the piano, and one or other of us have an idea – it’s always starting that’s the biggest problem, as one idea usually sparks another. It’s having that idea before the lure of the coffee machine intervenes…
Q: How does composing for TV and other projects differ? Can you talk us through the creative process?
A: For TV and film you’re working closely with a director, and composing music that underpins the drama- the music always serves the picture. You predecide with the director where music should or could go, then write accordingly. Producing is different, as you’re often working with pre-existing music, so it’s more a question of interpreting that with the artist you’re collaborating with. And it’s all about the music!
Q: Is there anyone you would like to compose for?
A: Steven Spielberg would be nice!
Q: If you could conduct anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?
A: Apart from my wife, and Alfie of course, I’d love to have conducted Duke Ellington’s orchestra….
Q: If you could conduct in any venue in the world, where would it be? Do you have a favourite venue?
A: I like Symphony Hall in Birmingham – the acoustics are amazing. I’d love to perform in Sydney Opera House, not least because it would mean I could visit Australia- I’ve never been.
Q: Finally, as SymFunny is an evening of comedy as well as music, do you have a favourite comedy moment that you have compsoed for?
A: Hmm that’s a tough one. I think composing evangelical hymns written by Ian Hislop for the ITV series Sermon from St Albion’s was really good fun. Or possibly Armstrong & Miller’s nude vet sketch! More recently you may have caught Alfie singing Jedward the Musical on Comedy Rocks, which we had great fun writing.
Thank you James for answering my questions, really looking forward to SymFunny.
If the evening appeals, click here to book tickets. If not, enjoy Alfie singing Jedward the Musical!
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As ever, thanks for reading xxx