album of the month

All posts tagged album of the month

Advent is upon us and we are fast counting down to Christmas!  It’s the time of year when we can listen to our favourite Christmas music without feeling guilty that it’s the wrong time of year so I thought that it was high time we revived thoughtsofjustafan’s Alfie Boe album of the month with Home for the Holidays.  In the absence of an Alfie Christmas album, I’ve been listening to the CD and watching the DVD for a good few weeks now – you’re not going to tell me I’m the only one surely?

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s (MoTab) annual Christmas concerts invite world renowned classical singers as their special guests (Bryn Terfel and Katherine Jenkins have appeared in recent years).  The concerts are filmed and shown on TV before being released on CD and DVD the following year – it takes a while to edit and it then makes sense to wait until nearer Christmas to release the finished product.  Alfie appeared at these concerts in 2012 which was made all the more special as he and Sarah have a home in Salt Lake City; one of the most moving parts of the concert was Alfie thanking the audience for “bringing me home”, a neat link in to his most famous song.

A few views for this video…a cool 1.6 million!

As much as I love Bring Him Home, my favourite songs from Home for the Holidays are I Wonder as I Wander and Angels, From the Realms of Glory.  The former features John Rutter’s arrangement (also seen on Alfie’s 2007 Onward album).  A behind the scenes interview with the musical directors of the concert shows that Alfie was initially reluctant to perform this song, but I’m so glad he did.

If you don’t yet own this on CD (and only 37% of fans did in our 2014 poll) then you are missing out.  It’s available here:

home for the holidays

Only 43% of fans owned the DVD which may have something to do with the fact that it’s not readily available in the UK.  Click below to buy from Deseret Books (where Alfie did a signing session the following year).  As far as I am aware, it’s playable in the UK – I bought it from Deseret and it works just fine.

home for the holidays

I have a copy of this album to give away to one lucky reader who can answer this question:

Who wrote I Wonder as I Wander?

The competition is now closed!  The lucky winner (picked at random) is Ann Warren!  Please click here to send me your details.

This competition is open to everyone, not just UK residents (although I can’t say whether you will receive it for Christmas, due to the vagaries of the postal system)!  I’ll even throw in a copy of Sleigh Ride, the Boston Pop album that features Alfie on O Holy Night!

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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:

Alfie onward

HMS Pinafore

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Hot on the heels of February’s Alfie Boe Album of the Month, Love Was A Dream, we come to the featured album for March, Onward.

Onward, released in 2007 was Alfie’s first album with EMI and the track list reflects the religious theme that the label wanted Alfie to record.  Reading his autobiography, My Story, Alfie had definite ideas about the arias that he wanted to sing (Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Verdi’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem) but EMI instead chose the populist route of Lord is My Shepherd, Amazing Grace etc. These are beautifully sung by Alfie but I think the label really missed a trick in not going with Alfie’s choices.  Having said that, Onward was nominated for Best Album at the Classical Brit Awards so what do I know?  The following clip is from Songs of Praise, I Wonder As I Wander, one of a couple of Christmas tracks on the album:

From the recent thoughtsofjustafan survey, Onward is one of the less well owned albums (72% of respondents own it) and this could well be that some fans are not religiously inclined and do not want to buy an album of (mainly) hymns.  Alternatively, it could be that it dates from Alfie’s pre Les Mis days and is therefore less well known.  Again, having said that, most of the songs here (click here for the complete track list) also appear on Alfie’s later You’ll Never Walk Alone which recently came back into the Classical Top Ten and stayed there for several weeks.

To those who are in the former category, I would say that you definitely do not have to be religious to appreciate the beauty of Onward.  Alfie’s voice soars over each song and as with most of his music, I struggle to think of anyone else singing them now.  As a man of faith, I think he brings something extra to this album for that reason – it was interesting that he chose Be Still, My Soul as his faith song on Good Morning Sunday in 2014.  It clearly means a lot to him.  He also sang this particular hymn on Songs of Praise, The Big Sing in 2012:

In my view, the most successful tracks are Britten’s Balulalow, Rossini’s Cujus Animam and the sheer beauty of Alison Krauss’s A Living Prayer which opens the album.  For different reasons, all three tracks showcase the depth and strength of Alfie’s voice as well as his classical training and technique.  In his book, Alfie says that he would like to re-record A Living Prayer as he felt they couldn’t do it justice due to time constraints during recording; wouldn’t it also be lovely if he also revisited Cujus Animam?

Although from reading Alfie’s story you might think that this is Alfie’s least favourite album (or at least least professionally satisfying), the material is amongst some of his most regularly performed repertoire from his early recording career.  That is probably because of the religious nature of the tracks and Alfie has appeared at a fair amount of concerts  and TV programmes with a religious feel; The MoTab Christmas Concert, Songs of Praise and The Festival of Remembrance spring to mind.

I find that I don’t listen to Onward as much as I do other Alfie albums although I do find that as each of Alfie’s albums has it’s own voice, there is often a space in my life that Onward fits into perfectly.  If peace and solace is what you need, Onward is a pretty good place to start. Click on the image below to order:

Alfie onward

Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, is also available:

alfie autobio

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day Alfie fans – this is my Valentine gift to you:

Alfie’s message was just this: Happy Smooch Day – love to you all (via twitter) xxx

In the November 2014 poll for Alfie Boe’s Guide to Romance, My Heart is Yours came out on top when Serenata was included.  When Serenata was disregarded, then the winner was  When I Fall in Love, mainly due to the romantic association for Alfie and Sarah as noted in his autobiography (Alfie found out he was to be a Dad again just before recording the song).

As mentioned in the Guide to Romance, my favourite romantic album of Alfie’s is the current album of the month, Love Was A Dream, a complete album of romantic arias.  Not only does it ooze romance but the sound of Alfie’s soaring vocals, recorded right in the middle of the orchestra, has rarely been bettered.

Now, you may have noticed that the title of this blog post alludes to Boe’s Guide to Romance and this doesn’t just mean Alfie!  His elder brother Michael, who we have featured here before, is today marrying his long term partner, Sean Ashmore – now that beats everything else hands down for romance!  Michael has kindly allowed me to use a photo of their wedding  – thanks Michael!

Michael and sean wedding

 

Wonder if they will use any of the romantic music from their last album, A La Voix?  Click here to buy.

Michael and Sean will hopefully be recording and releasing their much anticipated new album…soon!

Love Was A Dream and Serenata are both available now:

love was a dream

 

serenata

If you’ve not read Alfie’s book, My Story, give it a go, it’s a cracker!

alfie autobio

 

thanks for reading and sharing!

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xx