Almost a week since Alfie Boe’s new album, As Time Goes By was released and Alfie has been on full promotional detail with four album signings this week. Starting with Manchester, Alfie then moved onto London before visiting Sheffield and Blackpool.
Thoughtsofjustafan was at HMV Oxford Street, along with two glamorous assistants, Linda and Cecelia, to film fans and find out some favourite tracks. With thanks to Sally Sadler, Tienne Lockwood, Claire Shorter, Clare Lloyd, Rachael Hailey, Elaine C Roberts, Jean, Jo Cassidy, Lucy Goddard, Tove and Andreas, Ildi, Barbara Durham, Natalie Morgan, Sue, Sue, Pauline, Lesley Smith, Joolz Gray, Brenda, Miles, Nicky, Julie, Julie, Mark and Alexandra, here is the edit:
Of those asked, the track with most votes was Sing, Sing, Sing, with Moonlight Serenade coming a close second. Minnie the Moocher, My Funny Valentine and The Way You Look Tonight were next but every song on the album was mentioned at least once, with the exception of Stompin’ at the Savoy. Shame – I loved that one!
Friday sees the official album chart unveiled – wonder if Alfie will have improved on the midweek position of number 5? Don’t forget to help him do just that by buying a copy here (and don’t forget Christmas presents!):
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Will Barratt has been performing in London’s West End (Jersey Boys, Phantom, War of the Worlds, Producers) for a while now but he became someone to look out for amongst Alfie Boe fans when he understudied Alfie’s Billy Bigelow in ENO’s Carousel; he literally took over from Alfie half way through a show after Alfie came down with an ear infection. Two more shows the next day followed, both to rave reviews. I interviewed Will after the end of the five week run and although he was quick to point out he had no expectation of performing the role, in the event that he did, said that “it was good to get on for a couple of shows together, like a preview and opening night in two shows”. Additionally, Will said that although Alfie was sad to have to miss the show, he was “so pleased that I got on – he was dead happy for me”. If you want to hear Will singing the soliloquy, click here for a pre-show talk and performance at ENO (soliloquy starts at 23m).
As Will’s only role in the production was to understudy Billy, I was keen to find out about the creative process and rehearsal period; how much was he involved? It turns out that both Will and Molly Lynch, who understudied Katherine Jenkins as Julie, were as fully involved as Alfie and Katherine from day one. Whoever plays the part, the blocking and direction is the same, it’s the thought processes of the actor that differs. Will says that “Alfie, Katherine, Molly and I, we all got on, we worked through stuff together…Alfie was also going through the process of figuring out the role, he didn’t know what it was on day one either. We were all doing it together”.
Now, you might be wondering about the headline of this piece – Confessions of a Justified Sinner. This is the title of Will’s self penned debut album, released in 2015 and showcases his seemingly effortless talent for singing, playing multiple instruments and song writing. Of the songs themselves, Will says that “all the songs on this album contain bits of me, my life, history, wants and needs, aches and pains, ups and downs…they are my confessions”. He leaves it up to us as to whether he is a justified sinner or not!
Being self penned, this album is not what you might expect from a musical theatre performer – there are a few songs that wouldn’t be out of place in a musical but on the whole, the songs are a mix of upbeat, rockier, pop and jazz with a hint of Americana that really get you up and out of your seat. To me, a great song is one that you instantly sing along to or you can’t sit still to and both the opening track, Give Me Some Time and Demon, towards the end, had me up and dancing straight away. These two songs, together with Fearless (below), a beautiful ballad and the almost Buble-esque Never Thought, are my favourite songs. Interestingly, Give Me Some Time and Never Thought are songs originally written when Will was at school, just reworked and rearranged to give a more sophisticated sound.
Will’s fabulous voice handles all these styles with great versatility and is a joy to listen to.
Confessions of a Justified Sinner is available here:
Alright, alright, it’s actually International Happiness Day but I got the title idea from my 9yo who looked at the 2015 Happy International Day of Happiness Alfie Boe Fans and said “it’s not really Happy Alfie Boe Day is it”? We don’t exactly see eye to eye on our musical tastes although he has been known to sing along to Alfie songs before and even uttered the immortal line (on hearing Elvis sing If I Can Dream) “this is Alfie’s song, why is Elvis singing it”.
To celebrate, these are some of my favourite Alfie tracks from each of his albums:
E Lucevan Le Stelle (Classic FM Presents) – video from first series of BBC Maestro
The song recently voted the favourite Alfie Boe recorded song, A Living Prayer (Onward) – from Songs of Praise
Funiculi Funicula (La Passione) – this was a hard choice as I could easily have chosen the whole album!
On The Street Where You Live (Bring Him Home) – from QVC, picked because my son’s choir used to sing this:
In My Daughter’s Eyes (Alfie) – for all parents and children everywhere:
Angie (Storyteller)- loved the original, this is better:
My all time favourite Alfie song (so far) is Keep Me In Your Heart (Trust) – something to do with those buttons…
Addio Sogni di Gloria (Serenata) was my favourite in the Serenata review and it hasn’t changed:
The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that Love Was A Dream is missing – as far as I’m aware we don’t have video of Alfie singing my favourite song from that album. Maybe one day…
What are your songs from all Alfie’s albums? Let us know below:
Last week I told you about a great new album from New York based indie band, Wakey Wakey. The album is called Overreactivist and I loved it. My favourite track has the best video too and it’s called Homeless Poets:
In honour of the album release on 26 February (that’s tomorrow, people!), Wakey Wakey are giving away a free track from Overreactivist – aren’t they lovely?
I’ve teamed up with Angry Baby Music to bring you this, so please click here to download the fabulous track, Adam and Eve.
A week today and West End star John Owen-Jones will be taking to the stage with Katherine Jenkins on the first night of her headline tour of the UK. John also has a new album, Rise, due for release on 2 March and if that wasn’t enough, it’s just been announced that he will star as Pirelli in the much anticipated ENO production of SweeneyTodd from 30 March to 12 April this year! Click here for tickets.
In advance of all this, I caught up with him to ask a few questions (my questions / comments in bold) – thanks John! Also, huge thanks to Jacqui Archer, JOJ super fan, who helped me come up with some great questions.
How did you choose the tracks for Rise – and what didn’t make the cut? It’s a lengthy process actually. I spent a year putting together various tracklistings with various concepts attached to them but in the end went for a tracklisting that had variety. At one point I had a Rolling Stones track, something from a very rarely performed musical, an opera track, a prog rock track…the list goes on. But I very much wanted the album to be cohesive and some songs I really liked just didn’t fit well enough with some of my favourites. So they had to go. Hopefully I’ll use them down the line somewhere.
How do you choose duetting partners on your albums, in this case Ruthie Henshall and Madalena Alberto? I try to choose singers I like that really fit the song well. I also choose people I’m friends with as there is already chemistry there. There were ideas for other duets but I knew I wanted to work with Ruthie and Madalena at some point as I think they are both brilliant. When putting the album together I knew I had the perfect songs for them to shine on so it ended up being an easy choice to have them on the album. I’m lucky they said yes!
You mix and produce your own music, why is that and what does it involve (most of us have no clue!)? Basically producing is pulling all the different elements of making a recording together and mixing is blending the various sounds together to make it sound as good as possible. A couple of months before recording starts I sit down with my record company and decide on the final tracks for the album. Then my musical director John Quirk and I go through each song and how it should sound, what instruments are needed etc. We then demo the songs with a just piano and vocal to get a feel for how the album should flow and how the songs sound together. I then arrange a running order of songs and start coming up with ideas for artwork while John arranges the music and books the musicians. We then rehearse and record the musicians over a few days whilst I sing a guide vocal to set tempos. After the music is recorded I’ll record my vocals which can take several weeks depending on the nature of the material. Guests artistes then record their contribution and the mixing process starts. This basically involves balancing all the sounds recorded. A trumpet may be too loud on one small part of a track for example so we adjust the volume to make it sit better in the overall sound. During mixing we may end up dropping or adding instruments as necessary, changing certain vocals, adding harmonics, sound effects and many other things. The end result is hopefully what I hear in my head. If not, things get tweaked until it sounds right to me. Mixing can be a very time consuming process as you have to mix and listen to every track dozens of times. On an album thats an average of 45 mins long that takes ages. It’s a finicky slow process but one which I enjoy as I love sculpting the sound. There are many singers out there who have nothing to do with this process and just record the vocals. That’s fine but it’s not really me. I love the idea that I’m shaping something artistic when I record an album and want to be involved in every aspect of production if I can.
What are you most looking forward to about touring with Katherine Jenkins and will you be duettingwith her in the show? I will be singing with her, yes. I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to performing in venues/cities I’ve never been to before and meeting lots of new people. (Tickets are still available, click here).
If you concentrate on your solo music, will we be seeing you on your own headline tour? Hopefully! If audiences and promoters want me I’ll do it! Pretty sure there’s an audience out there for you John!
What is your favourite song to sing and what is the song you have sung most? Probably Bring Him Home from Les Miz. That answers both those questions I think!
If there is one song that Alfie Boe fans expect him to sing at a concert it is Bring Him Home; do your fans have thatsame expectation of you? Of course. Luckily I love singing it.
The video of you and Alfie singing BHH at his RAH concert in 2013 has over 115,000 views – any plans to worth with him again? Not at the moment – but hopefully our paths will cross again. I didn’t plan to work with him that night at the Albert Hall. He dragged me up onstage with no rehearsal, totally unprompted. It was a shock to say the least. I really enjoyed it though! The bloke sitting in the seat next to me didn’t know who I was (he’d been dragged along to the show by his wife I think) and was gobsmacked when I joined Alfie onstage!
When I asked the question, the views for this video stood at 115,000 – now they’re up to 122,000 and counting! Thanks for sharing Linda – it was a magical moment.
John’s new album, Rise is due to be released on 2 March and is available now for pre-order:
John’s new album got a plug on Flo Bannigan’s blog this week too! – click here.
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It must be fate – I was thinking about a new series of blog posts based on each of Alfie’s albums and decided to start with Love Was A Dream to coincide with Valentine’s Day (such a romantic album!). The fate bit came in when I discovered that this album has just entered the top ten classical album chart – way to go Alfie! It is currently at number 4, ahead of Serenata at 6 and You’ll Never Walk Alone at 7.
In the recent thoughtsofjustafan survey into how fans found Alfie I found that Love Was A Dream was the least owned Alfie album (69% of respondents owned it). I’m not really sure why this is although one reason could be that it was released before Alfie became widely known through Les Mis; additionally, the album was released on an independent label which nearly always makes it harder to achieve mainstream success. Rebecca Newman’s recent classical chart topper, Dare To Dream, was highly unusual in making it to the top of the classical charts without the backing of a major record label.
From Alfie’s autobiography, My Story, you really understand the depth of feeling he has for Franz Lehar and for Love Was A Dream. The opportunity to make the album came at a low point in Alfie’s professional life and clearly has an emotional connection for him, not least because Lehar was a favourite of his father. Alfie says:
That album has a real sentimental feel for me – vocally and emotionally and even technically….It was a really warm experience…one of my favourite albums I’ve done, certainly the most personal.
Anyone familiar with Alfie’s story knows that Lehar’s music is a personal favourite for him and his father, Alfred. As well as singing You Are My Heart’s Delight (track 5) for his first D’oyly Carte audition, Alfie spent many a Sunday lunchtime in the Boe household listening to Alf senior’s music and Alfie says that Richard Tauber was one of his father’s favourite singers. Tauber became particularly well known for singing the song; indeed it comes from a 1929 operetta, The Land of Smiles, written for his voice by Lehar. Here’s Alfie at the 2012 Proms in the Park:
The remainder of the tracks (click here to see the complete list) are taken from other Lehar operettas dating from 1905-1934. Tracks 2 and 9 are from The Merry Widow (1905), an operetta that Alfie performed in with ENO in 2009 although Vilia (track 2) is sung by the Merry Widow herself. Track 12 (Farewell, My Love Farewell) was the song that made Richard Tauber a star in 1922 and he then went onto originate a number of roles for Lehar – the rest of the track list comprises songs that were created for Tauber’s voice.
Love Was A Dream is, for me, the perfect album for Alfie’s voice and my favourite classical album. For me, it’s a much more romantic album than his recently released Serenata, which was promoted as his most romantic album yet (of the Decca albums, yes). So, if you’re stuck for a Valentine’s gift, or just want to treat yourself, Love Was ADream would fit the bill perfectly. To order, click on the album cover:
Alfie’s autiobiography, My Story, is also available:
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Back in November 2014 I asked “How Did You Find Alfie Boe” and I’m pleased to say that lots of you responded, being only too pleased to tell me how and when you first heard that beautiful voice. A few of you have been on board Alfie’s musical train right since the very beginning – and by that I mean since he was singing locally in Lancashire! One of his many nephews and nieces even filled in the survey although I don’t know which one! One respondent had followed him since he was appearing regularly in opera and another couple since his first album, Classic FMPresents. Other reasons given were his 2007 appearance on Parkinson, other TV appearances, Desert Island Discs, through friends, surfing youtube, through hearing David Miller of Il Divo talk about Alfie and his performance at the Diamond Jubilee concert in 2012.
However, like most of us Alfie fans these days, the vast majority (82%) of the respondents found Alfie through LesMiserables. Of those 82%, just over half first saw and heard Alfie on a PBS 25th anniversary promotion and the others saw him either live or on the DVD of that concert. This is what one smitten fan said
Saw him on PBS in Florida, USA in March 2011 singing Jean Valjean role and stopped in my tracks when hearing that voice. Watched the whole O2 Les Misarables concert and then had to find out who this wonderful tenor is. YouTubed him and listened and read everything I could find on him. The Alfie and Matt Lucas video Nessun Dorma with his hands in his pockets was what clinched him for me. Joined his Facebook page and his own web page and since have met many wonderful fans of his who over the last 3 years have become good friends. All this from that one O2 performance.
After finding out how and when fans found Alfie, I then wanted to find out when they made their first Alfie related purchase, be it CD, DVD etc. I admit that I was expecting most responses to be “immediately” or very quickly, given the devotion shown to Alfie by fans. However, I was slightly surprised to find that although two thirds of responses indicated that a purchase was made either the same day or next day, the next highest response was months, at least 6-12. In three cases there was a wait of at least a year and one waited for 3.5 years before making up (her?) mind to buy a CD. Incidentally, the length of time before making a purchase and considering yourself to be “Boed” does not match up; with the exception of the Lancashire locals and the fan waiting 3.5 years, every single respondent considered themselves “Boed” immediately.
The survey then went on to ask which albums fans had in their collection. For this survey, I only considered Alfie’s albums released under his own name (not including Serenata which was released after the survey) and the collaboration with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Home for theHolidays. The rest of his recording career can be found on the Alfie Boe Discography. The results are:
Classic FM Presents – 61% of respondents own this
La Passione – 82%
Onward – 72%
Love Was A Dream – 69%
Bring Him Home – 98%
Alfie – 95%
Storyteller – 95%
Trust – 90%
Home for the Holidays – 37%
As you can see, the most owned albums are the Decca ones released since the Les Mis connection although LaPassione is the most popular album of Alfie’s back catalogue. It occurs to me as I sit writing these results up, that I should have asked in which order these albums were purchased; it would have been interesting to see how many people had La Passione before Les Mis. I suspect that like me, the answer would be not many, otherwise Alfie would surely not have contemplated becoming a personal trainer for the SLC police.
DVD ownership is something else again – this time, there were only four choices as only two tours have been filmed:
Les Mis 25th concert – 96% own this
Bring Him Home tour – 83%
Storyteller tour – 75%
Home for the Holidays – 43%
Perhaps the relatively high amount of people owning the DVD of Home for the Holidays reflects the low amount owning it on CD (they don’t see the need to have it twice), otherwise the completely predictable result is that Les Mis is the most owned DVD. Of course this was expected, given that 82% of us found Alfie that way to start with. This is also borne out by 66% of those owning it citing it as their favourite of the DVD’s. Storyteller comes next, followed by Bring Him Home and Home for the Holidays again bringing up the rear.
Those of you who completed the survey will remember I also asked you which album you preferred – to find out the answer, you’ll have to be a subscriber!
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With two weeks left until Alfie Boe’s new album, Serenata, is released, I thought it would be a good time to look at how record labels choose when to release an album. This is particularly pertinent for Alfie Boe fans as we all got very excited when Amazon and iTunes listed Serenata as being released a week earlier than the original date, 17th November. Unfortunately, that was a false start as a few weeks later, the album was back to it’s original release date. Officially, there is no reason for this; it’s just the way things turned out.
Of course, when I started looking into the subject, it turned out to be a lot more complicated than you might think – as does pretty much everything! Record labels exist to sell records, pure and simple and so attaining a good chart position and decent sales are the be all and end all of making an album. Excellent quality records are great but if they don’t sell enough to pay the bills they aren’t going to keep the artist on the Christmas card list.
Looking at Alfie’s previous albums with Decca, this will be the fourth to be released in the run up to Christmas (Bring Him Home was released just after Christmas) and they have all sold well in that time frame, so a good decision to go for that again. All have achieved top ten status in the official album charts in the first week and have continued to sell well. Amazon currently lists all Alfie’s Decca albums in their top 100 album bestsellers.
Social media and fan forums have seen a fair amount of concern that Serenata is due to be released on the same day as albums by Katherine Jenkins and Michael Ball. Although most of Katherine’s previous albums have hit number 1 on the classical charts, they have not had the same degree of success on the official “normal” charts, although they have usually achieved top ten status. Michael’s first album hit number 1 on the official chart and since then, he has consistently achieved the top twenty. At first glance they might be seen to be playing to the same audience but a look at the numbers doesn’t necessarily bear that out.
Alfie’s Decca albums, all released in similar time frames to Katherine and Michael, have all achieved top ten status and with his much anticipated and talked about return to a more classical style, there is no reason to think that this year’s sales should be any different. In fact, it could be said that releasing Serenata on the same day as Katherine’s Home SweetHome will work to Alfie’s advantage as he is guesting on that album – let’s face it, once everyone listens to Barcelona on Home SweetHome they will instantly want to hear more and buy Serenata as well!
On the same topic, in 2013 there were murmurs of disgruntlement from Alfie fans when Trust was released on the same day as Gary Barlow’s album. Trust still achieved the top ten in that first week so it didn’t seem to hurt and, much as it may hurt to admit, Gary Barlow has a much bigger fan base than Alfie and appeals to a much wider audience. In reality, releasing on the same day as a mega artist like Barlow really makes little or no difference to Alfie’s sales.
As fans, if we want to boost #AlfieBoeSerenata in the run up to the album release and the #AlfieBoeUKTour the way to do it is to shout about it as much as we can on our social media platform of choice – use the hashtags in everything you tweet about Alfie and retweet everything else you see. If possible, get Alfie to retweet as well (alright, I know I’m asking a lot here, but it’s not impossible!) and let’s get him trending.
Bombard your local radio stations, as well as ClassicFM, BBC Radio 2 and any other stations you can think of, to play Alfie – don’t forget the hashtag #AlfieBoeSerenata! A huge number of people listen to their local radio station each week which is why Alfie does a lot of promo appearances and linked interviews with them.
Hope you enjoyed finding out a bit about why record labels choose to release albums when they do – if you did, just let me know in the comments box and please share!
In anticipation, let’s take a look at Volare:
Serenata can be pre-ordered below:
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