…Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with Laura Wright and Jason Manford at the Blackpool Opera House. The actual date was 17 December 2011 and became a staple of the first part of Alfie’s Bring Him Home tour:
The song was written for the 1944 film, Meet Me in St Louis and was sung by Judy Garland. Since then, it has become one of the most recognised Christmas songs around. Let’s hear Judy’s version:
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas features on Alfie’s 2011 album, Alfie and is available here:
This time last week I asked you to vote for your favourite Alfie Boe Tour – you have been voting but this was somewhat eclipsed by the Classic Quadrophenia controversy. So come on, what’s your favourite tour so far?
The most recent UK tour is streaking ahead so if that’s not your favourite please vote!
Over the next few weeks we’ll reveal some of your favourite tour moments, starting with the Bring Him Home tour in 2011/12. Of the fans who chose this tour, three moments stand out:
Seeing Alfie at Blackpool whilst sitting amongst both Alfie and Jason Manford’s families:
Hearing Alfie sing In My Daughter’s Eyes whilst the film of Grace played on the big screen (the moment picked was at Bristol but I can’t find the video of that so have used Blackpool):
Finally, back to the Impossible Dream, this time with Beth Ford and Flo Bannigan at Birmingham:
Regular readers will have seen the video from earlier that day of the sound check when Alfie first heard the girls sing; he was so impressed he invited them back again for the evening performance. And they even got some of his Roses! There’s a lot happening for Beth Ford Music in the next few weeks so click here to keep up to date.
With the New Year celebrations over for another year, it’s time for our first Friday Round Up in 2015 and the first since before Christmas. Luckily for us, there was a new interview aired this week on BBC Radio Cornwall. Alfie was interviewed way back in September by Debbie McCrory and they held the whole hour long interview back until this week – just the thing to banish the post tour blues. Thanks Marcia for sharing:
There’s a lot of chat about Les Mis as you would expect (Debbie had previously interviewed Alfie after the 25th anniversary) and amusing to hear Alfie struggling to say something good about Russell Crowe as Javert. Damning with faint praise I think it’s called! Also, some nice chat about Murray (he’s a Cornish lad) and the recording process of Serenata as opposed to Love Was A Dream. Both were quick but one was considerably quicker! A nice selection of music from Alfie’s earlier career too although it would have been nice to hear some of the Lehar as it was referenced in the interview. Radio interviewers do tend to play a varied choice of music from Alfie’s career but LoveWas A Dream never seems to get a look in – wonder why? Slippers story gets another airing too!
In addition, Alfie was a guest on Bruce’s Hall of Fame on 27 December. He sang Volare in tribute to Dean Martin which was lovely and had us all singing along at home I’m sure (two words at least, just like the tour!). Alfie was first on which was great as it meant we didn’t have to watch the whole programme if we didn’t want to, although that would have meant missing a cracking turn from Alfie’s mate Jason Manford in tribute to Les Dawson. Volare was Alfie’s only song but it was on the whole well received (I’m discounting the audience reaction here as they gave every performer a standing ovation) on social media. Incidentally, interesting to see Alfie respond to people’s rude tweets; even with provocation he is always polite to trolls. That doesn’t stop him putting them in their place though! Again, thanks to Marcia for sharing the clip:
Volare is of course from Alfie’s new album, Serenata (available below) which is in the classical top ten for a sixth straight week!
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Have I got your attention yet? I thought of a lot of headlines based on today’s Mail on Sunday interview but in the end went for the safe option!!! Alfie is described as an opera star in the interview about his cultural highlights but at least we’re spared the TVR story! Click here to read about his first experiences of opera as part of the audience.
The post Christmas weekend has been a good one for Alfie Boe fans – last night saw the showing of Bruce’s Hall of Fame, a one off TV special recorded back in November. Artists such as Alfie, Jason Manford, Ben Miller, Jon Culshaw, Jamie Cullum and Jessie Wallace performed songs and sketches in tribute to an artist that inspired them in their career; Alfie sang Volare in tribute to Dean Martin and had a chat with Sir Bruce Forsyth (thanks Marcia for sharing):
The song was wonderful (would you expect anything else?) and the chat was as you would also expect! Would have been nice to get another song from Alfie but it was still fabulous to see him on prime time TV showcasing his latest album – everyone’s a winner! Just to make us all that bit happier he did tweet after the show too!
What a fabulous show James Morgan and Juliette Pochin, aka known as Morgan Pochin, put on this week at Symfunny, proving music and comedy are a natural fit. Although it’s fair to say that Alfie Boe fans were looking forward to seeing him sing live the most (the entire front row was peopled with Alfie fans), the whole evening was a joy from start to finish.
Al Murray proved to be the perfect host for the evening; I had heard that he has a great reputation for quick fire repartee with the audience but had not anticipated being part of it! I suppose sitting on the front row of a comedy gig does lend itself to being picked on so I was relieved when Al picked on my lovely friend Linda (one of the famous Two Linda’s). However, my relief didn’t last long as she was asked who she brought with her which then led to me…cue several laughs about teachers (Linda) and school dinners (me). Still, poor Steve the banker came off far worse although he was a great sport.
Of the other comedy acts, Jason Manford and Armstrong and Miller were my favourites. The only thing I can possibly say about Armstrong and Miller’s act is that it was fiendishly funny but unmentionable in polite conversation! Suffice to say I will never look at train toilets in the same light ever again. Jason Manford was also very funny, even if he did call Alfie’s fans “relatively normal”. However, his best bit came when he sang Volare with Alfie Boe, successfully reducing Alfie to giggles several times which reminded Alfie fans of his days appearing with Alfie on his Bring Him Home tour in 2011 / 2012. Thanks to Linda W for sharing this video (and watch James Morgan when Alfie misses his entrance):
In total, Alfie sang four songs: Wheels of a Dream, which most of us thought we’d never hear live again so thanks Alfie, Mamma, Volare and Mambo Italiano. A week later and Mambo Italiano is still going round in my head – I don’t think Alfie will have any trouble at all selling huge numbers of his next album, Serenata. Seeing Alfie and James Morgan work together again on songs they had just recorded was also special.
Other musical highlights were Rebecca Ferguson’s acapella version of Amazing Grace and Juliette Pochin singing Carmen. It was a delight to hear Juliette and also to see her and James working together on what has been a highly personal and emotional project. James and Juliette conceived the idea for Symfunny after James was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s just over a year ago. After keeping it a secret for a while, they finally decided to use their talent and contacts in the entertainment world to raise some money and awareness for this disease. Just before the interval, the audience was shown a short video of another sufferer of early onset Parkinson’s, Shamsa, and her husband and daughter. Shamsa was only 28 when diagnosed and her bravery in showing us her life is amazing. James recorded an audience shout out to her and her husband, Sarfraz, so I hope it made them smile.
The evening was rounded off with Al Murray and Alfie leading us all in a rousing rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The perfect musical end to a concert that began with James conducting Good Vibrations which shows that he at least has a sense of humour about his situation.
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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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