Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about Beth Ford’s debut single, If I Could Escape, which reached number 3 on an iTunes chart. Following a year in which Beth has performed live with People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman and tenor Jonathan Antoine as well as recording a duet with Michael Boe, I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the news that this wonderful single is being followed by a three track EP, to be released on Wednesday 13th July.
The Voyage comprises the title track, How We Love and Follow Your Dream and all three tracks showcase the improved maturity and strength of Beth’s voice. Last year I was struck by how much Beth had improved since I first heard her sing (on Alfie Boe’s Bring Him Home tour, with Alfie himself and Flo Bannigan) and a full twelve months on, I’m again struck by a much richer tone in her voice.
My favourite track is Chris Broom’s Follow Your Dream which sums up the performers mantra of believing in your dreams. Beth herself says “This sums up so perfectly what I believe in, nothing is impossible if you pursue your dreams…The lyrics of the song are simply perfect ‘your star will shine if you follow your dream‘”.
All three tracks flow seamlessly, telling a story of voyage, adventure and following your dreams which is what Beth seems to be doing quite successfully at the moment. Indeed, this weekend saw Beth sit at the top of amazon’s movers and shakers chart, thanks to all the pre-orders so far – an amazing achievement.
To order your download of The Voyage, just click on the image below:
If you click through now, you will also receive a musical gift from Beth to say ‘thank you’ and the chance to grab a special edition CD which features two bonus songs not available anywhere else. Having heard these extra two tracks, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend pre-ordering now. How do you get your hands on this? Once you have pre-ordered, just email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘The Voyage Bonus’ in the subject line – then you sit back and wait for your download and free musical gift to arrive. Hurry – you only have until Wednesday to get this exclusive special offer!
Which role will Alfie shortly take over on Broadway? JM Barrie in Finding Neverland
Who did Alfie pick as his favourite Javert in an interview with thoughtsofjustafan last year? Norm Lewis and Earl Carpenter (click here for the interview)
How many brothers and sisters does Alfie have and what are their names? 8: Anne, Joseph, John, Pauline, Michael, Fran, Teresa, Maria
What are the names of the two alternate Rodolfo’s in Baz Luhrman’s La Boheme? David Miller and Jesus Garcia
What is the name of Alfie’s management company? Vector
Name the support acts for Alfie’s three headline tours (Bring Him Home, Storyteller and Serenata). Laura Wright (if you relied on the tour DVD for this answer you may have got it wrong!), Emilia Mitiku and Sol3 Mio
Alfie won Glyndebourne’s Christie prize – what was the role? Albert Herring
In which opera house was Alfie’s last operatic role? Coliseum (ENO)
And which opera was he performing in? The Mikado
What was the name of the new song that Alfie revealed at Leeds in 2015? Against the Tide
If you got 10 you’re an Alfie Boe mastermind champion
If you got 6+, you’re a strong contender
If you got 3-5, call yourself a fan?
Less than 4 and you’re probably scratching your head and saying Alfie who?
So, how did you do? Come and tell us if you got 10 out of 10!
Maria Callas was one of the first musical voices I remember hearing on record when I was growing up – my Dad was a huge fan and was lucky enough to see her perform at Covent Garden. I can still see the look on his face when he reminisced about these performances and if I had to describe that look I’d probably say it was akin to the look on the faces of Alfie fans when they first hear him sing live. When you’re struck by a voice, it really hits you.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, of course, last night saw the first episode of Alfie Boe’s Opera Heroes in which the first hero was Maria Callas, the most famous soprano of the twentieth century. Guiding us through Callas’ life and career, the emphasis of the programme was on the sublime voice, with a large portion of the programme given over to Callas’ recordings.
Alfie fans will know that he was introduced to opera by his elder brother Michael (thanks Michael!) and we again heard of the importance of music to the Boe family home, with Callas being the favourite voice of Michael. Apparently, Michael still owns every Callas recording on vinyl and CD. In my first ever interview for thoughtsofjustafan, Michael’s reply to the question ‘Which person, alive or dead, would you most like to sing with’ met with the response that “I’m a HUGE Callas fan and would have loved to have sung with her”. Click here to see who else Michael said he loved singing with. Alfie told us that the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana was Michael’s favourite Callas recording – is it still the same, Michael?
Even though the voice of Callas was showcased, no programme about her could ever be complete without mention of Aristotle Onassis. In some respects, their relationship has overshadowed her career but in others, the story of their relationship is perfectly suited to the image of her as the ultimate tragic diva. It would have been interesting to have followed this idea further to see how much our idea of Callas the singer is influenced by her private life. Having said that, Alfie touched on this idea when he said that the story of Callas and Onassis is so well known and perfectly suited to to opera that it’s surprising no one has written it yet. If we can have operas about Anna Nicole Smith and Jerry Springer, why not Callas and Onassis?
As a presenter, Alfie’s natural passion and enthusiasm shone through; if we can’t hear Alfie singing opera, the next best thing is to hear him talk about it with such enthusiasm and passion. In a fitting end to the programme, Alfie spoke with absolute conviction that Callas knew her art and her audience inside out, left us with a quote from Callas herself:
I give a little happiness. Music has enriched my life and hopefully, through me, a little of the public’s life too. If anyone left an opera house feeling more happy and at peace, I have achieve my purpose.
It seems to me that this quote could be used to sum up Alfie’s attitude to music and his audience too. I’ll leave you with Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano (another operatic superstar I’ve heard Alfie enthuse about) singing an aria from La Boheme that all self respecting Alfie fans should recognise:
Alfie Boe on Maria Callas is available on BBC Radio iPlayer (click here) and the next two episodes will feature Mario Lanza and Enrico Caruso.
For a strictly limited time only (the twelve days of Christmas in fact) Michael and Sean’s latest single, O Holy Night is available for a free download – aren’t they lovely?
In order to share this with you, I’m once again partnering with Angry Baby, so to add this free copy of Michael and Sean’s O Holy Night, just click here. This offer will only be available for twelve days so get it now!
In the meantime, here is the video trailer:
Once you’ve got that and enjoyed it (which I know you will), you might like Michael and Sean’s 2015 album, Along the Way which is available from North Star Opera. I have a few favourite tracks but the stand out for me was the duet with thoughtsofjustafan favourite, Beth Ford. The new arrangement of Streets of London shows off both voices to their best.
click here to get the free download of O Holy Night
and I hope you enjoy the rest of The Twelve Days of Christmas
Although this blog is primarily about Alfie Boe, I also like to bring you new music and one person who has featured fairly regularly here this year is the super talented Beth Ford, who first came to our attention singing Impossible Dream with Alfie and Flo Bannigan. That was a few years ago now and Beth’s voice has matured and taken her to places she never even thought of at the beginning of the year.
So far in 2015 Beth has released her debut single, If I Could Escape, which reached number 3 in an iTunes new releases chart, scored a viral YouTube video with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Pie Jesu and supported People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman in concert at the Lichfield Garrick. The chance to sing on Rebecca’s stage meant a lot to Beth. She said “Appearing at the Lichfield Garrick to support Rebecca in July was a wonderful experience and I was genuinely touched by the generosity of Rebecca in asking me to be a part of her show.” Luckily, we can all enjoy the fruits of Rebecca’s generosity as she has given us permission to show this video of Beth’s performance:
This hasn’t been shared anywhere else yet so aren’t we the lucky ones!
Somehow or other Beth also found time to record a duet with Michael Boe which is included on his and Sean Ashmore’s new album, Along The Way, record an entry for G4’s Search for a Christmas Star competition and now she’s busy preparing to sing with young tenor Jonathan Antoine on the Birmingham date of his current UK tour (11th November, click here for tickets). We know that Beth has sung with Alfie Boe but did you also know that Jonathan has appeared with him too? They both appeared on the same night at the Llangollen Eistedfodd this summer – and another link – Beth went backstage to meet Alfie when he appeared at the Eistedfodd in 2012. Jonathan’s first solo tour is a bit of a back to basics approach, he says “The aim of this tour is to do away with over production. The intent with ‘An Evening with Jonathan Antoine’ is to remove the barriers between me and the audience…and go back to basics”. Having a local singer on the bill will do wonders to enhance Jonathan’s rapport with his audience too.
With all this happening for Beth in 2015, I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in 2016! Until then,as she’s such a lovely girl, she’s giving away a free music track, so hope over to www.bethfordmusic.com to add her beautiful voice to your music collection.
Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore’s album, Along The Way (featuring Beth on Streets of London) is available here: North Star Opera.
Tickets for Jonathan Antoine’s tour can be found by clicking here.
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Although this blog is primarily about the uber talented Alfie Boe, we also like to showcase other music, especially young and upcoming voices who are starting out on their musical journey. Long term readers will remember reading about a young singer by the name of Beth Ford – I’m happy to tell you that Beth has just launched her website ahead of the release of her debut single later this year.
I caught up with Beth recently to talk about this exciting development in her musical career:
Beth started singing in public with her local church choir, Jigsaw at age 5 and she also had her first solo at this young age! From then, she has been singing with the Voice in a Million Choir and the Walsall Youth Choir amongst others. In addition, Beth regularly performs at an Open Mic night in her home town of Bloxwich and always gets lovely comments about her pure, natural voice. This quite often leads to further performances; most of her appearance invitations can be traced back to those open mic nights.
In this day of reality TV and the seemingly never ending ways of making it to the big time quickly, many people will want to know why Beth hasn’t tried and has no interest in, Britain’s Got Talent or similar. Quite simply, Beth prefers to hone her talent in a natural progression – she knows she can sing so being told that she can sing in such a public way does not hold any attraction for her. She wants to make it on her own merits and not just because she appeared on a TV talent contest. This isn’t the confidence of youth talking either as this quote from Rebecca Newman, The People’s Soprano shows:
‘Beth’s interpretation of these songs is very relaxing and sung with an elegant simplicity – without pretence or ego – which is so refreshing!’
Perhaps surprisingly for a teenager, Beth’s musical influences are mainly musical theatre, especially Les Mis which is how she first came to hear the vocal ability of her main inspiration, Alfie Boe. Upon seeing the DVD of LM25, Beth was overwhelmed with the music and Boe himself, so much so that her parents got her VIP tickets for Boe’s Bring Him Home tour. The concert date was December 2011 and Beth soon found that the VIP element involved a meet and greet with Boe before the performance. Also at that meet and greet was another young singer, Flo Bannigan and Alfie invited the pair to sing Impossible Dream with him at that afternoon’s soundcheck. To say they were excited was an understatement but the result was beyond their wildest dreams. The video below shows Alfie and conductor James Morgan exchanging glances of appreciation at Beth’s voice and Alfie was so impressed that he invited the girls to sing in the concert with him.
Beth cites this as the moment that gave her the confidence to further explore and develop her voice; as she says
“if Alfie hadn’t have done that, I would never have had the confidence to keep going”.
As inspiring as this was, that wasn’t the last of Alfie’s generosity. Beth and family had tickets for Alfie’s concert at Llangollen and when his management got wind of this, they were all invited backstage during the interval. Beth still has the unopened Mars Bar Alfie gave her!
Now, Beth is starting to take her first steps into the world of recording and releasing which she first got into through her singing teacher Gary Hill who worked at Birmingham Music Academy which has its own recording studio, Progress Studio. The result was the unreleased I’m Always Chasing Rainbows and Beth is giving you the chance to download and hear her naturally gifted voice – for free!
Click here for Beth’s website and download I’m Always Chasing Rainbows now – hurry, this is a limited time offer!
You won’t regret it but don’t take my word for it, this is what Michael Boe had to say about Beth:
‘So refreshing to hear a young artist really use her natural and unique voice without resorting to vocal gimmicks. This is an artist who deserves to be heard and is certainly one to watch out for in the future. Every note, spot on.’
So, if you’re a fan of soulful female vocalists, visit Beth Ford Music and get the free download I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. This hasn’t been released…so get it while you can!
Who can name the song that Alfie Boe sang at his first ever professional audition? Of course, you all can – Lehar’s YouAre 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:
Back in July 2014 I posted 40 reasons to love Alfie Boe – another blog post mentioning 50 shades was recently suggested so here is 50 Shades of Boe…or 50 reasons to love Alfie!
Don’t forget to share everywhere so everyone else can also be Boe’d!
1. This is his most famous song – do you need another reason to love Alfie?
2. Nick Jonas’s (Marius in 25th Les Mis) brother Joe was in La Boheme on Broadway with alfie
3. Alfie hails from Fleetwood, Lancashire (although he was born in Blackpool in 1973).
4. Alfie is the youngest of nine siblings (4 boys and 5 girls) born to Alfred and Pat.
5. Alfie loves cooking and once considered becoming a chef (although he did once cut his finger on live TV!)
6. Other career changes considered include a personal trainer for the Salt Lake City police force.
7. Alfie is a Lyric Tenor which means his vocal range (excluding falsetto) is approximately the C one octave below middle C (C3) to the D one octave above middle C (D5) with the ability to extend a little to either side.
8. Alfie played Jean ValJean in the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables concert and at the Queens Theatre for 5 months in 2011 – but you all knew that one right?
9. When playing JVJ as The Mayor in Les Mis, Alfie used to wear the socks belonging to the convict JVJ costume in order to better inhabit the role.
10. Alfie once bunked off opera rehearsals in Strasbourg to see Bob Dylan in concert – apparently it was worth it!
11. Alfie is married to an American actress, Sarah Boe. They met in San Francisco.
12. Alfie was the subject of a South Bank Show documentary in 2013.
13. Alfie once supported the Fron Male Voice Choir on tour.
14. David Miller of Il Divo was in La Boheme on Broadway with Alfie (they played alternate nights as Rodolfo).
15. Alfie recorded some demo Queen tracks at Abbey Road studios whilst a student – he listened back with obvious embarrassment on a recent documentary!
16. Alfie used to work at the Blackpool Opera House in a backstage / security role.
17. Alfie has recorded Empty Chairs, Empty Tables with two of the singers who played Marius: Michael Ball (original Marius and 10th anniversary concert) and Nick Jonas (25th anniversary concert).
18. Alfie recorded Barcelona with Katherine Jenkins for her 2014 album, Home Sweet Home – having first sung it live at Freddie for a Day with Laura Wright in 2013.
19. Alfie was a body mechanic at the TVR factory in Bispham – if you know nothing else about Alfie, you know that!!
20. After graduating from the Royal College of Music, Alfie went on to train at the National Opera Studio.
21. Won the Christie prize at Glyndebourne for Albert Herring.
22. Appeared on several Clint Boon Experience albums as “opera dude”.
23. Spent a few nights sleeping on a park bench in Hyde Park “in between digs” so to speak.
24. Played drums in a local rock band, Whisky Train as a teenager.
25. Alfie is an ambassador for the Prince’s Foundation for Children and The Arts.
26. Alfie sang at the wedding of Peter and Autumn Phillips. (Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus).
27. Alfie famously prefers to perform in opera, rather than listen to them – this is usually quoted incorrectly as “Alfie hates opera”.
28. Alfie often takes fans cameras and phones and takes photos of himself and the band on stage – perks of being front row!
29. New Zealand operatic trio Sol3 Mio supported Alfie on his recent UK tour – here they are singing Volare together:
30. Alfie auditioned (and was called back) for Raoul in Phantom of the Opera – the RCM beckoned though and we shall have to imagine his Raoul.
31. Won a Tony Award as part of the cast of La Boheme on Broadway.
32. First professional audition was for the D’oyly Carte Opera company – he sang You Are My Hearts Delight.
33. Moonwalked across the stage during final performance of Romeo et Juliette at the Royal Opera House.
34. Appeared on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC Radio 2 programme as part of the Wednesday Words of Warmth – his tip to get through a Wednesday was to make a big bowl of meat pasta sauce.
35. West London Karaoke Champion 1994 singing Suspicious Minds.
36. Patron of Trinity Hospice, Blackpool.
37. First recording Alfie appears on is Die Fledermaus, with the D’oyly Carte company (in the chorus).
38. Suffered from chlorine poisoning whilst filming a projection for The Pearl Fishers at the ENO.
39. Brother Michael is also a talented singer, recent album is called A La Voix.
40. Alfie and Sarah’s first dance at the their wedding was Led Zeppelin’s Rain Song.
41. First, and so far only, performer, with Renee Fleming to sing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations).
42. Alfie was first introduced to La Boheme by his brother Michael – thank you Michael!
43. Alfie is great at comedy falls – as witnessed by viewers of Jonathan Ross show in October 2013!
44. Twitter often mentions how much Alfie looks like Declan Donnelly – maybe, but only without his beard – judge for yourself:
45. Knows nothing about dancing – as evidenced by his appearances on Strictly It Takes Two!
46. First song with lyrics written by Alfie recorded for Serenata 2014: My Heart is Yours.
47. Singing the role of Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia in July 2015 – another one you all knew surely!
48. Used 40lbs of ice in the ALS ice bucket challenge.
49. Has a golden retriever, Guinness and a black and white cat, name???
50. A photo of Alfie; together with his amazing voice, what other reason to you need to love Alfie Boe? (thanks to Carole Hunt who took this gorgeous photo and generously allowed me to use it on my blog – what a star xx)
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!
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:
If you’ve not read Alfie’s book, My Story, give it a go, it’s a cracker!
…I’m sure that you don’t need reminding that it was Alfie Boe’s Best Live Song (as voted by you), Don’t Stop MeNow, on Gary Barlow’s New Year’s Eve Celebration:
What a great end / start to the year that was!
So, to round off the year, I’m looking back at my top ten thoughtsofjustafan moments (in no particular order) – hope you enjoy.
1 – Alfie’s best ever recorded song countdown – some great songs nominated (click here for the longlist) and while the result was never really in doubt, some of the top ten were very unexpected. This was my most commented on post of the year!
2 – Michael Boe’s interview and the release of the track list for his next album – great news, Michael told me that him and Sean will shortly be back in the studio! The release of the track list was the 3rd most viewed post!
3 – Serenata – my favourite track changes all the time. The first post about the new album was the 2nd most viewed post this year, sandwiched between the Alfie on the Royal Variety Show and Michael’s new album.
4 – Caruso live at Newcastle (thanks Linda for sharing):
5 – Symfunny stage door – so lucky to be able to chat to relaxed Alfie! But it was so cold…in June!
6 – Getting published on the Huffington Post UK! Such a thrill!
7 – Hearing Addio Sogni di Gloria at Classic FM live (thanks Marcia for sharing):
8 – Quadrophenia on tour – roll on Royal Albert Hall next July:
9 – Laura Wright’s interview.
10 – Two (!!!) interviews from James Morgan – such a lovely man.
Last, but not least, thank you for all the support that you have given me since day one of this blog. Thank you doesn’t seem adequate somehow but a huge big thank you hug for each and every one of you – some I’ve met, some I haven’t but your support is very much appreciated. In particular, thanks to:
Debbie Bannigan for her unstinting support, encouragement and willingness to share her amazing fount of knowledge – thoughtsofjustafan truly would not exist in its current form without you xxx
Sue Black for sharing every single blog post ever published! xxx
Linda Wellington, Nikki Lewis, Marcia Studley for sharing their Alfie videos xxx
Carole Hunt for letting me use the banner photo of Alfie on the site xxx
Claire Smith and Michelle Keogh for sharing my Alfie survey on their facebook sites – and thanks to all who filled it in xxx
Cynthia Shepherd, Cecelia Powell, Linda McCann and Annie Lloyd for being my top commenters xxx
What are your top ten moments – leave me a comment!
Happy New Year to you all
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