Morgan Pochin

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Will Dame Vera Lynn become the first centenarian to hit the number one spot in the album chart when her new album, Vera Lynn 100, is released tomorrow?  I wouldn’t bet against the original Forces Sweetheart as her last album achieved the top spot just a few years ago, meaning she would beat her own record as the oldest person to achieve a number one album.

On this album, Dame Vera’s original vocals have been set to new orchestrations, courtesy of Morgan Pochin who of course have produced and arranged several of Alfie’s albums.  The result is a masterclass of gorgeous accompaniments that show off Dame Vera’s vocals to perfection whilst bringing out the best in each duet partner.

Unsurprisingly, my favourite track is the album opener, We’ll Meet Again featuring Alfie Boe; the arrangement allows Alfie’s voice to soar but never to overshadow our Forces Sweetheart in one of her most famous songs.

Of the other duets, The White Cliffs of Dover with Alexander Armstrong and As Time Goes By with Aled Jones stand out for me.  Armstrong’s TV persona on Pointless is very much that of a smiley, affable gentleman and you can hear the smile in his voice on his track, just as you can hear the same in Jones’ voice.  Cynthia Erivo, on When You Wish Upon A Star is also beautiful and elegantly understated.  Of the songs that aren’t duets, the highlight is Sailing which I wasn’t aware that Dame Vera had recorded but apparently I’m not alone in that!  The recording has not been widely known and is a real find on this album.  I loved it.

The warmth of these tracks seems to reflect the way Britain in general feels about Dame Vera; rarely, if ever, can there have been a singer who so transcends one genre of entertainment whilst also representing such a precise period of history.  So closely linked is she with the Second World War that even those who were born long after the event still know her to be the “Forces Sweetheart”, regardless of who has held the title since.

This album is a delight to be enjoyed by all – we all know the songs so we can all sing along and indulge in one of our favourite national pastimes, nostalgia, whilst listening to an array of wonderful singers paying tribute to a national treasure.  I’ll leave the last word to Dame Vera herself:

It’s truly humbling that people still enjoy these songs from so many years ago, reliving the emotions of that time…and it’s so wonderful for me to hear ‘my songs’ again so beautifully presented in a completely new way.

I have one copy of this album to give away – just answer the question below* and the lucky winner will be drawn at random on 24 March!

Vera Lynn 100 is available here:

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Yes, one year ago, I was enraptured by this beautiful album that I had only heard snippets from over the summer.  Alfie Boe’s Serenata was something that I had been looking forward to hearing in it’s entirety since he first teased us with a few songs at James Morgan’s Parkinson’s UK fundraiser, SymFunny, back in June that year.

Looking back at the review, my initial favourite was Serenata Celeste which then changed to Feneste Vascia.  I think I ended up with the new fans’s favourite song, Addio Sogni di Gloria by the end of the review whilst also saving a mention for Rondine al Nido amongst others.  As always, I can never choose just one favourite song when it comes to Alfie.  Now, regular readers will know that I usually don’t listen to Alfie singing when I’m blogging as there is always a danger that nothing will get written as he’s far too distracting!  Nevertheless, I’m breaking the habit to listen as I blog now and…you guessed it, I’m having considerable difficulty choosing again!  I think though, that I’ll go for a song that only appeared once on Alfie’s UK tour, Serenata Celeste:

If you haven’t got this beautiful album in your collection yet, it’s available now:

serenata

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It’s because he’s old fashioned!  At least, that was part of his explanation in answer to Sue Black on the Classic FM Wednesday Web Chat this morning.  And thank you Alfie for answering my question about Morgan Pochin!

Today was certainly Alfie Boe day on Classic FM – John Suchet played Arrivederci Roma on his Album of the Week slot too – here is Alfie’s video:

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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 Sweet Home will work to Alfie’s advantage as he is guesting on that album – let’s face it, once everyone listens to Barcelona on Home Sweet Home 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:

serenata

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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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Have a great Super Saturday!

When asked about his favourite comedy moment that he and Juliette had composed for, the answer was:

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.

And we had great fun watching!

 

Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with James Morgan of Morgan Pochin!

Currently working on Alfie Boe’s latest album, James very kindly answered a few questions  –  and yes, he did mention Alfie!

The interview will be published in a few days…

if you can’t wait that long, subscribe to the blog now and you can get a sneak preview before everyone else!

Great news this Wednesday – Alfie will begin recording his new album tomorrow!

The album is due for release in September and is being produced by James Morgan and Juliette Pochin (who also produced Bring Him Home).

To celebrate, here’s Alfie’s magical rendition of Bring Him Home on the Storyteller tour last year (thanks to Linda Wellington for sharing).

Bring Him Home is available via the link below:

 

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