Tag Archives: Rachel Fuller

Animal Requiem with Alfie Boe: Review

Since it was announced that Alfie Boe would feature on a new work by composer Rachel Fuller, fans have been beside themselves with excitement. Add in conductor Robert Ziegler, who conducted the world premiere of Fuller’s Classic Quadrophenia in 2015 and excitement levels rose even more.

Animal Requiem was created by Rachel to celebrate, remember and honour all the animals we have loved and lost, as well as those animals affected by cruelty or neglect around the world. The piece was also created for animal lovers and workers wherever they may be. The audience were urged to bring photos of lost pets and the resulting board was very moving.

The evening began with a beautiful performance of Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, along with poems from Ogden Nash, read by actor Peter Egan, himself a noted campaigner for animal rights. Both were wonderful.

After a short break, Egan again took to the stage, this time to introduce the premiere of Animal Requiem, before which he read the poem Just A Dog. The pet owners in the audience understood and agreed with the sentiments exactly. Robert Ziegler took to the stage to conduct the London Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Chamber Choir of London who performed the first few parts of the requiem beautifully. Fuller’s music accompanied the familiar requiem words in a new way whilst always remaining true to what we might expect from a requiem. The Prayer of St. Francis was especially moving in this respect.

Alfie then took to the stage (or, being in a church, the pulpit) and sang Psalm 142 and Agnus Dei; there was a palpable frisson of anticipation when he appeared.

As Alfie mentioned afterwards, singing this type of music in this setting (St. James’ Church, Piccadilly) took him back to his Royal College of Music days, when church music was a staple of his repertoire. As expected, it was glorious to hear Alfie’s voice performing as it was trained to do, without amplification, soaring above, but not competing with the orchestra. The setting was perfect and he held the audience in the palm of his hand for the entirety. Soprano Katy Batho was also lovely – the two of them coming together for the finale were sublime. The last song of the evening was Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. As he wasn’t able to be there, Alfie sang this for him, accompanied by a guitarist and the orchestra – you could have heard a pin drop. It also demonstrated the depth of Alfie’s vocal versatility perfectly:


It was an honour to be present at the premiere of this exciting new work and I’m sure that the entire audience felt the same, judging by the standing ovation given at the end.

Animal Requiem is available now to download and to pre-order on CD here.

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Triumphant Premiere of Classic Quadrophenia

Since I first heard Alfie Boe sing two Classic Quadrophenia (CQ) songs on his UK Winter Tour, I have been keenly anticipating hearing the whole album live on stage.  The album is tremendous, made more so by the live sounding vocals from Alfie.  Alfie’s set list on his current mini UK tour has included more and more CQ songs and so the anticipation leading up to the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last night has been building to explosive levels.

The announcement of a classical version of a much loved rock work is always going to cause some fans to scratch their heads and wonder why someone is messing with perfection.  CQ was no exception and many Who fans took to social media in their thousands to bemoan this project, despite not having heard a note.  As the album release date got nearer and the promotional schedule ramped up, those voices of dissent became less and less, dwindling to a trickle when the album was released and the full glory of Rachel Fuller’s orchestration was heard in its entirety for the first time.  After last night’s world premiere of the live staging, the rapturous audience reaction leads me to think that the Who fans were completely won over (at least those who were there).

The audience was mainly a mixture of Who fans and Alfie Boe fans – it was easy to spot the Who fans as they stood up en masse when Pete Townshend first came on to the stage – and right from the start, there was a buzz and energy between performers and audience.  Robert Ziegler conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with passion (even donning a parka for the finale) and the London Oriana Choir was wonderful but the night belonged to Alfie, being rarely off stage.  Hearing the songs on tour with a small band and a small orchestra is magnificent but in no way prepared me for hearing Alfie’s sublime voice in harmony with a full orchestra.  Just think of every superlative you’ve ever heard and you’ll be half way there.  Pete Townshend was great (better than I expected if I’m honest), Phil Daniels’s characterisation of the Dad role was brilliant but the biggest surprise for me was how good Billy Idol was.  I admit I’m not very aware of Billy’s music and if I admitted to concerns about the show beforehand, Billy Idol’s part concerned me most.  I needn’t have worried as his voice perfectly suited the material and blended superbly with Alfie.  Their shared moments on stage were amongst the highlights – they were obviously having the time of their lives.

When I reviewed the album a few weeks ago, I said that I loved all the songs, there wasn’t one that I wanted to skip.  Having seen the show live, I stand by that; the music flowed effortlessly and the vocal harmonies were joyful to hear but the star of the show, musically, comes right at the end.  Love Reign O’er Me has become a staple of Alfie’s live shows and amongst his fans this was the song that caused the most excitement.  He didn’t disappoint.  The power of the orchestra complemented exactly the powerhouse vocal performance Alfie gave, leading to the spine tingling  last note when the entire audience rose to its feet as one…and stayed there for a good five to ten minutes (forgive me on this point, I wasn’t looking at my watch!) with rapturous applause throughout.

Numerous curtain calls followed and an encore with all the singers again brought the house down.  Rachel Fuller also received a fabulous welcome when she came to the stage and although all the performers (orchestra excepted) went off stage it was plain that the audience were not ready to see them go and they all trooped out again, Billy Idol minus his shirt.

Pete Townshend is taking the show to Vienna, Cologne and Munich (click here for dates) plus another unconfirmed date and those who see the show there are in for a treat.  For those not so lucky, Sky Arts will be showing the performance tonight at 8pm – and anyone else needs to start praying for a DVD release at the end of the year when all the live dates are over.

Classic Quadrophenia is available here:

classic quad

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Classic Quadrophenia – The Review

Hotly anticipated as one of the albums of the year, Pete Townshend’s orchestral reworking of Quadrophenia is released on 8th June, whilst the live show premieres at the Royal Albert Hall on 5 July.  Later shows in Cologne, Munich and Vienna have also been confirmed for October while a further show is rumoured but not confirmed.

As we know, Alfie Boe takes on the role originated by Roger Daltrey and at least according to Townshend, the two are similar in their approaches to performing; Townshend says that they both “give every performance their all”.  The live performances will be a test of stamina for Alfie as he features on nearly all the tracks so will be on stage for virtually the entire show.

Townshend says that he never thought he’d hear a classical tenor singing his songs and for them to work so well.  The fact that they do sound so good is partly down to Alfie’s majestic voice but also to the outstanding orchestration by Rachel Fuller.   The score sits so well with the original music that you almost can’t believe it’s taken 40 years to happen.  On the face of it, it’s an idea that shouldn’t work but the faithful interpretation by Fuller ensures it works spectacularly well.  The epic scale of a rock opera lends itself to be adapted for opera voices and the classical world and although the tale of disaffected youth at the heart of the story would seem to be at odds with the classical world, it actually gives the story a whole new punch and sounds totally new and fresh.  Again, this approach is quite deliberate on the part of Townshend as he hopes younger audiences will come to appreciate classical works more, a view that Alfie must share, given his views on what constitutes good music.

When I spoke to him a few weeks ago, Alfie mentioned that some parts of the role were “trickier than others, mainly due to the emotion behind the words.”  Alfie has also said that the role is “harder than opera, but thrilling to sing”.  Nothing controversial about that statement Alfie!

Thrilling to sing – I can happily report that the album is also thrilling to listen to!  Alfie’s vocals sound as if they were recorded live, even though they were recorded in Pete Townshend’s studio.  Alfie alluded to this  as “flowing, being right in the groove” and it shows.  The album is totally the Alfie Boe show and hopefully will propel Alfie further into the mainstream public consciousness.  Most of the promotional material has been built around Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia as it’s his project but after the album release and the live shows, I would expect to see a much wider appreciation for Alfie.  This would seem to be backed up by the huge amount of appreciative comments on social media following Alfie’s recent appearance on Sunday Night at the Palladium.

I thoroughly recommend this album – right from the outset, it reaches out and grabs your attention and holds it all the way through.  With most albums and some operas / shows, there is usually one or two songs that you skip when playing.  So far, I haven’t found one I felt the need to skip – all of it is sublime.  There are two stand out tracks that I was lucky enough to hear Alfie sing live on his recent UK tour, I’m One and Love Reign O’er Me, the latter being the final track.  It is also shows off Alfie’s soaring vocals to perfection – a marriage made in heaven:

Classic Quadrophenia will be released by Deutsche Grammophon on 8 June.  To order the deluxe CD and making of DVD click on the image:

classic quad

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