Fans of Alfie Boe will be aware that he comes from a large, musical family and it was my pleasure recently, to interview one of his older brothers, Michael. Together with Sean Ashmore, Michael runs North Star Opera and they have recently released an album "A La Voix" and a charity single, "Softly As I Leave You" in aid of cancer charities.
Q We know you're from a musical family so what is your earliest musical memory?
A: I remember, as a child listening to old gramophone records, yes I'm really that old! I longed to go into the church choir and became a chorister at the age of 9. At home, my main musical memory was of course my parents singing, marvelling that my mam seemed to have a song for every situation. She still does.
Q I understand you trained to be a BSL interpreter, are you still doing that and how does it fit in with North Star Opera?
A: I am a qualified BSL interpreter and that is what pays the bills. I've always had a great interest in languages and once we founded NSO, I made sure that we involved sign language interpretation in all our productions.
Q Tell me about North Star Opera and your collaboration with Sean Ashmore - how long have you been working together?
A: I first met Sean when I was singing the role of Ernani in Verdi's opera, Ernani. He came in as a rehearsal pianist. This was 20 years ago and we've collaborated ever since. We set up North Star Opera in partnership with the Arts Council in 2003. He is also my Civil Partner and generally keeps me sane.
Q I listened to the sample of "Anthem" on youtube which sounds very different to your new CD "A La Voix"; how did you choose the music for this album?
A: Anthem was a departure for us; a chance to sing some of the modern songs we love. I'll pass over to Sean to talk a little about his musical approach....
Hi all....Sean here....my take on Anthem was inspired by the USA hit show 'Smash' ... Quality modern songs but presented in a classic way. The songs on Anthem reflect some new classics and we were delighted to be able to work on these new presentations. Sequencing these songs was an absolute delight and choosing the song layouts enabled me to work alongside Michael in a slightly different way than in the songs for 'A La Voix'.
Q If you are able to record any more albums in the future, which direction would you like to go in?
A: We always enjoy recording and we are already planning a programme of classical oratorio pieces such as Verdi's Requiem, Puccini's Messa di Gloria and perhaps some Handel. We'll see. What would people like us to do? Let us know. No rap please.
Q If you could perform in any venue in the world, which one would it be?
A: We were always made so welcome in Canada and Italy but we love performing in intimate settings. We have just bought a house in the south of France and there is an old church in the Pyrenees nearby. I've got my eye on that.
Q If you could perform with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose?
A: I am a HUGE Callas fan and would have loved to have sung with her. I also adore my baby brother too and have loved singing with him when we occasionally end up on the same continent.
Q Will you be performing anywhere to promote the new album?
A: There are no plans yet, we are currently restoring the house in France and our son Brendan has GCSE's coming up so most of our time is currently spent persuading him to revise ;)
Q Finally, one Alfie related question! Has Alfie listened to any of your music and what does he think?
A: Alfie has always been very supportive. I'm the one who originally gave him his first opera LP of Boheme and we are very close. I am so incredibly proud of him.
As ever, thank you for reading and for all your support - and don't forget, Michael and Sean want to know your thoughts on any future recordings!