Hello! – I can’t believe its almost Christmas! This year has flown by, but what a year it’s been.
The first part of 2014 was taken up with my Sky Arts TV series, which we actually began preparing for this time last year! First up was song choice … we went through many different songs from many different musicals but of course there were some that I’d had on a list for a long time that I wanted to sing, so they went to the top. Sky also wanted to me to sing 4 classic tracks, which would make up part of the ‘white room’ sequence (more of that later.) Then in March we started all the behind the scenes filming. We had already chosen our students for the ‘One to Watch’ feature and now we had to film the special inserts which showed me listening and watching their performance and then helping them with direction and singing technique, a bit like a masterclass, before they came on the programme to sing live.
At this time we also filmed all the, (what we called,) White Room footage. This is where I was surrounded by costumes from the many musicals I have appeared in, along with memorabilia, and I chatted about a particular song I was about to sing. My producer, Rachel Ashdown, and I spent a day in my storeroom going through boxes of props, cuttings, photographs and of course costumes choosing the right things to go with the particular song.
Then came the glamorous part … visiting Jaques Azagury Knightsbridge boutique to discuss and try on various gowns. I’ve known Jacques for many years, in fact he designed and dressed me for my first concert tour in the 80’s, and it’s always a delight and such fun working with him. My stylist Rebecca Allen also took me shopping around London for other outfits (it’s a hard life!) that I’d be wearing throughout the series including a visit to Faberge in London, where the lovely Rene Serres assisted in helping chose the jewellery to compliment my outfits.
After all the preparations and many production meetings our first studio day finally arrived! It was extremely busy, great fun and all extremely exciting to film. It was fantastic to have so many wonderful guests and lovely to see so many familiar faces in the audience. We film 4 of the programmes at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, one was a compilation of all the shows including bits we couldn’t fit in each week … outtakes … and one we filmed at the beautifully restored Drury Lane theatre. This was an Andrew Lloyd Webber special and we sat for over an hour chatting and discussing highlights of his career, which was thrilling and I discovered a few surprises along the way! Who knew Love Never Dies was his favourite work!
During all this I did have some time to do other things (believe it or not!) In February I attended the 30th Anniversary Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel for The Children’s Trust Ball, a charity very close to my heart, as I’ve been Vice President since it first began back in the 1980’s, and we all managed to raise over £75,000 on the night. I attended this year’s Olivier Awards on Sunday 13th April where I presented once again the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award which went to …. Les Miserables! Amazing … it just keeps going on and on getting more successful! Congratulations! And I managed to keep up with what’s going on in the West End by attending several productions including a great night at Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Epstein (a brilliant play about The Beatles manager), a fantastic production of Porgy & Bess, the very, very funny Forbidden Broadway where yours truly is portrayed by someone walking on her knees (!!!) and the exceptional Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit.
I have also been made a member of BAFTA, so I can now see movies and attend Q&As, lectures, and generally support this leading charity of art forms of the moving image at their beautiful premises on Piccadilly. What a treat!
At the end of recording the TV series in April I took myself off for a short break in France and managed to attend the Monte Carlo Rolex Master Tennis Tournament as part of the ATP World Tour, which of course is my idea of heaven … well in fact tennis anywhere!!
I then came back for the transmission of the first episode of The EP Show on Sky Arts. It first aired on Wednesday 14th May and Fresh One, the production company who produced the series, threw a special screening party at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden where we all sat in the cinema room and watched episode 1 on the big screen!! I certainly didn’t’ look short!! Ha ha! So wonderful to see all our hard work eventually being broadcast!
Then it was off to Harrogate and the beautiful Nidd Hall on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park for an intimate concert followed closely by a performance at the Gala Dinner for the Terrence Higgins Trust, the charity that does so much to raise awareness for HIV and those living with the terrible disease. This was an amazing night! Held at the stunning One Marylebone, a beautiful converted church in London, and hosted by Stephen Fry the whole event managed to raise over £500,000 …. Incredible, and huge thanks to all the supporters who attended!
June was a busy month as we started to prepare for my 50th Anniversary concert tour. I had decided this was going to be my last ‘tour’ – as I’ve said in interview, I’m not retiring … definitely not! … but I just felt it was time to hang up my touring shoes. I’ll still do one off concerts, but waking up in a different hotel every day, travelling huge distances and then having to sing, and then do it all again the next day is something I feel I have to stop doing. So when we all sat down to plan and I said this is my ‘farewell tour’ we all knew it had to be something special.
As the tour plans progressed I held my now annual Children’s Charity Clay Pigeon Shoot at Holland & Holland in Northwood, Middlesex on June 10th where I was joined by 60 guests & friends including the lovely Bernard Cribbins, who I did Anything Goes with a while back at the Prince Edward theatre, and we were thrilled to raise £20,000 for the charity! Look out and join up for next year’s event on June 4th at the same venue. Hope to see some of you there!
I was then asked to perform at the London nightclub G-A-Y! A venue which has had appearances by the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey, Kylie, Miley Cyrus and many, many more. Exciting and terrifying at the same time! I’d never done anything like this before and didn’t really know what to expect. Would this crowd of young clubbers (I think that’s what they’re called!) know musical theatre songs?? I need not have worried. The club promoter, Jeremy Joseph, made the evening a spectacular event, he’d built a balcony for me to sing Argentina on, and had confetti canons set for the finale, which I had chosen to be the recent Almighty re-mix of Be On Your Own from my recently released The Ultimate Collection CD. We arrived at 1am (yes 1am!!!) ready to go on stage at 1.30am and the place was packed! Everyone pushed up against the stage, all singing along to With One Look, Memory, Argentina (all with their arms in the air a la Eva Peron as I stood on the balcony) and dancing along to the disco beat of Be On Your Own. They wouldn’t let me leave. So I ‘returned’ and did sang an a capella version of I Know Him So Well with this brilliant crowd singing Barbara Dickson’s part! A wonderful fun time and I didn’t leave until well past 3am! I definitely needed a Sunday lie in!
A few days later I was involved with another type of club this time a golf club!! It was the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust Celebrity Golf Challenge. Held at Wentworth golf club in Surrey. This annual event is a great day & evening which includes rounds of golf, dinner in the ballroom and an auction with all proceeds benefiting this great cause. A cheque for over £14,000 was presented and is testament to the successful format of this event, our long-standing and of course new team supporters and by no means least, the superb organisation by Gilly English.
I filled out the rest of June with an interview on the funny as always Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio 2, the Jersey Boys movie at BAFTA (a must see!), watching a concert performance by the incredibly talented John Owen Jones, who had recently been a guest on my TV series and then I took myself back to my youth with an evening at Hampton Court Palace watching the Beach Boys in concert!!! Oh what a night!
Of course in the middle of all this was Wimbledon fortnight … a sacred 14 days for me! Nothing else is allowed in the diary! I was lucky enough to be invited to several games including an afternoon in the Royal Box – always a special treat – and I also held two lunches in aid of the Dan Maskell Tennis Trust, which were followed by watching matches on centre court. Other than that I watched as much as I could at home on the TV. I have to say I was gutted my favourite Federer was defeated, but congratulations to Djokovic for playing a spectacular game. Nail biting stuff!
In July the great and talented Elaine Stritch passed, such a loss not only as an artist, but as a friend. We spent many a fun time in New York having tea, visiting each other backstage and just putting the world to right. New York won’t feel the same without her being there. RIP Elaine!
In August we continued with preparations and ideas for the 50th Anniversary concert. Looking through videotapes, dvds, photographs, memorabilia etc to include in the video footage being edited, which would eventually be screened at the concerts showing me through the ages, friends and colleagues. I also took another musical theatre Masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. A fascinating afternoon working with some very talented students, all studying to be in the profession.
This year as I’m sure you know was also the centenary of World War One and I not only went to see the spectacular poppies at the Tower of London, but also participated in the Lights Out event. Everyone in the UK was invited to turn off their lights between 10pm and 11pm on 4 August 2014 – leaving only a single light or candle for a symbolic act of reflection and hope. A very moving occasion as I looked out over London and it almost became dark for an hour.
September kicked off with the 10th Anniversary of ‘Elaine Paige On Sunday’ on Sunday 7th …. 10 years!!! I can hardly believe it. I really do love the radio show and I know so many of you all do too. We had the best news ever this year in that we broke audience figures for the programme, so I’d like to thank everyone for listening and everyone at BBC Radio 2 who continue to support me, in particular my producer the lovely Jessica Rickson. Here’s to many more years!!
On Thursday 2nd October I was honoured, and humbled, by being presented the Inspiration Award at this year’s Women’s Awards in support of Breakthrough Cancer. The event was held at Cadogan Hall and was a very glamorous evening, but slightly bittersweet for me, as I’d just heard my dear friend Lynda Bellingham had made the decision not to fight her cancer anymore and to die with dignity. A terribly sad decision, but one I respected wholeheartedly, and so I decided to dedicate my award that night to her. Sadly a few weeks later Lynda died at home with her family around her. RIP Lynda. I will miss her.
Well we were now on the home run to the UK concert tour! Oh …. Its really happening! All that hard work, all those days of choosing which songs to sing, the running order, the set designs, the costumes, the videos were now becoming reality. With final rehearsals and run throughs at a studio space in South London and then we were off to Cardiff for the first show! Thursday 9th October we all arrived at St David’s Hall it was show time!!!
This concert tour was incredibly special and emotional for me! I felt the love and support from the packed houses every night! You’ve made it very hard for me to say ‘goodbye’!
During the tour one night someone left on my dressing table an edition of ‘Hello’ magazine, which had a feature about me going back to the Prince Edward theatre where I played Evita and relived some memories … wasn’t that Cats? There were some fabulous new photos taken by Alan Olley! But alas no time to read it as off another concert … this time in Newcastle!
Of course one of the most thrilling nights on the tour was the Royal Albert Hall. Not only to be performing again at this prestigious venue, but to also have the BBC Concert Orchestra with me, my special guest Gardar Thor Cortes who really brought the roof off the place, the students from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts joining for a song or two and the whole event being recorded for BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night Is Music Night and for future release on dvd!! No pressure then! It was a special evening for me with a surprise at the end when Andrew Lloyd Webber & Time Rice came on and presented me with flowers. I had no idea … I thought someone was coming on to tell me I’d overrun time-wise!
All this celebration and happiness was quickly followed by huge disappointment! The week before I had, unknown to me, come into contact with someone who had a severe virus which I guess with all the travelling and hard work I was susceptible to and by Wednesday morning I not only had no speaking voice, I couldn’t sing a note!! Visits to the doctor, a specialist and vocal coach all concluded with the devastating fact Brighton, the last concert on my tour, had to be postponed. I was then told unless I rested until the virus was 100% out of my system I could do damage to my voice. So not only was Brighton cancelled, but I also had to postpone the Irish leg of my farewell tour.
I can only apologise to all my fans in Brighton. We will try and do something next year in or near Brighton, but venue and tour personnel availability meant we couldn’t re-schedule. However to my Irish fans I’ll see you all in February as we have now managed to re-schedule those shows.
After five weeks I was eventually feeling fit and well and it was time to pack for Australia.
I arrived in Sydney and immediately the warmth of the Australian sunshine did me the power of good! I managed to fit in a few sightseeing adventures before performing at the State Theatre in Sydney (the theatre where my 40th Anniversary concert was filmed) Always a pleasure to play. Acoustically one of the best venues and of course the Australian audiences always raise the roof. I also had the opportunity to meet up with some old friends and make some new ones too! Thank you Sydney!
And then it was onto Hamer Hall in Melbourne for another concert, this time a flying visit – in and out sadly – but another memorable night and a little sad as I knew this would be my last performance of the year and I was homeward bound.
And now I’m back in London readying myself for Christmas. The temperature isn’t a lot different to Australia!!!! Yea right!! Oh my goodness its cold. Really wintery. So I better wrap up as I go out and get ready for Christmas.
Let me take this opportunity to say thank you all for being so supportive not only this year but for the past 50 years – I know some of you have been there from the start and are still ‘out there in the dark.’
Here’s wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy & healthy 2015.