Here we are in April! Spring is here and I thought it was about time I caught up with you all! It’s been a busy time as I’m sure you’re all aware from my Twitter feed so here goes …
Well a lot of last year was spent listening, researching, and remembering the late sixties & early seventies, to piece together my new concert.
It was an idea born from working with the great Phil Ramone – a producer I had hankered after working with for years. They say everything comes to those who wait. And making the album Elaine Paige & Friends with him in 2010 in New York was one of the best recording pleasures I‘ve ever had. We sat one day in the studio and discussed our favourite artists, our favourite songwriters and somewhere in the middle of the conversation I said I loved Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and Jim Webb … and both Phil and I said “Nilsson Newman & Webb that’d make an interesting project … Having made the decision not to do a back to back tour again, we decided to do a series of ‘weekend’ concerts. This appealed to me not only because of the schedule, but as I’d marked my 50 years on stage, this was going to allow me to do something completely different, a brand new show!
Cut to July 2016 and I was well into it, aside from my annual pause for Wimbledon, I decided to try out a few new songs, at a concert at Snape Maltings Aldeburgh Music Festival, a beautiful restored barn that had the most wonderful acoustics! The few songs I added to my repertoire seemed to go down rather well with the audience that night so they went on the list, which I can tell you was growing by the day!
We were now in August and my MD John G Smith & I were well into rehearsal with some 30 new songs, which would have to be eventually whittled down to 18 or so. That’s the hardest part! Deciding which ones stay which have to go. This is always so difficult, especially when working with such fantastic material. Sadly it usually comes down to tempo, style and how each song fits into the running order of the evening – where does it take us on the journey.
As August turned into September I began looking as well at the running order & writing the personal stories behind the songs and their individual meanings to me. A song can bring back so many memories … excuse the pun … where you were when you heard it, what you were doing, how you felt – just those first few notes can transport you back in time so quickly.
In the middle of all this research and rehearsal I was taken, on September 10th, for the first time to The Last Night of The Proms at The Royal Albert Hall. What a fun and joyful evening! The whole audience was waving EU or Union Jack flags (guess which I had?) everyone singing ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ and ‘Jerusalem’ to name just two. Instead of singing along at home in front of the TV I’m actually here live in the Hall! It’s the best fun.
A few days later I take my first visit of which there will be 3 or 4 to Jacques Azagury who designed and made my dress for the concert dates. I wanted something that had influences of the sixties, that had movement and, as I wanted this concert to be more focused on the music, it needed to work across the whole evening, as I didn’t want to be making costume changes throughout.
During this time I also went to see the Ron Howard documentary film of The Beatles at BAFTA. This was further inspiration to me and of course brought back wonderful memories of my youth visiting Liverpool, the Cavern and of course the amazing time when I met and worked with Paul McCartney.
As well as my concert I was also asked by BMG to help put together a CD featuring some of my favourite songs from the musicals.
As I said in the CD notes:
“When I made my West End debut in 1968 I couldn’t have imagined how huge a role musicals would play in my life for the next five decades, and the joy and excitement they would bring me.
And from all the thousands of messages I receive from you at BBC Radio 2 each week, I know I’m not alone in my passion!
Over the past 12 years as host on my own show on Sunday afternoons, I’ve been celebrating the music of the West End and Broadway with over 2.5 million of you – it’s become obvious to me how much musical theatre is enjoying a fantastic resurgence of popularity.
So what better time to share some of my own favourite songs from the stage, including a special few from Yours Truly! I hope you enjoy my choices.”
And I hope you all did enjoy my choices. It was so very hard! Another huge list to edit down! We had enough for at least 6 CDs, but we worked hard along with the record company to make the final list which ended up being 3 CDs .
I was now the end of September and I started rehearsals in the studio with the band, and realized this is it! It’s now or never!!! But thankfully it really starts coming together and the excitement grows!! And before I know it we’re in Guildford for the first concert on October 1st and we’re off! First two shows got wonderful audience reaction and the reviews were great! All that hard work paid off … phew!
Throughout October, November and December I travelled across the UK every weekend performing in intimate, beautiful theatres where I saw many familiar faces everywhere I went. I’m so grateful that so many of you travel far and wide to support me and I love meeting you all afterwards at each venue.
The schedule of ‘weekend’ concerts allowed to me to do other things along the way such as visiting LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which was opened in 1996 and co-founded by Lead Patron Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty RNOM OBE (LIPA’s Principal.) Its an incredible place that teaches all skills to do with theatre both on stage and behind the scenes – acting, dance, costumes, set design and building, sound and recording, etc. I was interviewed on stage in front of a theatre full of students by Mark Featherstone-Witty followed by a Q&A and afterwards was given a tour of the building.
The ‘Presents the Musicals’ CD was released during this time too and to promote it I appeared on several TV shows including The One Show, BBC Breakfast, Lorraine, Strictly Come Dancing (where I sang ‘Argentina’ wearing another stunning creation from Jacques Azagury) and finally what turned out to be one of the funniest times I’ve ever spent on a TV show, Sunday Brunch, along with the hilarious Bradley Walsh. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much promoting a CD release!
Finally it was Christmas and time to put my feet up, relax and indulge in all the things I love but can’t eat or drink while singing – have to take care of the voice!
Well here we are already well into 2017. Where does the time go?? Aside from my weekly BBC Radio 2 show I’ve been filming a TV drama …. Can’t say anything yet, but will let you all know soon! And we’ve just announced another series of concert dates. So many of you wanted me to bring the concert to a town where you live, but we couldn’t fit them all in last time … so here comes ‘Part Two’!
And last week just to keep the pipes open I sang at The Savoy in London to celebrate Laurie Holloway’s career. He was my first ever concert MD. We first worked together over 30 years ago. He taught me so much. I’d never toured in concert before and had no idea about the arrangements, the structure, how to take an audience on a journey. Then we sat on the tour bus eating fish & chips, studying form and he then went and put a bet on the horses for me. I think I won once!
Well Easter is upon us …. Bunnies, chicks and … Mmmmmm chocolate Easter Eggs! Don’t eat too many … oh what the heck … we’re allowed! So have fun and I look forward to seeing you all soon.