Alfie Boe Songs of Praise


Alfie Boe

West End singing star and popular tenor Alfie Boe talks to Aled Jones about his remarkable journey from a car factory to Broadway, and about the importance of his faith.


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Transcript


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Now then, listen to this rags-to-riches story.

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A few years ago, a young man painted sports cars in a factory in his home town.

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Whilst he worked, he sang.

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A customer overheard and suggested he should audition for a world-class opera company.

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They took him on, and so began the journey that would lead to the West End and Broadway.

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Well, that singer is my guest on this week's Songs Of Praise.

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His name - Alfie Boe.

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-# If I die... #

-Alfie has had

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a wonderfully varied career.

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He performs not just in operas, but musicals such as Les Miserables,

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and he's recorded hymns and pop songs.

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Alfie refuses to be pigeonholed

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and is driven by a passion for good music.

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In this special Songs Of Praise,

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Alfie talks about the importance to him of faith and family.

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He learns more about the power of music through the work of a special charity

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and, together with an invited congregation,

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Alfie performs some of his favourite songs and hymns.

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I'm here at the world-renowned AIR recording studios in North London,

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which, incidentally, used to be a church.

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We have our congregation ready and eager to sing.

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But there's one person missing from the party, and that's our special guest.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Alfie Boe!

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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-First, congratulations on a glittering career.

-Thank you.

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-You're riding high.

-It's going really well.

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-Enjoying life, then?

-Absolutely.

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Have you recorded in these studios before?

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I have. Recently, actually.

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It's a wonderful place, with a lot of history.

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Usually recording studios are quite sterile, aren't they?

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They are, yeah. And very lonely, as well.

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You're normally in a vocal booth on your own,

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drinking lots of tea and eating honey.

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-Ah, that's the secret! Not lonely today, though.

-No! Absolutely.

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-Are you looking forward to it?

-Very much so.

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-Are you going to lead us in our first hymn?

-Yes, I chose Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer.

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-That good Welsh hymn.

-Absolutely. In honour of you, Aled!

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Thank you very much, Alfie. The stage is yours.

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-Hey. Well done.

-Hey, thanks, Aled.

-Sung like a true Welshman!

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-Bless you, thank you.

-You enjoyed that.

-I did, I did.

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-It's one of my favourite hymns.

-You were born in Blackpool.

-Yes.

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-Alfred Giovanni Roncalli Boe.

-Thanks for that(!) Cheers.

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It just trips off the tongue, it really does!

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Alfie for short.

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-Named after a Pope?

-Yes, Pope John XXIII, I was named after.

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There's no Italian in the family at all,

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I was just named after the Pope, so I suppose recording star,

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West End, Broadway...

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Vatican is the next place for me, I suppose.

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-You haven't sung there yet?

-I haven't yet, no.

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That's one for the list!

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You're from a Catholic family.

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-One of nine children.

-Yeah, the youngest of nine.

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I have five sisters and three brothers.

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-What was that like growing up?

-Wonderful.

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Lots of music around the house. The house was never empty.

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It was just a noisy place. It was wonderful though, really nice.

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And how important was the Catholicism side of growing up?

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Very important, you know. It still is to me now.

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I mean, my faith is something that's very strong to me.

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As a performer, Aled, you must know that you need a lot of faith

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to get up and do what we have to do, to believe it's going to go well,

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believe that you're on the right path.

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-What's it like when you're up there? When I'm on stage...

-Scary!

-Apart from scary!

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When you're in darkness with one light on you, do you feel that's your connection with God?

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For me, that's more powerful than even going to church.

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No, I do feel that, very much so.

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'It's very difficult to explain to somebody who's not a performer

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'the little journey you go through to produce a song

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'and produce an emotion. But no, you're right.

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'When the light hits you and you're on that stage on your own,

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'that's your world and that's a very spiritual place.'

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-Lots in your career has happened by chance. Do you believe in a guiding hand?

-I do, I do.

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I remember the day that it happened, I got this impulse to perform.

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It was just like somebody had switched a light on

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or lit a flame inside me that I wanted to perform.

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It was a very strange feeling

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and I haven't stopped pursuing my ultimate goal from that day onwards.

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-Do you think what you've got is a God-given gift?

-Absolutely.

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I mean, all our talents are God-given, you know,

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and I believe that it's just what you do with them that matters.

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You have to use them to the best of your ability to help others.

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-So in a way, you're singing to glorify God.

-Exactly, yeah. Without a doubt.

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Well, thank you very much for now, Alfie.

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There'll be more from Alfred Roncalli - no, Giovanni Roncalli Boe... Confusing me!

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..in a short while.

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When this building was a church,

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I'm sure this next hymn was sung here on numerous occasions.

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It's great that our congregation are giving it an airing now. It's To God Be The Glory.

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Although fame has changed Alfie's life,

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he's still keen to support causes close to his heart,

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especially those connected to music.

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This event is a fundraiser for the charity Nordoff Robbins,

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who help ill and disabled children and adults through music therapy.

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He's here to collect an award from his friend,

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the comedian Matt Lucas.

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He's a fantastic artist, he's really broken through this year,

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and he definitely deserves this award.

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Please welcome the UK's leading tenor,

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Mr Alfie Boe, ladies and gentlemen.

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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Thank you so much and thank you for that wonderful introduction, Matt.

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I also want to speak on behalf of all the artists in the room

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to thank Nordoff Robbins

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for giving us the opportunity to become therapists,

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in a sense, for such a worthy cause,

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and to help these children and adults get through their trials in life.

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God bless you, and keep up the good work. Thank you.

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APPLAUSE

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Keen to see the work of the charity in action,

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Alfie heads to North London to help at one of their music therapy sessions.

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Music is a way of communicating that doesn't need words,

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so it is particularly effective for people

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who can't use words to communicate.

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Music makes sense to them.

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It makes sense to somebody, for example, who has autism,

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or an old person with dementia

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and they suddenly find that they can communicate again with the people around them.

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# Listen to everyone

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# Listen to everyone

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# Listen to everyone... #

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That was very special.

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It was a real special moment to be a part of.

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#...and Alfie play Listen to... #

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You can watch so many videos

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and footage of sessions,

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but actually being a part of one and having them hold your hand

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and make contact with you while they're making music

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was something else. Really special.

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# What you are

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# Twinkle, twinkle

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# Little star

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# How I wonder... #

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'Music is a very spiritual thing.

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'It's inside us all and it just takes a tune'

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to ignite the fire inside us, to make us dance, make us sing,

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make us play music and clap our hands, whatever it is.

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But that's the power of music.

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-I enjoyed that. Thanks for singing with me.

-Pleasure!

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Now, what's this about being discovered spray-painting cars?

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-It's almost too good to be true.

-It really happened, actually.

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I used to get a lot of encouragement from my work colleagues

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to sing and to pursue it,

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but then I used to get a lot of encouragement from customers as well,

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who used to overhear me.

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One guy in particular was buying a car from the factory

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and I was working on it. I was at the end of the line, polishing it, making it look good.

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This gentleman was involved in the business in some form

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and told me about an audition that was taking place in London

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with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

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He said, "You'd be really good to go along and sing.

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"Why don't you have a shot?"

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So I did. I came down to London, took the day off work,

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surrounded by lots of classical singers and it wasn't my world.

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They were all there in their suits and their scarves.

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I sang my heart out as best I could and got the job.

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-I got taken on in the ensemble.

-It's a great story, isn't it?

-It is.

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Do you ever think back and imagine,

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"What would have happened if I hadn't got that job?"

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I do sometimes, yeah, but I never really try and look back.

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I'm always looking ahead.

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Life's changed for you now as well because you're a father.

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Yes, yes I am. Very happy.

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-My little girl, Gracie.

-Are you bringing her up through a faith at all?

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Yeah, we're a Catholic family so we're going to be taking her

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through the teaching, so that'll be good.

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Have you learnt any parenting skills from your father?

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I can change a nappy in two minutes now.

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In two minutes! That's good.

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I know that your dad was a massive influence on your life, wasn't he?

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-Yes, he was.

-Not just musically.

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No, no, my father was a great friend as well as a father.

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He was a lovely guy, and sadly missed, but he taught me a lot.

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-And you were with your dad to the very end?

-Yes, I was.

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I was lucky enough to be able to be there at his side

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and holding him while he passed away,

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which is a very special, very spiritual moment,

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and it is a blessing to be able to do that.

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The sadness comes along, but that's only our selfish needs.

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I am blessed that I got to see my father die,

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and blessed that I got to see my daughter born.

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It's two ends of the scale. It's a wonderful thing.

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Now, I want you to picture the scene, OK?

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At home, wherever you'll be. Gracie comes up to you and says,

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"Dad, I really, really want to follow in your footsteps."

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What does Alfie Boe say to her?

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Don't do it. No, no...

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I would be absolutely thrilled.

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She's already dancing and singing like crazy. She builds her own stages.

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She gets a suitcase and puts it, she says, "This is my stage,"

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and she'll stand on a suitcase and perform.

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-I wonder where she gets it from!

-I haven't got a clue.

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-Well, she's lucky to have you as a dad.

-Thank you.

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You're going to sing for us now. What are you going to sing?

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It's a beautiful song called In My Daughter's Eyes.

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-If you want to make your way to the stage...

-Thank you.

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Thanks for now, Alfie.

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Well, what a treat. This is going to be brilliant, I assure you.

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Alfie Boe singing In My Daughter's Eyes.

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# I am a hero

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# I am strong and wise

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# And I know no fear

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# But the truth is plain to see

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# She was sent to rescue me

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# I see who I want to be

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# Everyone is equal

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# Darkness turns to light

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# And the world's at peace

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# This miracle God gave to me

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# Gives me strength when I am weak

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# I find reason to believe

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# And when she wraps her hand around my finger

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# Oh, it puts a smile in my heart

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# Everything becomes a little clearer

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# I realise what life is all about

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# It's hanging on when your heart has had enough

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# It's giving more when you feel like giving up

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# I've seen the light

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# In my daughter's eyes

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# I can see the future

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# A reflection of who I am

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# And what will be

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# Though she'll grow and some day leave

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# Maybe raise a family

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# When I'm gone, I hope you'll see

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# How happy she made me

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# For I'll be there

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# In my daughter's eyes. #

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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What did I tell you? Just beautiful.

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In My Daughter's Eyes, poignantly sung there by Alfie Boe.

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Whilst he takes a well-deserved break,

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it's time for you to do some singing,

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and we're going to carry on with the idea of God-given miracles.

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This is the nation's favourite hymn, How Great Thou Art.

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It's a couple of hours before curtain up,

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and Alfie has arrived at the West End theatre

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where he's appearing as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

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This is my little den,

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my little dressing room.

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This is home for the next five months.

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It's cosy, it's nice.

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I get myself together here. Put the lights on.

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This is it.

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Welcome to my dressing room.

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There's one particular song of Jean Valjean's

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that has a special significance for Alfie.

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Without a doubt, for me the emotional highlight is Bring Him Home,

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which in the show is called The Prayer.

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It's such a beautiful song, but it's also such a beautiful prayer.

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He's praying to God for the protection of Marius,

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who is a student revolutionary

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who has fallen in love with his daughter Cosette.

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It's a very strange feeling that I get whenever I sing it.

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I'm actually praying.

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It is a prayer, and I do pray, even if I do this every single night.

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The audience reaction is incredible.

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I think it can really tug at the heartstrings of every listener.

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They seem to really be drawn in by it.

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# God on high

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# Hear my prayer

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# In my need

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# You have always been there

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# He is young

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# He's afraid

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# Let him rest

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# Heaven blessed

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# Bring him home

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# Bring him home

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# Bring him home

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# He's like the son I might have known

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# If God had granted me a son

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# The summers die

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# One by one

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# How soon they fly

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# On and on

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# And I am old

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# And will be gone

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# Bring him peace

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# Bring him joy

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# He is young

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# He is only a boy

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# You can take

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# You can give

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# Let him be

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# Let him live

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# If I die

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# Let me die

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# Let him live

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# Bring him home

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# Bring him home

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# Bring him home. #

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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-That was fantastic.

-Thank you.

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On stage, do you ever pinch yourself that this is actually happening to you?

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Absolutely, every day. I'm a lucky man, very much so.

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-You make a lot of people happy. Doesn't he?

-AUDIENCE: Yes!

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Thank you so much for your company today,

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and all the best in your fantastic career.

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-Many thanks for that, Aled.

-Alfie Boe, ladies and gentlemen.

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APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

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And we're going to end with another stirring hymn,

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Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.

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From Alfie, myself and all of us here at AIR Studios in London,

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till next time, bye-bye.

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Next week, I'm in Halifax in West Yorkshire,

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where I discover the power and the passion of two-wheeled transport.

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There are wonderful hymns from one of Britain's newest minsters,

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and an exclusive chat

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and performance from country music legend Glen Campbell.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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West End singing star and popular tenor Alfie Boe talks to Aled Jones about his remarkable journey from a car factory to Broadway, and about the importance of his faith and family. He performs some of his favourite hymns and songs, including Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.


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