At one point in the conversation Alfie Boe jokes we should set up a website for people with bad middle names.
The much-loved singer’s suggestion is triggered by my puzzlement over Alfie’s, which is Giovanni Roncalli, and his surprise at mine, which is Henry Dobbie.
Are you proud of your Italian roots, I ask the man who’s as comfortable – and successful - singing in The Who rock musical Quadrophenia or on those ITV specials with his friend Michael Ball as he is with operatic arias on Classic FM or 30s jazz-blues classics on his new album, As Time Goes By.
“I have no Italian roots. My mum gave me that name after a Pope,” Alfie replies.
There was a frisson of Boe mania locally when it was first announced that Alfie was bringing his As Time Goes By Tour to Harrogate Convention Centre next year.
As big on Broadway as he is on British stages, nothing about the likable 45-year-old’s life or career is what you’d expect.
Born in Bolton one of nine children, Alfie’s natural vocals talents were discovered aged 17, in of all places, the car factory where he worked polishing cars.
Alfie said: “I was singing along to the radio and a gentlemen who was buying a car heard me.
“It turned out he was well connected in the music industry. By the next day I was down on in London and offered opportunities which led me to the Royal College of Music.
“It was a difficult decision to leave the car factory. It was security. But I had to have a go.”
His latest album was inspired not only by the big band music his mother and father loved but by his own passion for the sounds of the Zoot suit era in America, a time he’s clearly got a deep historical appreciation of.
Alfie said: “The songs on As Time Goes By aren’t just about romance. Artists like Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong gave birth to radio stations, records labels and the record industry at a time when race was an issue. But the music couldn’t be silenced.”
A man who doesn’t like any musical barriers, Alfie says he sees it all as “one world."
But he retains his sense of fun at all times and reveals he is set to work with Michael Ball again next year, despite Boe's previous claim the naughty boys of singing now travel on separate buses - which may be tongue in cheek. He has form!
Alfie Boe’s As Time Goes By is at Harrogate Convention Centre on April 6, 2019.
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