Monday, 24 October 2011

"And the Winner Was..."

With my choir (United Voice)'s next concert coming up so soon, I realised that I hadn't even written a post about their last concert, which was in fact a lot of fun!...

On 28th May 2011, the choir performed our latest concert "And the Winner is..." (a celebration of award-winning music of the stage and screen).
It was certainly one of the best concerts the choir has performed to date. It was quite the event, with the ladies glammed up in black and gold ensembles and the men all dressed up gangster style, sporting pinstriped trilbys, black shirts and white braces!

Our home venue, The Millennium Ballroom at Southport's Temperance Institute was decorated in true showbiz style, complete with red carpet, red theatrical certain swags, twinking lights and six foot Oscars either side of the stage.
Our botanical beauties, June Dudley and June Wright did a great job with the floral decorations as usual and with great music, accompanied Michael Greenhalgh at the piano and Tom Chester on the drums, the choir and soloists outdid themselves. It was a majorly fun night all round and the nicest thing was, I think this was the first choir concert I wasn't ill after!... Actually forget I said that... mustn't tempt fate!
It really is exhausting work puling together each concert with a large group of people, what with preparing the music, writing fresh new arrangements, teaching the songs each week to the choir, preparing practice resources and directing (amongst other incidental things, all of which I couldn't manage without the help of my family - especially my lovely Francesca), but each concert the choir just get better and better and make it so worth while.

I'm always so proud of them after each concert and this one certainly set the standard for our next upcoming concert!

One of the many floral arrangements by our
lovely flower ladies in the choir:

In rehearsal for "And the Winner is...":

The boys posing in the dressing room.
Very cool fellas!:

In performance (before sunset):

Evening arrives and the magic begins!:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Sweet :)

Ok, this is completely unrelated to music... I confess, I'm addicted to sugar. I know it... and more particularly chocolate. Right now I'm waiting in anticipation (well, not just sat here waiting) for my wife to return home with Sainsbury's triple chocolate chip cookies (they're good!) which I will devour without leaving a crumb and will (guaranteed) be disappointed when they are gone, because I will definitely be able to manage plenty more!

It's bad because I'd much sooner eat than drink and it's no wonder I get headaches at the end of the day from dehydration, when I'd always much sooner consume a Cadburys!

Curse you sugar! (in a loving way)
Why do you have to be so good?

Oh well, I guess as they say, the first step to recovery is admitting it!

Think I'll write a song about it... call it "Bittersweet symphony"? no... that's been done. Maybe "Sweet Disposition"... no, apparently that's been taken too by The Temper Trap.

Still, sounds like a good inspiration for a lyric!

Maybe not quite so unrelated after all :)

Friday, 4 March 2011

This weekend's performance...

Just a quick note to remind those who are local, that I'll be performing at St. Peter's parish church, Darwen (Lancashire) alongside local soprano Sarah Louise and funny man Don Banks, who will be hosting the evening.

The concert is entitled "How Can I Keep From Singing?" (inspired by my album of the same title) and will include some great songs, all chosen to uplift, inspire, amuse and remind you that you're glad to be alive!
I'll also be performing several of the songs that feature on my latest album "And I Love You So", which is incidentally available on my website (can you tell I want you to buy it?!)

Further details are provided on the poster above. You can enlarge it by clicking on the image.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Back on air...

Was great fun visiting BBC Radio Lancashire last Wed (23rd Feb), to be a panelist along side local fundraiser Mic Cowgill and actor Michael (Mike) McKell, and to perform live in their Radio Theatre.

It's been a while since I went on the radio, but the lovely Sally Naden who presents the 11 o'clock show made me feel right at home. She's such a nice person. It was lovely when before we went on air she put her notes down and told the other panelists, "I've got to give this young man a hug."
As Sally reminded me on air, we've known each other for about 11 years (I was 15 when I first went on the talent segment of "The Happy Daft Farm", then the morning show, presented by Sally and comedian and presenter Jim Bowen).
After that, I had to opportunity to perform as part of their live stage tour of the show, which for me, as I was developing as a performer, was great experience.
It's been a while since then and so much has happened in between. I get a little polite and quiet when it comes to radio interviews, so I tended to sit back and nod or smile at the panel's topics of conversation (not a very useful thing when on the radio!) - Sally was funny, when off air she looked across at me and said "James, I'm going to have to ask you to stop interrupting!"

I sang a couple of songs that are featured on my new album "And I Love You So" (accompanied on guitar by Kevin Cookson), which I think relaxed me a little and by the end of the programme I managed to be the more chatty and potentially daft me, that people will be familiar with... even managing to drop my mother in it by sharing her opinion on a certain celebrity's Sunday dress, when visiting once - for which my mother later thanked me "very much!" and noted that it seems she always gets a mention regarding celebrities and their clothing when I go on the radio, reminding me of the time another BBC Lancashire presenter, Ted Robbins had told listeners of when I was performing live with him at Blackpool Winter Gardens and my mother had come to look for me in the dressing rooms, bursting in on Ted in his underwear. She didn't flinch, just asked "have you seen James?" - Nothing phases my mother. Must be the former nurse in her!

Well, the show more or less rounded up, with a rendition of "Moon River" and an opportunity to quickly mention the concert I'll be performing with Darwen soprano Sarah Louise this weekend (Sat 5th March) at St Peter's, Parish Church, Darwen. (Click here for more info) or see next blog post.

Was a really lovely time on Sally's show. I've been invited back to chat about upcoming projects, so looking forward to that. Will be sure to let you know when! :)

Performing on BBC Radio Lancashire
accompanied on guitar by Kevin Cookson:

Catching up with the lovely Sally Naden,
(BBC Radio Lancs presenter)

Photos in this post by Mike Johnson (

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

And I Love You So...

Really excited at the moment! Have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, so keep a watchful eye on this space 'cos there'll be quite a bit to tell in the near future.

The most recent news though, is that I have just released my latest album "And I Love You So"!

It's available now at and is an acoustic collection of classic ballads. One of my great passions when performing live on stage are the classic ballads (those songs that never lose their charm).
The album features arrangements by award-winning composer Sally DeFord of Colorado, USA and with guitar accompaniments by British musician Kevin Cookson (an extremely talented pair).
With a nostalgic feel, this is a real chillout album, with numbers including the title track "And I Love You So", "Moon River", "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", "When I Fall In Love", "You Raise Me Up" and much more...

The two have been so busy with their own exciting projects at the moment, but have been so generous with their time. I'm so grateful for their involvement on this album. Thanks you two! :)

You can hear clips of some of the songs on the album on YouTube here:

Also, don't forget you can keep up to date with what's happening, by following me on twitter:

Hope you enjoy the album!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Stage New Year Party 2011

Singing "All I Ask of You" with Helena Blackman
at The Stage New Year Party 2011 (at the Theatre Royal,
Drury Lane -

(Should have some better quality photos of us
singing to upload soon

You can't even tell if this one is definitely me!:

With Lee Mead who is currently still starring in
Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. Really nice bloke.

With the lovely Helena Blackman:

Me and Franny, again with Lee Mead:

With our accompanist for the day. MD George Dyer.

Was really cool for me and Francesca (my wife) to be invited down to London's West End, to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for The Stage Newspaper's New Year Party 2011 this last Friday (28th Jan).

It was exciting to be invited to perform a duet ("All I Ask of You" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Phantom of the Opera") with Helena Blackman of BBC's "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?"
I was surprisingly quite calm about performing, given that the room was full of people from the entertainment world, but did feel a flutter of nerves when I looked to the front row and spotted West End Star Lee Mead (who is currently still starring in the musical "Wicked" at the Appollo Victoria.) We had to opportunity to chat with him later and he was such a nice guy, very genuine. He mentioned he had played Roul in "Phantom" (the character that sings "All I Ask of You.") I said "yeah, I know, that's why when I looked down and saw you at the front I got nervous!"

It was fun to do a bit of famous person spotting! Was tempted twice to call out "Sibyl!", as Prunella Scales (star of classic sitcom "Fawlty Towers") squeezed past. And recalled having read on the way down on the train that Magician Paul Daniels had just that week sold one of his wigs on eBay, as he and his wife Debbie McGee walked in.

It was funny though, on several occasions I was sure I'd seen someone and would start a conversation with my wife and a lovely friend we made there (Marie-Ann) about that celebrity and what I knew them from... look round at them again and realise it wasn't them at all!!
I think I need to wear my glasses all the time!

Was great to see Rick Clark from Silva Screen records and the guys from Puresolo, who together with The Stage were the organisers of the competition I won in the summer to appear on the album "100 Greatest Musicals" along side stars such as Lesley Garrett.

On a side note, what an amazing building the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is. It's one of, if not the most grand and beautiful of all the West End Theatre's. Apparently it's haunted. Well I don't know about that (I didn't see any ghosts!), but I can understand why someone would want to hang about there, what with those amazing grand staircases! (It's always been my dream to have a large grand central staircase... not a house... just a staircase!)

Well, after what seemed a successful soiree for The Stage, we headed straight off from the theatre (suitcase and bags in hand) to get something to eat and rush for the train. As always, after a trip to the big city, we were exhausted and although it was a fun trip, it's always lovely to get back to our little home up north and hit the hay :)

"Come 'ere...There's more..."

Really enjoyed performing at the Thwaites Empire Theatre on Sat 22nd Jan along side the wonderful soprano Sarah Louise, who sang beautifully (her rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" was fab.) The evening was hosted by comedian Don Banks and also included some traditional Indian dance, which was fascinating to watch. It was also such a pleasure to meet and perform with Irish comic veteran Jimmy Cricket.

What a lovely guy Jimmy is. He was so excited about everyone else's life and his energy and enthusiasm was refreshing. It's so true that positivity is infectious!
What's more, this fella who's famous catchphrases include "come 'ere" and "there's more" is an old school clean act... and he really made me laugh hard. It just goes to show you can be clean and extremely entertaining :)
I remembered having had a book of his I used to read when I was a kid ("Letter's from Mammy") I used to read it on holidays. He has a clever way of amusing any age group.

It was a real pleasure as always, to be accompanied by my good friends Kevin Cookson on Guitar and Michael Greenhalgh on Piano. They both play so beautifully and I always feel in such good hands when they're backing me. Love it! :)

So glad to be over the flu, except for some irritating sinus pressure :(
Felt so good to just go for it at this concert and feel so comfortable. I LOVE TO SING!! YUP, I DO :)

With Jimmy Cricket and Sarah Louise: