Blake are back

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BlakeEarlier this year, the famous foursome became a threesome as Blake said farewell to founding member Jules Knight.

But with a new line up came a new beginning for the former operatic quartet, who have since broken free from their classical chains and entered the world of pop.

Now, as the first classical band to have a single added to the BBC Radio 2 playlist and an album featuring their brand new sound, the boys really are on top of the world – even if they are one man down.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the extra leg room in the car as a result!” laughs bass-baritone Stephen Bowman, speaking of Jules’ departure. “We honestly wish Jules all the best, but at the same time it’s given us the opportunity to create a new show as a trio and rework the music in a new way.”

Indeed, made up of Stephen, Humphrey Berney and Ollie Baines, the group released their aptly titled album Starting Over earlier this year, featuring a mixture of original songs and carefully selected covers including Paul McCartney’s Beautiful Night and Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love – a track previously covered by Adele.

“If you’d said to me two years ago that Blake would be singing pop music, I’d have said ‘never!’” says Stephen. “But we’ve taken such a varied approach to our music which has progressively been born out of our live shows. We’re a bit of a schizophrenic band when you think about it!” he laughs.

“If we’ve ever been criticised it’s for singing covers, but we want to put our own stamp on what we do,” he adds. “I’m so delighted that our single So Happy made it to the BBC Radio 2 playlist. It’s something that’s never been done before and I think shows how versatile we are.”

Could we be expecting any new ventures from the boys then, perhaps a rap could be in the mix?

“As a joke we did actually try rapping in the studio with a naked drum beat – but we really weren’t good enough,” laughs Stephen.

“It’s surprising but the audience actually seem to prefer us as a trio!” he adds. “Our fans will know that for us, first and foremost it’s about the music.”

About to embark on their autumnal tour, the boys are getting ready to share their new sound with audiences up and down the country, including two nights at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch next month.

“This will be our fourth time back at the Queen’s and it’s always such a good crowd,” enthuses Stephen. “They’re normally quite a rowdy, noisy lot and we love being heckled.

“We’ve been touring for about seven years so people know we like to rib each other on stage,” he adds. “It’s the most fun we’ve ever had.”

Joining them on tour will be special guest and Classical BRIT nominee Camilla Kerslake, who will also be performing songs from her eponymous debut album and dueting with Blake on stage.

Together Blake and Camilla will also perform their new single You Raise Me Up, which has been recorded in aid of Breast Cancer Campaign, a charity close to Camilla’s heart and for whom she is an ambassador for.

“We first met Camilla at the 2010 Classical BRIT Awards at Albert Hall,” recalls Stephen. “We saw such a huge amount of talent but she’s had to take a break from the industry after her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Sadly we’ve all seen our friends be touched by cancer, so we decided to release You Raise Me Up as a duet with her. Now, we’ve replaced our fourth member with a very beautiful girl.”

As always, the boys are back on the hunt for a local choir to join them on stage in Hornchurch to sing some of Blake’s well known classic-pop renditions including Hallelujah, Jerusalem and Nessun Dorma.

“It’s sad but the truth is the finest voices out there may never get heard, so we want to give youngsters the chance to experience the adrenaline of performing live,” says Stephen. “It’s our small way of supporting and nurturing local singers and giving them the opportunity to find their voices and develop them. Hopefully we’ll inspire more of them to pursue singing.

“The show is going to be a mix of music – there’s going to be pop, rock, classics, musicals and visually, it’s going to be like a West End show,” he says. “For us, it’s giving everyone the opportunity to escape their everyday lives.”

Blake Live in Concert comes to the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch on Sunday, 6 and Monday, 7 October. For tickets, call 01708 443333. Choirs who would like the chance to join Blake on stage should send a YouTube video link of the choir to [email protected]

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