Alfie Boe talks growing up in Fleetwood as he celebrates the release of his 16th studio album 'Open Arms: The Symphonic Songbook'
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The 50-year-old tenor has just released an album called ‘Open Arms: The Symphonic Songbook’ in what marks the most recent development in his nearly three decade long illustrious career.
Ahead of the album’s release, Alfie had an indeph interview with the Guardian in which he explored his life’s journey so far leading up to today, where he is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever tenors.
The article is led by a picture of a three year old Alfie doing what was his favourite thing to do at the age – pretending to be his dad in a little red car.
Alfie lived in Fleetwood at that age with his dad (also called Alfie), mum Pat and eight siblings Joseph, John, Michael, Anne, Therese, Pauline, Fran and Mari – and he stayed in the town until his career took off in his late teens.
If you’re keen to hear more about Alfie’s early years in Fleetwood, we’ve got you covered below:
What was Alfie’s upbringing like?
Alfie told the Guardian: “As the youngest of nine, I was mostly left to my own devices, so I would get creative with my adventures. I’d pretend to ride a horse on a wall that looked like a cowboy saddle. I’d climb trees, build dens and tightrope the fences around the garden as if I was in the circus. I didn’t have video games, there was none of that. I made my own entertainment out of the natural world. My mother was a little bit older when she had me, so my sisters took care of me. They still do.
He continued: “Having three brothers and five sisters shaped me massively. The house wasn’t big, but it felt huge. We had bunk beds and just one bathroom – one toilet! We didn’t even have a shower – just a head that plugged into the tap. It was simple living, but it gave me a lot of confidence.”
Alfie goes on to describe all the different characters he met growing up and all the “eclectic music” he was introduced to as his parents often hosted evenings with friends in which he would try to entertain them by doing funny walks, dances and pulling faces.
Alfie added: “It was a happy space. Lots of food, laughter and fun.”
What was Alfie like as a boy?
The father of two stated he was “never in any trouble” when he was younger, even as a teenager, apart from the odd pinch of a chocolate out of the chocolate box!
Alfie told the Guardian he had “no goal to be controversial or go against my parents”, especially his mother who “disciplined us well and told us what was right and wrong.”
Despite being a self-proclaimed good boy, Alfie admitted he “never got on with school” – first attending St Wulstan's and St Edmund's Primary School and then Cardinal Allen Catholic High School in Fleetwood.
Alfie explained: “I wasn’t the popular kid in the class, or the guy everyone thought was cool.”
Did Alfie want to be a performer back then?
Although Alfie did not enjoy school, he says he did always enjoy singing but it was only when his voice broke at 14 that he realised how good he was.
Alfie told the Guardian: “I realised I had a quality to my voice that was unique. Before that point, I’d privately sung along to my dad’s Elvis and Pavarotti records. When I realised I had my own style, my passion grew.
“I daydreamed about being a performer constantly. I would imagine playing the drums in an arena, with a band around me ripping it up. I got a pair of sticks and used my pillows as drums.”
He then told the Guardian of a particularly fond memory of his father surprising him with a drum kit one afternoon, saying “it was an amazing feeling.”
Starting in the adult world of work in Blackpool
Despite wanting to be a performer, Alfie told the Guardian: “I knew I needed to find a trade, and couldn’t become a rock star without having a backup plan, so I decided to go into the motoring industry. I was terrible at it, and skived off as much as possible.”
From the age of 17, Aflie worked as an apprentice mechanic at the TVR factory in Bispham, but little did he know that this career choice would go on to help him follow his real dream.
As many already know, a singing Alfie was overheard by a client one day with connections in the music industry who was so impressed that he suggested he go to London and audition for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
After his singing teacher that night told him he had seen an ad for the same audition in a stage newspaper, Alfie searched the newsagents all over his neighbourhood with no luck.
Alfie said: “I kept trying, all over Fleetwood, until one tiny newsagent had a copy. I bought it for 25p and the newsagent said: ‘Nobody asks for this paper – we were going to discontinue it – so you’re in luck.’ The newspaper opened perfectly on the advert and I considered it a sign. I took a day off work and came down to London to sing for them. I got a second audition – which didn’t go down well with my foreman – but I was accepted and they gave me a position in the company. That was 30 years ago and I haven’t stopped singing since.”