The Shires

Formed last year in the Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire countryside, due to their shared love of the classic ‘Nashville’ country sound, The Shires – two young songwriters, Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes – have swiftly become one of the real buzz bands of 2014.
With only a handful of live dates under their belt, this duo have already secured the support of a host of industry tastemakers, and were signed to Decca just before their official live London debut at the event that confirmed the wave of interest in the country genre, the second annual Country 2 Country Festival at London’s 02 Arena.
24 hours later, they were performing at a prestigious London reception held jointly by BBC Radio 2 (who have declared their enthusiastic early support for the duo), and the Country Music Association. The following morning, they were on a plane heading for their first songwriting sessions in Music City USA itself, Nashville. Two days further on, Ben and Crissie were featured in the Radio 2 documentary ‘Nashville UK,’ celebrating the rise and rise of country in this country.
The thoroughly refreshing debut single ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ is a heartfelt anthem to living the country lifestyle and bringing a little of that spirit to their home here in England. Both Ben and Crissie are self-declared admirers of the craftsmanship of country songwriting, but are far from being a twangy tribute act. Powered by Crissie’s powerful but subtle and supple vocals and Ben’s perfectly complementary tones and acoustic guitar, The Shires are young, fresh and have a message of their own.
It seems that The Shires have come from nowhere, overnight, but behind that first impression lies the story of two musicians who have been working towards this moment for a long time. Crissie has been singing her whole life, and came to love country music through artists like Dolly Parton and Faith hill, whereas Ben has toured as a singer/songwriter with the likes of K.T. Tunstall. Introduced by a mutual friend after a comment from Ben on Facebook, the pair instantly felt a musical connection, and discovered that they both lived near each in “the Shires”.
Their respect for the music has already been returned by Nashville itself, with them having already sat down to write with the likes of Steve McEwan (Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood) and Play Productions (Rascal Flatts). The Shires are currently writing and recording their debut album in Music City to be released later in 2014.

Bo Saris

So effortlessly does Bo Saris tap into the golden era of vintage soul that, when you first hear his voice, it’s hard not to believe he’s a contemporary of legends like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Curtis Mayfield and Donny Hathaway.

Listen to his self-released single “She’s On Fire” and you might even think you’re listening to a long-lost song by Marvin Gaye, or maybe that sweet falsetto is Al Green, or Smokey Robinson. Then you take a look at the video and you’ll think he looks a lot like Sam Cooke. But that is Sam Cooke, in a cleverly edited montage that pays homage to his heroes.

In fact Bo Saris is a young Dutchman with one foot in the past and the other firmly in the present. He comes not from Harlem but 3,000 miles away in Haarlem – the Dutch town that lent its name to soul music’s spiritual home in New York City. But don’t let that put you off: as Michael Jackson put it, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white.”

You don’t have to be American either. Plenty of contemporary soul singers can attest to that, including Amy Winehouse and Plan B (London), Paolo Nutini and Emeli Sande (Glasgow)

Bo Saris sits as comfortably alongside them as he does with the veterans who inspired them. He is equally at ease in the dance world. His vocals embellish a self-penned song on Chase & Status’s new album. And Bo’s own career kicked off in the clubs with Maya Jane Coles’s deep house remix of “She’s On Fire,” showcasing his remarkable falsetto. Bo’s affinity with the dance world is borne out by the fact that another of his tracks, “The Addict”, is now also riding high in clubland thanks to a house remix by the great Todd Edwards.

He grew up listening to his mother’s collection of soul and funk music, and inspired by his father’s career as a popular jazz singer in their native Holland. Bo made his musical debut at school and played his first gig at 16. In his teens he converted to hip-hop, and discovered Prince, factors which may help explain the contemporary edge to his take on classic soul.

It’s a balance beautifully brought out on Bo’s first UK album – “TITLE” – by renowned producer Dre Harris (Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige, Usher, Chris Brown) during recording sessions in Los Angeles. “I’m trying to combine a vintage soul sound with something more modern, taking bits and pieces from different styles and eras of soul music,” Bo explains.

His eureka moment came in 2011 when he performed at a tribute concert to soul great Bill Withers in Amsterdam. At the after-show party, he found himself chatting to one of his idols. “When we started talking I realised this guy was one of the most humble people – maybe the most humble person – I have met in my life. Such a pure and beautiful person. That blew me away. His musical legacy speaks for itself but the man himself is very inspiring. The whole conversation was inspiring for me and I took very important things out of it.”

Not long before this inspirational encounter Bo had moved to London to launch his career in the UK. “I realised I have to stay true to the black music – soul, blues, jazz, funk – that is my influence and inspiration. That’s what I grew up on and that is who I am.”

In his video for “The Addict,” Bo Saris starts to reveal himself, albeit in animated form. But he promises that he will emerge before long. “People love a mystery and it’s been fascinating to see how people respond when they don’t know who the singer is. But now I’m ready to step into the spotlight.”

The Tenors

Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray, Fraser Walters, and Remigio Pereira, who together make The Tenors, were recently referred to as The Buckingham Palace House Band, having been invited back a number of times to perform at private events attended by members of the royal family. With the release of Lead With Your Heart it will soon become clear why.

A vocal group without equal, The Tenors have played over 500 shows on five continents and made over 150 TV appearances around the world. Already hugely popular in the States, they have performed on The Emmy Awards and Oprah (where fellow Canadian superstar Celine Dion joined them for a duet), found fans in President Obama and the G20 world leaders, as well as world-class musicians such as Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sting, Natalie Cole, Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli (with whom they have shared the stage). They have also sung with Canadian musicians Justin Beiber, Sarah McLachlan, Paul Anka and David Foster, and performed for British Prime Ministers, Blair and Cameron.

Lead With Your Heart, which showcases their mesmerising, world-class vocals, has already won a JUNO Award and shot to No.1 in both the US Classical and Crossover Charts. The unusual combination of pop and operatic voices, which complement each other perfectly, is irresistibly romantic. The album includes original material, co-written by The Tenors themselves, such as the opening track, You and I (Vinceremo) which is based on the recognisable Bach Cello Suite theme – as well as World Stand Still, Journees d’innocence and Lullaby (The Smile Upon Your Face), which features the Grammy-winning American trumpeter Chris Botti. There are also new interpretations of classic songs such as Bob Dylan’s hit track, Forever Young, and Me He Enamorado De Ti (Woman in Love) by Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. Also included are timeless favourites such as Amazing Grace, here arranged by The Tenors, and an impressive Nessun Dorma which pays tribute to the world’s greatest tenor, also signed to Decca, the late Luciano Pavarotti. Not only do they sing (and speak) in five different languages, the four singers also play their own instruments, making The Tenors completely unique.


Phildel is an artist whose deep appreciation for sound stems from an understanding of silence. During a childhood in which music was forbidden by her religious stepfather, she came to know silence well. Despite her furious love for music, for ten years she was left to imagine the sounds she would fill the silence with if she could.

Following her departure from the household, her creativity erupted into an all-encompassing force. Composing day and night, Phildel created the epic, haunting and innovative music she had dreamt of.

Her music is a journey into the landscape of her imagination, at times beautifully enchanting, at others, raw and horrific. Complimented on her ‘sonic soundscapes’ by Trevor Horn, she has won supporters around the world, her music being used by fashions designers, film directors, theatre producers and media campaigns. Her debut album “The Disappearance of the Girl” is set for UK release in January 2013.

Richard Clayderman

Richard Clayderman has done what virtually no other French act has ever done….. established a truly international career as a best selling recording artist and concert performer.


Born Philippe Pagès on December 28th, 1953, he encountered the piano early in his life. His father, a piano teacher, laid the foundation for his son’s later success and began teaching him how to play at a very young age. It is said that, at the age of six, Richard Clayderman could read music more adeptly than his native French.


When he was twelve years old he was accepted at the Conservatoire of Music where, at sixteen, he won first prize. He was predicted a promising career as a classical pianist. However, shortly after this, and much to everyone’s surprise, he cast aside his classical training and turned to contemporary music.


“I wanted to do something different”, Clayderman says, “So, with some friends, I created a rock group ; it was a tough time….. a hard tine….. and the little money we could make was devoted to buying equipment. In fact, I used to feed myself so badly – mainly on sandwiches – that I had to have an operation for an ulcer when I was only seventeen”.


At that time his father was becoming seriously ill and was unable to support his son financially. So, in order to earn a living, Clayderman found work as an accompanist and session musician.


“I enjoyed it”, he says, “and it paid well at the same time. That is how I drew away from classical music, although it gave me a strong basis for what I do now”.


His talent did not go unnoticed and he soon became much in demand as an accompanist to such major French stars as Michel Sardou, Thierry LeLuron and Johnny Halliday. But, when asked about his ambitions at that time, he says, “! really did not want to be a star, I was happy to be an accompanist and to play in groups”.


Nevertheless, his life changed dramatically in 1976 when he received a telephone call from Olivier Toussaint, a well-known French record producer, who, with his partner, Paul de Senneville, was looking for a pianist to record a gentle piano ballad. Paul had composed this ballad as a tribute to his new born daughter “Adeline”. The 23 year old Philippe Pagès was auditioned along with 20 other hopefuls and, to his amazement, he got the job.


“We liked him immediately”, says Paul de Senneville, “His very special and soft touch on the keyboards combined with his reserved personality and good looks very much impressed Olivier Toussaint and I. We made our decision very quickly”.


Philippe Pagès’ name was changed to Richard Clayderman (he adopted his great-grandmother’s last name to avoid mispronunciation of his real name outside France), and the single took off, selling an astonishing 22 million copies in 38 countries. It was called “Ballade pour Adeline”.


“When I signed him”, says Olivier Toussaint, “I told him that if we sell 10,000 singles it will be marvellous, because it was disco at that time and we could not bet on such a ballad being a winner….. We could not imagine that it would be so big”.


It was the start of what has become an outstanding success story, and since that time, Richard Clayderman’s distinctive piano style has earned him superstar status all over the world. Today he has recorded over 1000 melodies and, in the words of a German journalist, “he has arguably done more to popularise the piano around the world than anyone since Beethoven”. Richard Clayderman has created a “New Romantic” style through a repertoire which combines his ‘trademark’ originals with classics and pop standards. He has clocked up massive worldwide record sales in excess of 80 million, at the last count, and an incredible 267 Gold and 70 Platinum discs to his credit.


However, “The Prince of Romance” (as he was dubbed by Nancy Reagan) is not simply a recording artist. In fact, despite his natural shyness and reserve, he is completely in his element on stage ; a Richard Clayderman concert is a real ‘Spectacular’.


“I love performing live on stage”, he says, “because I have direct contact with my audience. In concert, with my 10 musicians or a symphony orchestra, I like to mix different tempos, rhythms and styles to evoke all kinds of emotion”.


Clayderman’s international success has resulted in a punishing itinerary which, in the past, has seen him play as many as 200 concerts in just 250 days spent outside France. In spite of this, he remains very much a family man.


“My family is extremely important to me”, he often says, “my mother, my wife Christine, my daughter, Maud, and my son, Peter….they are what keep me going – my reason for living, apart from my music, of course”.


The biggest price Richard Clayderman feels he has to pay for his international stardom is the time he spends away from his family – a sacrifice he acknowledges they all suffer but accept as part of his duty to his millions of fans.


Kimberley Walsh

Kimberley Walsh will release her debut solo album ‘Centre Stage’ on Decca Records. The Girls Aloud member, currently wowing millions on Strictly Come Dancing, will be releasing ‘Centre Stage’ on February 4 2013.

Kimberley knew the direction her debut album was going to take as soon as legendary label Decca – home to Andrea Bocelli, Alfie Boe and Imelda May – approached her to make the album.

“I’ve always loved musical theatre and doing Shrek! The Musical definitely re-ignited the passion in me,” says Kimberley. “I really wanted to share the love I have for musical theatre by taking some classic songs and completely reinventing them. The melodies in so many musical songs are so brilliant I knew we could create something special by experimenting with the production and I really feel like we’ve come up with some interesting takes on classic songs.”

Kimberley started recording the album this summer in Stockholm. Working with pop producers Per and David (Britney, Westlife, Katherine Jenkins, Il Divo, Will Young). One Day I’ll Fly Away from Moulin Rouge was the first song recorded:

“I was in my absolute element recording it and really felt like I was discovering new tones to my voice and really pushing myself vocally. I loved every minute of recording this album I really felt like I was going back to my roots.”

Currently celebrating ten years of Girls Aloud with the release of a greatest hits album and a forthcoming arena tour, she is also training hard for Strictly Come Dancing where she is one of the show’s most popular contestants and a favourite to go all the way.

“There’s a lot going on right now but I am loving every minute and can’t wait for people to hear these songs I’ve recorded.”


Annunzio Paolo Mantovani was born in 1905 in Venice, the city in Italy that would delight and fascinate him all his adult life. In 1909 the family moved to London where Mantovani studied piano, harmony and counterpoint with his father to begin with, and then with professors Chiti and Pecskai. Finally, at the age of fourteen, he started the violin, and so began this unique relationship between an artist and the sound of strings.

Mantovani applied himself to the study of the violin with total concentration and thoroughness, qualities that would serve well the demands of the disciplined artistic life he would be leading later as a successful maestro. Of these early teenage years, he recalled, “I had friends, of course, but my involvement in their interests was only casual. As they talked about soccer and cricket, I kept wondering how I was going to solve the fingering problem of a particular violin exercise I was having problem with”.

This desire to pursue ever-higher standards of performance was, no doubt, two-fold: there was the basic artistic drive to master his instrument, and, also, the level of achievement required to produce in him the professional musician. At seventeen he ventured forth and began earning a living as a player, pleased to be contributing to the family’s income, and satisfied at having avoided courses of study in draftsmanship!

He joined an orchestra and played all over England in major hotel restaurants which, in those days, was where music could be enjoyed casually and less formally than in the concert halls. He was soon featured as a soloist and there was no mistaking his talent. Two authorities of the day, Thibaud and Ysaye, who heard Mantovani play at the Metropole Hotel in London, encouraged him to pursue a concert career. Thibaud, having commented on the youngster’s “splendid tone and technical facility”, was specially supportive.

The quiet and gentle young man with the will of steel began a rigorous course of study and, for several years, worked assiduously, developing his technique and his repertoire. In 1930 he gave a recital at Aeolian Hall, and approximately one year following this appearance, he performed the demanding Saint-Saëns “Violin Concerto in B Minor” in a memorable performance at the Hotel Metropole to a cheering audience and, the following day, to glowing press notices. Sir Thomas Beecham, who was in the audience, sent back a note which read, “Bravo! Well played.

Times were hard as these were years of great depression and Mantovani had to plan his future. He took a painful but irreversible decision not to pursue a concert career ‘‘the most difficult thing I ever had to decide’’ he later reflected. He formed instead, the Tipica Orchestra which began to draw attention almost immediately to the London circuit, first at the grand Metropole Hotel and later in cabaret, at the elite Monseigneur’s. Soon the Tipica Orchestra was the one for fashionable Londoners to hear and Mantovani began making a name for himself. He led the Orchestra in a Pathé film which was later used by the BBC in its great television documentary, “All Our Yesterdays”.

There followed, slightly later, the Mantovani Quintet, and, in its ranks, was a new fresh face that would one day also enhance the British musical scene, George Melachrino. During this time, Mantovani met and soon courted Miss Winifred Moss, the daughter of W.J.Moss, a company director in the City of London. She was a remarkably beautiful woman with delicate features, a warm and winning smile and a sparkling personality. She was as English as the proverbial Rose – adding to Mantovani’s shy Mediterranean personality. Years later, Mantovani would talk about the great debt he owed to Winifred, who instinctively seemed to understand what her husband required and needed as he continued to extend himself searching for a place in the world of music.

She gave him two children, a son, Kenneth, and a daughter, Paula, enriching the home life he also needed. She created a place for his family and their friends, giving Monty a broad and solid base of love and affection from which to assuage the inescapable uncertainties of an artist’s life. She accepted his decision to relinquish his concert career, encouraged him to make his way in the orchestral world, however late the hours and distant the journeys; and, finally, throughout the years, she strongly supported him in the pursuit of an ultimate wish, an insistent part of his boyhood dream: to conduct his own orchestra.

With the formation of his own large orchestra, Mantovani made peace with the Muse whose caprices he struggled with for over twenty years. He had played in touring orchestras, in promenade concerts; he had led hotel orchestras and dance bands; he had been heard in recital and had performed concertos on the stages of great halls. But an orchestra with twenty-eight strings as its centerpiece, this, more than any other career move he could have made, banked his fires: he could compose for such an ensemble, arrange and transcribe for it, and, most importantly, conduct it, molding the sounds he heard into interpretations of music he wanted to present to people.

This formula of expression produced the Mantovani stamp: a combination of musical taste and style, the indelible ink of which would be the so-called “cascading” sound. The “sound” is a story in itself, the most humorous chapter of which, years later, was written by an impresario in Denmark who was presenting the orchestra in concert. A telegram was received which read, “Please don’t forget to bring your sound-effect machine. We will pay the freight charges”. Sound-effects, indeed! The “tumbling” effect is purely musical, and is achieved in the strings by delaying the resolution of notes in a chord. It was born as follows: having formed his orchestra, Mantovani was looking for an identifiable sound he could use as a signature for his new orchestra.

He turned to the accordionist of his old Tipica Orchestra, Ronald Binge, who had become a creative arranger over the years. Mantovani decided to commission from and develop with him a suitable style of sound. It was a terrible gamble, to be sure, which, if imperfectly handled, could have hurt the orchestra’s chances at the outset; but Mantovani took the risk, confident that he would know instantly when played, whether the experiment had any merit.

The result was “Charmaine”. Mantovani immediately made it his signature melody and, later, when he recorded it, the disc sold over one million copies…in days when such a figure was unheard of. He had given his recording company, Decca/London, the handle required to address the vast listening public Mantovani hoped was there for his music. Mantovani became an international star.

Military Wives

The Military Wives Choirs Foundation is a network of choirs that reaches across the whole military community. It has been established to provide support, guidance and funding for individual choirs, but first and foremost to bring women closer together through singing.

Following the phenomenal success of ‘Wherever You Are’, which raised more than half a million pounds for military charities, those involved set out to create a wider network that could support wives, partners and women serving in the forces, and would leave a lasting legacy. In particular, the women from the first choirs wanted to share the enjoyement and pride that they had already experienced through their own choirs. The Military Wives Choirs Foundation has enabled them to do just this.

Through its growing network, the Foundation is building something that brightens lives, strengthens military communities and enables hundreds of women to experience the enjoyement and friendship that comes from being part of a Military Wives Choir. The Foundation is now a registered subsidiary of SSAFA Forces Help.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis stands in a league all his own. He has been described as a creative genius, compassionate humanitarian, legendary trumpeter, masterful composer, arts advocate, tireless educator and cultural leader.

However, it is Wynton’s lifetime commitment to inspiring and uplifting people though artistic excellence in jazz that has made an unparalleled impact on domestic and international culture.

Wynton Learson Marsalis was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 18, 1961 – the second of six sons to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis. Wynton was immersed in the tradition of his hometown since birth.

However, when he received his first trumpet from Al Hirt at age six, he wasn’t initially serious about the instrument – that is, until age 12. Within the next two years, he flourished and won a competition playing Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in Eb major with the New Orleans Philharmonic. Wynton continued playing throughout the Crescent City in concert, marching and jazz brass bands, gospel churches, symphonic orchestras and various funk bands and modern jazz ensembles.

At age 17, he became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center.

Despite his youth, he was awarded the school’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student. Wynton moved to New York in 1979 to study at the Juilliard School. He left school in 1981 to join the finest finishing school in jazz, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.

Wynton has received a comprehensive education in jazz and the arts from a group of legendary mentors. In New Orleans, his father Ellis, a dedicated jazz pianist and educator, taught him modern jazz; and Dr. Bert Braud taught him classical theory at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. Renowned banjoist Danny Barker trained him in the rudiments of New Orleans Jazz as he led the legendary Fairview Baptist Church band, which Wynton joined at the age of 8.

In the years to follow, Wynton was educated by blues trumpet master ‘Sweets’ Edison, a celebrated member of Count Basie’s epochal 1930s band, and Clark Terry, a most treasured member of Ellington’s 1950s Orchestra. Wynton also toured with Miles Davis’s second great rhythm section – Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter – and toured with and was mentored by drummer Elvin Jones, the engine of Coltrane’s Classic Quartet, and John Lewis, the artistic director of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

At 19, he recorded his first jazz album as a leader, and at the age of 20, he assembled his own band and hit the road – performing more than 120 concerts a year around the world for 20 consecutive years. To date, he has produced more than 60 records, selling more than 7 million records worldwide including 3 Gold Records. Wynton holds the distinction of being the only artist to ever win GRAMMY® Awards for both jazz and classical records and the only artist to win GRAMMY® Awards in five consecutive years.

Wynton also has a lifelong appreciation and involvement with classical music. Wynton recorded the Haydn, Hummel and Leopold Mozart trumpet concertos at the age of 21 and went on to record 10 additional classical records, all to critical acclaim. He has performed with leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and the Czech National Orchestra.

Composing is a constant for Wynton. His inventiveness has been widely embraced, having received numerous commissions to create major compositions. Garth Fagan Dance, The New York City Ballet, Twyla Tharp with the American Ballet Theatre, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Savion Glover have all danced to Wynton’s compositions. He collaborated with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society in 1995 to compose the string quartet, At the Octoroon Balls, and again in 1998 to create a response to Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale with his composition, A Fiddler’s Tale.

At the dawn of the new millennium (1999), Wynton presented his first symphony, All Rise.

This epic composition for big band, gospel choir and symphony orchestra was performed by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur along with the Morgan State University Choir, under the direction of Dr. Nathan Carter, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Wynton’s long relationship with Ghanaian master drummer Yacub Addy led to the composition and premiere of Congo Square in 2006. This piece redefines the intersection of African music and American jazz. Abyssinian 200: A Celebration was commissioned by the Abyssinian Baptist Church to commemorate their 200th anniversary.

This Mass composed by Wynton was performed in 2008 with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir and Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III. It developed ideas originally presented in Wynton’s 1992 landmark, In This House on This Morning, a piece that was heard nationwide during an unprecedented tour of African-American churches.

Wynton’s second symphony, Blues Symphony, is his latest composition.

It celebrates the blues through the prism of different periods in American history. Comprising seven movements, each with a distinct sound and historic reference point, Blues Symphony is written in the tradition of Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and Jelly Roll Morton and finds its foundation in American root music.

Based on the groundwork established by his mentors’ teachings and his first-hand experiences interacting with people of all ages and cultures, Wynton co-founded Jazz at Lincoln Center – the world’s first and foremost institution dedicated to jazz education and performance.

At 48 years old, his achievements are unrivaled – from receiving, among many others, the prestigious Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts and history-making GRAMMY®, Pulitzer, and Peabody awards to being recognized as one of America’s 25 most influential people, appointed as a UN Messenger of Peace, honored with the National Medal of Arts and, most recently, awarded the French Legion of Honor.

The most extraordinary dimension of Wynton is not his accomplishments, but his character. Whether waiting in a empty parking lot for an hour after a concert to give an aspiring musician advice, or for a single student to return from home with his horn for a trumpet lesson, or personally funding scholarships for students, Wynton donates his time and talent to make a difference in the lives of individuals and to help raise money for charitable organizations. Wynton has been a tireless advocate for marshalling the will and resources necessary to rebuild New Orleans culturally, socially and economically. Wynton’s commitment to the improvement of life for all people embodies the best of his character and humanity and drives him to continually strive to do more.