The Opera Boys are set to impress Eastbourne music-lovers this autumn with their first-rate selection of opera, classical and West End hits at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on Saturday, September 7, and singer Rob Cherry promises a night of timeless tunes that will be accessible to everyone.
“We perform a bit of opera, but there is quite a lot more to it,” says the 36-year-old Lancastrian when he’s asked what the ‘boys’ have in store for East Sussex.
“We are all classically trained and we all have a mutual love for operatic and classical music, but we’ve also worked in a huge variety of musical genres within the industry.”
“The operatic stuff is obviously the main influence for us”, he continues. “So we perform the ‘hits’ as you might say. We sing the very famous operatic arias, taken out of context from the opera and performed as stand-alone songs.”
As Rob says, even if you’re completely clueless when it comes to opera, you’ll probably recognise every tune. They’ll certainly ring a bell for anyone who’s watched their fair share of films, TV shows or adverts.
“I think everybody knows ‘Nessun Dorma’, the most famous operatic aria in the world,” Rob says. “Some of the big classical songs made famous by people like Andrea Bocelli too – ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ everybody will recognise.”
Then there’s the West End and Broadway stuff – real showstoppers like ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis, ‘The Music of the Night’ from Phantom of the Opera and a bit of Jersey Boys for those who fancy something a little lighter.
“Then there’s some modern poppy stuff done in a classical style,” Rob adds. “Songs like ‘You Raise Me Up’, which is very well known, and some other bits like ‘Unchained Melody’ in Italian. This is a beautiful song in English, but in our opinion, it’s even more beautiful in Italian.”
With all these masterpieces collected together, an Opera Boys concert has the potential to shatter some people’s long-held negative opinions about the genre.
“When you see the word opera there’s a bit of a preconception that it’s going be a bit stuffy and boring,” Rob admits. “You know, put on a bow tie and listen to guys bark in Italian for four hours.
“We tried very much to get away from that notion, so our show is very laid back. It’s lighthearted, it’s light entertainment and we really involve the audience and get them onside and have some fun with them. It is serious at times and it’s beautiful and emotional at times, but it leaves plenty of room for that light-hearted, entertaining and very funny side.”
Rob has a few personal favourite moments in the programme.
“I’ve always loved ‘Nella Fantasia’,” he says. “That comes and goes from the show because we change it from year to year.”
“I think ‘Nessun Dorma’ has to be the highlight,” he continues. “It’s powerful, it’s emotional. People often say it’s spine-tingling to listen to and we would argue that’s it’s spine-tingling to perform every time, even after all these years.”
“‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis is another favourite,” Rob adds. “We do it for four-part harmony, which, if I say so myself, is beautiful.”
‘O Sole Mio’ is one of the more mischievous numbers: “We mess about a bit with that and kind of outdo each other, that sort of thing. It’s a little nod to The Three Tenors, I guess. It’s the sort of thing they used to do.”
It’s all part and parcel of making this kind of music accessible to the masses, but why is that important in the first place?
Naturally, Rob can think of several good reasons.
“Obviously we love it and we want to share it with everybody,” he states, first and foremost.
“But I think there’s also something about classical music that is very relatable. Everybody can relate to some piece of music that is powerful and uplifting. We’re fans of all sorts of genres of music between us, but there’s something about classical music that really resonates with people and I feel people can connect with it.”
Rob points to ‘Time to Say Goodbye’, a song that’s often played, sung or performed at the funeral of a loved one.
“Some people find it a very emotional song,” he explains. “But it’s always something that invokes happy memories, rather than just making people upset.”
“Everybody can enjoy it in their own way.”
“It’s also just great music,” he continues. “Opera was the popular music of its time. It’s beautiful, emotional, at times it’s funny, at times very serious, and I think some people are not aware of it or don’t see it like that.”
And for Rob, it’s very satisfying to meet a ‘new convert’ after a show, especially if the listener in question was practically dragged to the concert by a friend or significant other.
Like most professional musicians though, Rob never needed to be converted to his favourite genre. His opera obsession stems from childhood.
“I was privately trained,” he reveals. “I grew up in a very, very musical household and I was, by all accounts, wandering around the house singing.”
“I was learning to play the piano at the age of four and then I had voice lessons from the age of six onwards from a private tutor. But I was also assisted for many years by my father who didn’t do it for a living but was a very good pianist and a very good singer.”
The other members – Richard Colvin, Michael Storrs, and Colin Bryce – went down similar routes to Rob with training either at the Royal Academy of Arts in London or the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Between them they now have a ton of experience with a tenth anniversary performance on the superliner Queen Mary 2, various roles in the West End and gigs as backing vocalists for artists like Tom Jones, Elton John and Russell Watson.
In between concerts they have travelled the world on cruise ships, taking in a variety of exotic and beautiful locations from Australia to Antarctica.
“It might be easier to say where we haven’t been,” Rob laughs, admitting that he feels lucky to be in a such an exciting job.
But, when he’s asked what really stands out for him from his career to-date, Rob’s answer is rather down-to-earth.
“It’s a bit of cliché but I’m going to say it anyway: I think the highlight really for all of us is just continuing to make a living from doing what we love doing. There’s an element of hard work that goes into that and there’s an element of good fortune.”
“We’re very lucky to do what we do for a living,” he adds, “and the end goal really is to continue doing what we love doing.”
Tickets for the Eastbourne concert cost £19.50. Call the box office on 01323 802020 or visit royalhippodrome.com
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