Amici Forever Biography
Five young classically trained opera singers from the around the globe have joined forces and voices to form the world's first opera band. Amici forever is a unique musical blend of contemporary pop and traditional opera. Their debut CD – The Opera Band – was released in the US by Victor/Arista Associated Labels on January 13, 2004.
With a visual appeal to match their musical ability, Amici forever have already captured the imagination of millions. The band recently performed live to a television audience of more than 500 million worldwide at the Champions League Final, the climax of the European soccer season, and have appeared on stage with some of the UK's top pop acts, including Atomic Kitten, Busted, Big Bruvvas, and Will Young. Earlier this month the band was invited by the Queen to perform for her at London’s Royal Albert Hall in honor of Remembrance Day. This poignant annual event was televised live to over 6 million viewers.
Amici forever comprises Jo Appleby – Soprano, from England; Tsakane Valentine - Soprano, from South Africa; Geoff Sewell – Tenor, from New Zealand; David Habbin – Tenor, from England; and Nick Garrett - Bass Baritone, also from England. The singers became close friends while training and performing in operas at many of the world’s greatest venues. In early 2003, they were signed to Arista Associated Labels by its General Manager, David Weyner, and have created a unique sound and image for the band: never before have five mixed voices been brought together to produce such electrifying harmonies.
The three male and two female voices perform some of the greatest and best known opera classics as well as more contemporary pop creations – designed to showcase their unique sound. Songs on their debut CD include: "Prayer in the Night," (based on Handel's Sarabande), "Soave Sia Il Vento" (from Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte), "Whisper of Angels"(from Faure’s "Pavane") and "Nessun Dorma" (from Puccini's Turandot).
"There are a lot of diverse musical styles on this CD: a bit of opera, a bit of classical and a bit of pop; but the main link between them all, is the classical sounding voice," says bass baritone Nick Garrett. His sentiment is echoed by the other band members who describe the CD as a classical record with a very strong "pop aesthetic."
The newly minted quintet had their first opportunity to test their creative wings singing the national anthem at both the UK’s major rugby union final and the FA Cup Final for a continent-wide television audience. A demo tape, spotlighting their blend of rich operatic standards with fresh vocal arrangements quickly led to a major recording deal. The five entered the studio to begin working with producer Nick Patrick on their debut album that would become The Opera Band. Patrick's credits include working with Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, The Gipsy Kings, and more.
Now, with a major UK tour underway, a spate of international television appearances in the offing, and a new single "Senza Catene" (the timeless "Unchained Melody") just released, Amici forever are poised to follow their musical destiny as far as it will take them.
About the Band
New Zealand native and accomplished vocalist, it was Geoff who first planted the seed of Amici forever. Sewell, who was a boy soprano and performed in school choirs until the age of eighteen, trained as a chartered accountant, but took a sudden and decisive career turn after a vacation visit to the home of one of his childhood heroes, Elvis Presley. Setting his sights on a career in singing, he studied at the Boston Conservatory before relocating to London where he combined his musical and financial acumen to create an entertainment company.
Sewell's own career began to take off, with an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall and a performance of his home country's national anthem at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It was through his numerous contacts, most notably with Nadia Raibin who was instrumental in the success of other major classical crossover artists, that Sewell and partner Simone Lanham first began toying with the idea of assembling a group that could combine the classical skills of opera with the immediate appeal of pop music.
Hailing from Blackpool, England, the soaring soprano traded dance classes for singing lessons as a child, going on to complete her studies in opera at The Royal Northern College of Music. With a scholarship from the legendary D'Oyly Carte Opera Company she performed at the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London and went on to play an encyclopedic array of key operatic roles, from Despina in Cosi Fan Tutti to Servilia in La Clemenza and beyond. In between stints with the Carl Rosa Opera and the Gyndebourne Festival Opera, she landed singing jobs working with Geoff Sewell, and sparked immediately to the idea of the vocal ensemble idea. The two were joined in short order by another pair of promising young singers.
The tenor was born near Bournemouth, England, with an early apprenticeship in local rock and roll bands. When his interest turned to opera, he went on to study both music and acting at the Mountview Drama School in London and was quickly tapped to appear in a variety of West End musical productions, including lead roles as Marius in Les Miserables and Tony in West Side Story. Subsequently attending the Royal Northern College of Music to further his opera studies, he would go on to perform such high profile operatic roles as Alfredo in La Traviata, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Ernesto in Don Pasquale and many others with various UK opera companies.
It was while as a member of the prestigious Glyndeboune Festival Opera Company that he first met Jo Appleby, and he too loved the idea that was fast developing.
London-born Garrett earned his musical stripes studying singing, composition, piano and conducting at the Trinity College of Music before going on to win a singing grant from the Wolfson Foundation. After serving a stint in the world-renowned vocal ensemble "The Swingle Singers," Garrett’s next move was into some of world’s leading opera houses, including the Royal Opera House, the English National Opera, the Scottish Opera and the Opera National de Paris, performing over 30 major roles showcasing his rich bass baritone. As a composer and talented musician he contributes to the writing and arrangements of some of the pieces performed by Amici forever. He was a natural choice for the group’s fast-expanding line-up.
An assembly of remarkable talent that is Amici forever would finally be completed with the addition of soprano Valentine, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa who cut her teeth in the rich a cappella choral traditions of her home country. A music graduate from Pretoria State University, Valentine continued her operatic training at Pretoria Technikon where she quickly caught the attention of the country's leading music enthusiasts. Small wonder she was selected to appear in high profile recitals before such world leaders as Nelson Mandela as well as taking the lead role of Maria in West Side Story for the Spier Opera Company in Cape Town. Other major operatic roles include the title role in Grafin Mariza, Musetta from La Boheme and Contessa Ceprano in Rigoletto. When her career goals took her to England, she swiftly became a key component of the emerging young ensemble who, reflecting the deep friendships that had grown between them, would take the name Amici forever.
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