Blake's classical crossover gets leaner but weightier as autumn tour takes off
Their rendition of Abide With Me was witnessed by a crowd of 85,000 at the opening of this year's Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium – not to mention the eight million BBC viewers watching at home. They also debuted to 350 million TV viewers in China, and serenaded thousands of Filipino fans in the Tagalog language at a London festival.
Classical crossover crooners Blake have learned to take such heady achievements in their stride.
The group have made their name shining the spotlight on vocal strength and interpretation, singing everything from pop and rock numbers like U2's With Or Without You, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars and the Beach Boys' God Only Knows to Nessun Dorma, Ave Maria and the National Anthem.
Six-and-a-half years since their inception they have scored two Brit Awards, sold a million albums worldwide, played more than 500 live shows, and made more than 150 live TV appearances in 15 countries; they also have a penchant for playing on small islands like Trinidad and Tobago, where they are huge stars.
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So, it's quite a treat to find Stephen Bowman, Humphrey Berney and Ollie Baines setting off on a relatively intimate autumn tour of UK theatres – including three Westcountry dates – with their special guest, rising star Camilla Kerslake.
It's a continuation of their first British outing without Jules Knight, who decided to return to his first love of acting (look out for him in Holby City). His departure followed the release of the chaps' 2012 studio album Start Over, which includes Paul McCartney's Beautiful Night and Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love, as well as some original tracks.
Since the beginning of this year the remaining three – all in their early 30s now – have been honing their performances as a trio and promise fans that their sound is as strong and impressive as ever.
"There is always some degree of fear when things change – for us as well as out supporters around the world," explains Stephen, who grew up in Bath and, like Ollie, studied at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
"But we ripped the plaster off quickly and things have settled very well. For the majority of harmonies you are generally using three notes, so in the past we used to doubled up to some extent," he adds.
"I think our sound has become a bit more delicate with more light and shade. And another thing we quite enjoy is that there is more opportunity for solo performances now.. We are loving it. "
They will be on stage for around two hours on this tour, delivering a set that swings from the stoic and large to the poppy and singalong.
"There will be around two dozen songs in total and we'll be mixing them around a bit," reveals Stephen. "We'll be reviving some material we haven't played since the beginning of our journey, and chopping and changing as we go."
This tactic is partly geared to pleased the "Blake-ettes" – a band of hardcore fans who tend to follow the group from concert to concert.
"It gives them – and us – some variety," explains Stephen. "We also like to chat between songs and that is never scripted. It is all ad lib, so it can go incredibly off-piste with personal anecdotes. The audience ask us questions too; we encourage an almost cabaret-like interaction."
They will also be doing some duets with classical Brit nominee Camilla, including her single You Raise Me Up which was recorded to benefit Breast Cancer Campaign, a charity that is close to Camilla's heart and for whom she is an ambassador.
"She has a beautiful soprano voice," adds Stephen.
Blake are Live In Concert with Camilla Kerslake at the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil on October 23; the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on October 24 and The Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare on October 25.