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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Music , Maestro, Please!

I have a wide and varied musical taste, ranging from the delightfully soporific Annie's Song by John Denver, through the unashamedly raucous ACDC's Back in Black, to the almost ethereal Jar Of Hearts by Christina Perri. But more often than not it is the lyrics of a song which draws me to it, or perhaps a haunting melody, or in some instances a wonderful combination of the two. Seldom is it the actual voice of the performer which I find captivating.

There are of course instances where this is untrue, but these tend to be reserved for the likes of Celine Dion and Neil Diamond - in other words, unique voices which are so sublime, ringing out so true with every note delivered, that they cannot help but make me stop and listen, not just to the words and the tune, but to the particular tone and timbre of the voice itself.

You may recall that I was  holiday in Spain recently. Whilst there I saw a number of tribute acts but it was one in particular which caught my attention. Wendy Manfield WAS Tina Turner, from the pronounced trademark bottom strut, right down to the mannerisms and the gaudy outfits, and I loved every minute of it, although I must confess to not being a huge Tina Turner fan.

So what captivated me so much about Wendy's performance? It was the realisation that Wendy didn't need to be Tina, that in fact she had a much superior voice of her own. Having performed her show as Tina and returned to the stage after thunderous applause, she gave an encore - but not as the superstar.

Instead she sang two Queen anthems in a way that I have never heard them performed. Passion infused her powerful voice and informed it in such a way that I almost believed her to be the originator of the song. She was nothing short of amazing. And I got to wondering why. Why she was performing as someone else when she was so, so much better than that. So here are the answers...

Wendy where are you originally from?
I'm from Darwen in Lancashire.

How long have you been singing and where did you start?
I started singing professionally 25 years ago.(That's scary.) In the working men's clubs, mainly around the North West of England - Blackpool, Manchester, Liverpool and Yorkshire. Under the wings of my aunt Kay; we were a duo called Diamonds. There was a lot to learn back then. Buying equipment, spending countless days learning how to work it. Going to musicians' studios to get all the sheet music transposed. (There were hardly any backing tracks when i started.)

Working with backing tracks gives a singer more freedom, as it's impossible for keyboards and drums to reproduce sounds exactly on the night. But when a singer plays with musicians, it's uplifting, it makes you sing better and you begin to learn your craft again. You don't realize that you have become a little lazy with backing tracks.

My mother was originally an opera singer and she was insistent that I went for singing lessons. I was amazed how much there was, and still is, to learn. There is always something to inspire you with music.

How did you become a Tina Turner tribute?
I was asked by the owner of a venue here in Benidorm. "Tributes put bums on seats," as he put it, "It's what people want."

Are you a fan?
YES I am a fan. Sorry to say I never saw her live... I love her energy and soulfull rock voice.

How difficult is it to mimic that voice?
Tina's higher register is hard to reach. Some people have said she screams...Ha! You trying screaming and sounding as good as her! Hmmm.

When you start to study a singer you begin to realise just how great they are. I have nothing but respect for Tina Turner. You have to give 100% when doing Tina...because that's what she did every time she recorded or set foot on a stage...you can hear it in her voice.

How long have you been in Spain?
12 years. It's gone very fast and I have seen a lot of changes.....its quiet a transient place.

Do you ever perform as yourself?
Funny you should ask me that question... I only do Tina once a week. My own act is a mix of taking the mickey out of myself in a cheesy kind of way. I do some songs straight. Some people are ready for the funny stuff, while others are just waiting to hear me sing. You can't be everyone's cup of tea. That much I have learned. I just try my best at the venues and I work to entertain everyone. If I was to perform as my self singing the covers that I love to sing, I would probably lose some of the audience.
 
What do you hope the future holds?
If I get off my lazy behind I hope to learn an instrument, perhaps the piano or guitar, so that I can play and sing music -no sequins, no gimmicks, just music.

Can you ever see yourself coming back to Britain?
Honestly? I don't know. I guess, never say never.

With grateful thanks to Wendy Manfield - a real class performer.

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