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Alan’s first CD, Will, is available on iTunes.
Alan is a gifted and prolific musician who has written music and song lyrics for all his life. His main areas of interest are roots folk music, jazz and, more recently, traditional English choral music.
Alan’s second CD, Ladders of Daylight, is now on iTunes.
For 25 years, Alan Franks sang with former Settlers singer Patty Vetta, who had performed with many eminent artists, including Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers.
Alan and Patty have recorded with a wide variety of musicians, including violinist Chris Leslie of Fairport Convention, concert mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett, British country stars Wes McGee and Reg Meuross. The repertoire included many jazz/blues numbers such as I Wouldn’t Do It To A Dog, Gospel-influenced chants (Government Hill), sardonic humour (The Day It Started Raining Millionaires on Wall Street) and Broadside Ballads (At The End of Our Times.)
They made many radio broadcasts and played at festivals and clubs throughout the country, including Cambridge, Reading, Warwick, Aldeburgh and the popular Weavers in Newington Green. They also did support spots for a number of artists including Ralph McTell on tour, Bert Jansch at the 12-Bar Club in Wardour Street and Jake Thackray at the Amadeus Centre in Maida Vale. They were regularly joined by West End actress Charlotte Moore, whose recent roles include Audience, in which she had a lead role and also understudied Helen Mirren and Kristin Scott Thomas as The Queen.
Several of the songs have been covered by other acts, most notably Fairport Convention, whose version of The Wishfulness Waltz became the title track on a compilation CD. Other musicians who have performed his songs or lyrics include Martin Simpson and Peter Donegan, son of the late skiffle pioneer Lonnie.
Alan new album, Wherever You Go, includes a variety of musicians in different genres. One of these is the young West End singing sensation Isabella Pappas, star of “Annie”, who has recorded four of his most recent numbers.
Franks has also played at such clubs as Ronnie Scotts Upstairs, The Map in Kentish Town, Way Out West in Richmond, and he performs regularly at the Unity Club in Camden. He has collaborated with the jazz saxophonist Tim Whitehead, and several of their songs (Franks’ words, Whitehead’s music) have been performed at jazz festivals, recently Winchester and Berlin.
Alan started singing in school choirs and as a student took part in cabarets and stage reviews. His numbers included country-and-western versions of John Milton’s verse epic Paradise Lost and the Early English poem Beowulf. In 1969, he wrote and performed songs for the Oxford Theatre Group’s revue at the Edinburgh Festival. His fellow performers included Jane Asher’s sister Claire and the American economist Robert Reich, labour minister in the first Clinton administration.
Here is his song, How Can I Be A Has Been, sung with Charlotte Moore, on the album Bird in Flames:
Four years ago, Alan joined the London Gallery Quire, one of about forty choirs in England performing the so-called West Gallery hymnody of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The name derives from the siting of the string-and-wind bands that accompanied the singing of the congregations before the widespread introduction or return of the organ during the Victorian era. The Quire also sings one of the songs on his new album.
This process of a church choir being replaced by the more “seemly” keyboard instrument is vividly described in the novel Under The Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy, who came from a family of West Gallery fiddlers. In fact his local villages of Stinsford and Rockhampton were the model for the story’s Wessex community of Mellstock.
The London Gallery Quire, founded by Oxford music graduate Dr. Francis Roads in 1997, performs regularly in churches throughout central and Greater London, accompanied by varying combinations of violin, flute, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon and serpent. Some recent venues have been two churches closely associated with the young and not so young Hardy, the first St. Pancras Old Church, where he worked as a churchwarden, the second St. Andrews Enfield, where he married his second wife Florence in 1914.
Last year the LGQ was the featured choir in a Radio 4 Sunday Service broadcast from Wesley’s Chapel in City Road. In December it will give a recital in the Friday evening series of events at the National Portrait Gallery.
The LGQ now has a repertoire of more than 500 items, most of them dating from between 1720 and 1850, some of them unperformed since that time until their rediscovery from sundry sources by Dr. Roads.
One of Franks’ hymn lyrics, Nothing More Than Man, to the pre-existing tune of Rineton, has twice been included in the quire’s programmes.
This is Alan singing one of his songs, No More Of This