Interview: Humphrey Berney of Blake
PUBLISHED: 15:57 04 June 2018
With a new baby due, a big house move planned and a nationwide tour, Norfolk classical singing star Humphrey Berney has a hectic summer ahead
Affectionately known as the original classical boy band – Blake have performed all over the world, selling over a million records, topping the charts, and appearing on glamorous red carpets and countless television shows.
As one third of the vocal harmony group, Norfolk’s Humphrey Berney says that despite being all grown-up, they are still all as excited and driven as they were at the start and, most importantly, there have been no dramatic break-ups.
“It only gets better and better because with time, you have that maturity to take it all in rather than just being a rabbit in the headlights. And we do actually still get on really well despite spending so much time together,” he laughs. “We might have a filthy row while stuck on the motorway for five hours on the way to concert, but then we get there, get on stage and within minutes it’s all forgotten. We are not just band mates, we’re friends who have shared all these extraordinary experiences over the years.”
This year, Humphrey, Ollie Baines and Stephen Bowman celebrate their 10th anniversary as Blake with the release of their seventh studio album and their biggest UK tour to date.
The Anniversary Album is particularly special because it pays homage to another landmark anniversary, and reinforces the group’s close connections and support of the Armed Forces. It features the national RAF band and orchestra plus members of the Military Wives Choirs.
“As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, the Royal Air Force celebrates its 100th, and so the idea for the album seemed to come together perfectly. When we sang at Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday at The London Palladium, our accompanying band were the RAF Squadronaires, who we had never performed with before. They were amazing musicians and we struck up a great relationship. At the same time we were just starting our new album and we just knew we wanted to work with them. If you don’t ask, you don’t get and thankfully they said yes and we recorded the album at RAF Northolt.”
Earlier this year, Blake performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the star-studded RAF Centenary Gala, something which Humphrey says was a huge honour.
“We have been lucky enough to perform at the Albert Hall a few times, but this time was probably the most special. We had 107 players on stage, the auditorium was packed and the atmosphere was incredible. That thrill never wears off.”
Humphrey, who grew up in Hockering, near Dereham, was awarded music scholarships at the University of Kent, in Canterbury and then the Royal Academy of Music. But it was in 2009, when he joined Blake, then in its infancy, that his career took off and took him away from Norfolk.
He has long yearned to move back, and with a growing family, now seems to be the right time.
“Having children changes your perspective. I have always been a country boy at heart and I need fields and space and fresh air. I always longed to settle here with my own family, and now we have Ottilie, who is 18 months old, it seemed the right time.
“Some people think I am mad because of the travelling logistics, especially with touring, but we will only be about an hour and 10 minutes from Stansted and it is worth the few extra miles on the road for the brilliant quality of life. Norwich has been transformed over the past 20 years. It is an exciting, creative place and I am really excited about getting to know it again properly.
However, it won’t be quite the relaxing reintroduction to life in the countryside.
“We have another baby arriving this summer, hopefully happily and healthily at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and I will also be touring and promoting the album, all on top of a major house move; so it is going to be busy.
“I certainly have had to be more organised and with touring I try never to be away from my family for very long, which is important to me. Sometimes, though, when we are performing quite far away, I am secretly a little pleased when they say we will need to stay in a hotel rather than drive home, as actually getting a full night of uninterrupted sleep is very appealing,” he laughs. “Just between me, you and your readers of course.”