The Story of The Carpenters Story…
“I’d always had a real passion for music, but my love of vocal harmony started when I heard the early Carpenters records.
Back in those days I used to be a big rock fan listening to Led Zepp and Pink Floyd, but I found myself more and more drawn to the sound of those harmonies on Close to You. So, a few years down the line I called up some friends I’d met along the way who were great players and, as I’d trained as an arranger by then, was able to put together a show which just played the music of the Carpenters. Back then it was called ‘Tribute to the Carpenters’.
A large agency was staging an event showcasing new acts to important promoters. I fielded a band, which was much larger than the norm, including oboe, violin, sax, flute and clarinet – we took the showcase by storm! Playing for 20 minutes, we were offered 34 show bookings there and then and signed up that night for a full scale British tour!
In August 1992 we opened the tour at the London Palladium and I’d added a twenty-piece string orchestra plus harp for the occasion! It was sold right out – 2,600 people! As a result of the London success, the whole forty-date tour was a sell out!
Following our tour, the show was featured in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Star, The People and we appeared on Richard and Judy’s Breakfast TV show. Then, we appeared on Yorkshire Television’s Calendar programme and the following week, so did Richard Carpenter! Richard Whitely, who was presenting the show, played our spot to Richard and he said it was “very accurate – I’m flattered!” Praise indeed!
We can’t find any instances of bands with Tribute in the title before Tribute to the Carpenters, so it’s quite possible that we started the entire Tribute movement!
Pivotal in the success of the show has been the discovery of Claire Furley.
I held auditions at Trackside Studios in Southend on Sea. Many applied; top London session singers, unknown hopefuls, all hoping to secure the role of Karen Carpenter. Claire arrived at the studio on the second day and I put the audition tape into record mode to hear how she handled “Close to You”. She only got as far as “Ev’ry time, you are near”. Claire had landed the job in just 4 bars!
The musicianship in The Carpenters was awesome, so there could never be any compromise with the Carpenters Story orchestra. All are great musicians with the depth of experience necessary for such a varied repertoire; they have to be faultless in jazz, rock and country music, as well as able to sing backing vocals.
Over the years we’ve played many tours across England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore even playing 22 venues in New Zealand’s North and South islands.
We all love the show today as much as we did when we started it all those years ago and hope you do too!”
The Carpenters Story MD
“From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to perform. Although my first love was the violin, and I dreamed of the life of a professional violinist. A chance meeting with Sylvia Young back when I was 15, led to my hobby of singing becoming my career. I began classical training and have been singing professionally since the age of 17. I later met and auditioned for Phil Aldridge, and have provided the voice of Karen Carpenter starring alongside Phil and The Carpenters Story Orchestra ever since.”
Claire Furley is not only sought after for musical performances but also as a teacher and musical director. She has been Head of Music and Director of Music & Drama in both Preparatory and Secondary schools; along with 25 years teaching experience in singing, violin, and piano, she regularly leads singing workshops at theatre schools and for local education authorities.
Claire is the founder and musical director of The Hildale Community Singers, an award winning choir which is run in Hockley, Essex. This involves members from all age groups and backgrounds, singing all styles of music that Claire has either arranged or written specifically for the choir. It remains a project that it close to her heart, as she firmly believes that singing can make a difference and should be accessible to all.
Claire’s partner is the musician and composer, Keith Atack (former lead guitarist in the Carpenters Story) and their beautiful new addition to the family is baby girl Nancy.
Claire would like to dedicate this tour to the memory of her Dad, Michael and to her family, both new and not so new…!