- Credit: Angela Sharpe
Whether you are dreaming of a white Christmas, rocking around the Christmas tree or rocking a baby towards dreamland, Humphrey Berney has a song for you, writes Rowan Mantell
He is used to fans going a little swoony as his band gives some of opera’s most beautiful tunes a boy-band twist. But for his first solo venture, Humphrey Berney of Blake wants to send his audience to sleep.
The Norfolk singer who travels the world serenading thousands of fans in concert halls, sports stadium and palaces has recorded an album of dreamy tunes, designed to soothe and calm small children.
Slumberland, inspired by Humphrey’s idyllic Norfolk childhood and by his stints as babysitter, includes Moon River, When You Wish Upon A Star and Brahms’ Lullaby.
“I have a voice that suits that type of music,” says Humphrey, who has been a member of Blake for seven years and staged command performances for celebrities ranging from royals to pop stars. It was a baby called Wilfred who first inspired Humphrey to create an album of lullabies.
“Before Blake started, my cousin gave me a job of being a babysitter for his son,” he explains. “I loved it and partly from that experience realised how much babies respond to music. When Wilfred was making a hell of a racket, music would distract him - anything from me singing a lullaby if he was a bit grumpy or tired, to AC/DC if he was awake and active!”
Humphrey’s niece and nephew, seven-year-old Sophia and five-year-old Lucas, of Hockering, near Dereham, have also helped shape the album. “They are very particular!” he laughs. “I got a full review of the album from them. Lucas’ favourite is Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Sophia liked Lullaby for a Stormy Night.”
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Humphrey’s own musical career began early: “Music played a huge part in my life from the very beginning”. The youngest of three children, he too grew up in Hockering, where his mother used to sing him lullabies. He was a church chorister from the age of seven, sang with the National Youth Chamber Choir as a teenager and was awarded a music scholarship to Gresham’s School and then the Royal Academy of Music.
Slumberland has been a family affair from the start. Its dream-like pastel cover, featuring a fox on a swing in a forest, birds perched on a rainbow and a figure fishing the moon from a lake where a sailing ship rests at anchor, was designed and drawn by Humphrey’s wife Charlotte, a fashion designer for Ted Baker. Although the couple live in London they often return to Norfolk and hope to one day bring up a family of their own in the county.
But the lullabies are not just for babies. Humphrey has named his production company Thurba, for the Welsh cliffs where he enjoyed childhood holidays and where his family scattered ashes of his sister. “Everything I do musically is a reminder of Rose,” he says. She killed herself 10 years ago after battling depression, and Humphrey says: “I think part of this album was wanting to do something on my own and in memory of Rose. I remember sitting at the piano and singing Moon River with her.”
One of his own favourite songs on the album is Baby Mine from Dumbo “It’s a very sad moment in the film. I’m a bit of a soft-hearted bloke and always got a bit upset at that point!” he reveals. “It soothes babies but older children seem to really enjoy it. And I think it’s something parents will listen to when the children have gone to bed.”
Slumberland is available from www.welcometoslumberland.com