Blake are a British vocal group. They are widely known as the group who formed on Facebook.
They released their debut album Blake in November 2007, which won the Album of the Year Award at the Classical BRIT Awards in 2008. The album contains covers of popular classical songs and themes from the movies, to create a more commercial classical-pop crossover sound.
They sang for Shirley Bassey at her 70th birthday party, and performed in front of 80,000 football fans at Wembley Stadium. In the summer of 2007 their version of the "Swing Low" was chosen as the Official Anthem of the England rugby team for the 2007 Rugby World Cup. They sang at the opening of the 2008 Melbourne Cup in Australia and supported Katherine Jenkins on her UK tour. During Children in Need 2007, over £1,000,000 was raised while Blake were performing "God Only Knows".
Blake's second album, And So It Goes, was released in September 2008. This contains more arrangements of pop music than the debut album, as well as a negro-spiritual and the Intermezzo from Cavelleria Rusticana.
In February 2009, baritone Dominic Tighe announced that he was leaving the group, shortly before their maiden tour, to return to his acting career. The group continued with their use of social networking websites, by advertising for a new member on Twitter. After two weeks, and 55,000 subscribing to their "tweets", Humphrey Berney (better known as "Barney") joined the group. The quartet, comprising Ollie Baines, Humphrey Berney, Jules Knight and Stephen Bowman, undertook their first full UK tour, supported by Natasha Marsh in Spring 2009, and their third studio album, Together, was released on 12 October 2009 on their own label, "Blake Records".
Though many of their live performances have been at sporting events - most notably singing the anthem for the Rugby world cup in 2007, multiple appearances at Twickenham and Wembley Stadia and the opening of Wimbledon Centre Court in 2009 - Blake have made a name for themselves by regularly singing for charity; particularly for cancer charities such as Marie Curie, Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation; and Forces Charities such as Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and the Army Benevolent Fund. Blake released the song "Beautiful Earth" as the WWF's anthem for Earth Hour 2010.
The quartet formed when Jules Knight and Ollie Baines (two school friends) contacted Dominic Tighe (whom Knight had studied with at Central School and had seen sing at the Old Vic) and Stephen Bowman (a student with Ollie at the Guildhall) on Facebook. Baines organised a rehearsal at the Guildhall, and after working out some successful harmonies, they wowed the audience at a house party with their arrangement of "Moon River".
The quartet then contacted Daniel Glatman, former boss of the boy band Blue and orchestrator of the success of the Fron Male Voice Choir, via Facebook. After a successful audition, Glatman agreed to manage the band, and shortly negotiated a £1m, five-album deal with Universal Classics and Jazz, following an intense bidding war.
They chose the name 'Blake' from a mutual appreciation of the poet William Blake, whose peerless thirst for innovation is much admired amongst the group. Also, 2007 was the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth.
Oliver "Ollie" Baines (tenor), born 23 November 1982 in Oxford, received classical music training from the age of 8 as a chorister at both New College, Oxford and Winchester Cathedral. He was educated at New College School, an independent school in Oxford, to which he won a choral scholarship, followed by Marlborough College, an independent school in the market town of Marlborough, Wiltshire. He was a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain from 1999 until 2005. Aside from vocal training, Baines also learned the French Horn and the trumpet, playing in several orchestras, and is a pianist. He studied degrees in Music and Music Technology, and whilst at University sang with the choirs of Magdalene College, Cambridge and Trinity College, Cambridge before going on to study at the British Institute of Florence and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was formerly a Maths and English Tutor.
Humphrey "Barney" Berney (tenor), born Humphrey Berney on 26 July 1980, is a classically trained opera singer who joined the group in 2009 to replace Dominic Tighe. He made his recording debut on Hayley Westenra's album Treasure. Berney was educated at Taverham Hall School, an independent school in the city of Norwich in Norfolk in eastern England, followed by Gresham's School, an independent school in the market town of Holt (also in Norfolk), and completed his training at the Royal Academy of Music in 2005. He has sung throughout Europe. Operatic roles include Macheath (The Beggars Opera), Alfred (Die Fledermaus) and Monostatos (The Magic Flute) for Glyndebourne Opera and Garsington Opera. Barney also appeared in Channel 4's opera film View from the Moon. Following a search on the social networking website Twitter, Barney joined the group in February 2009.
Stephen Bowman (bass-baritone), born 22 August 1980 in Bath, was educated at St. Stephen's Church of England Primary School, a voluntary aided school in the city of Bath in Somerset in south-west England, followed by Prior Park College, a Roman Catholic independent school (also in Bath). He won a coveted place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the age of only 17.
Bowman was born to a British opera-trained mother and German ex-rockband guitarist father. Although proclaiming at age five to family friends that he wanted to be a 'rockstar' when he grew up, it wasn't until his late teens that he found out that he could actually sing. Without any traditional vocal training, Bowman started performing with indie and jazz bands in Bath, before being convinced to train towards an audition for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. At seventeen, he became the youngest baritone ever to win a place at this prestigious college. After three years of studying classical voice and electronic music at Guildhall, he left to pursue a career in sales and marketing with a number of international technology firms, whilst writing music in his home studio in the evenings with help from friends in the pop group Tears for Fears. Bowman completed his first studio album of songs, entitled Bamboo Haze in the summer of 2004. The album received great interest from independent record labels and gave Bowman his first entry into the UK music industry. In his spare time he is a keen motorcyclist, skier and snowboarder
Dominic Tighe (baritone), born 20 April 1983 in Devon, is a talented singer and established actor. He was educated at Newton Ferrers Primary School in the English south-west coastal city of Plymouth in Devon, and became a chorister at Buckfast Abbey School, a former independent school in Buckfastleigh (also in Devon), which closed in 1994, followed by Downside School, an independent school in Stratton-on-the-Fosse in Somerset (also in south-west England), where he recorded three albums at Downside Abbey. He sang at the Queen's private 80th birthday celebrations, and has also sung for Prince Edward and Nelson Mandela. He was a member of the National Youth Theatre for seven years, before studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama. After graduating, Tighe was acting for two years, working with Alan Ayckbourn, Edward Hall and Kevin Spacey, among others. He came straight from a world tour with the Old Vic to record Blake's debut album.
In 2009, Tighe announced that he was leaving the band to return to his acting career. In 2010 he appeared in Trevor Nunn's revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Aspects of Love at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and in 2014 he appeared in Sunny Afternoon, a musical based on the career of The Kinks, at the Hampstead Theatre.
Julian "Jules" Knight (baritone), also known as Julian Kaye, was born 22 September 1981 in Sussex, and is the youngest of four siblings. He was a chorister in the Winchester Cathedral Choir from the age of seven, and was educated at The Pilgrims' School, an independent school attended by all Winchester Cathedral choristers, in the English south coast cathedral city of Winchester in Hampshire. After touring the world with the cathedral choir and recording several albums before he was 14, Knight won choral scholarships to Eastbourne College, an independent school in the large town of Eastbourne in East Sussex (also on the English south coast), followed by Wells Cathedral School, an independent school in the cathedral city of Wells in Somerset, in south-west England. At Eastbourne he developed a passion for acting, and in particular, musical theatre. After completing an MA in Art History at University of St Andrews, Knight studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama. where he specialised in acting for screen. He has enjoyed success as an actor, singer, model and TV presenter. In January 2013, Jules left the band to play the cheeky doctor Harry Tressler in Holby City, with love interest Dr Gemma Wilde, played by Ty Glaser.