Zoe Mace was asked to sing at her school’s formal Prize Giving Ceremony and approached Ben Heaney as piano accompanist for the performance. The rehearsal and performance were astonishing. She was just 9 years old but sang Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” with the courage and conviction of a singer many years her senior. When asked who she might be copying, Zoe looked confused and asked for the question to be explained. Ben was left certain that she was just singing it how she thought it should be sung.
Soon after this performance, Zoe had the idea to record a mini album and try to raise money for the Oxford Children’s Hospital Campaign through formal local release. Ben was invited to arrange and perform some of the pieces – a collection of opera and folk songs, including the Puccini aria, Irish folk song “Oh Danny Boy”, Bizet’s “Habanera” and the traditional song, “She Went Through The Fair”. The story was picked up by ITV’s GMTV program and arrangements were made for a live television broadcast of Ben’s voice and piano arrangement of “O Mio Babbino”. Upon release, the album went to number one in the local charts and sold out at source in just a few weeks. The not insignificant sum of money raised brought a great deal of local press attention and plans soon began to made to record a longer album. Zoe wanted to release it on a National scale, but this time to raise money for a heart operation her young sister needed.
- Little Ray of Light (2004)
Remixes: Mace Mulch & Only Love
In February 2005, contacts were made with local professional audio engineer, producer and singer/song-writer Andy Lovegrove (Breaks Co-Op) and plans began to be made for a six week recording and mixing session at Courtyard Studios in Sutton-Courtney, South Oxfordshire. Ben was invited to take on the role as Musical Director for Zoe and was commissioned to write original works and make arrangements for nine of the planned twelve songs. The instrumental forces included piano, strings, guitar, wind and percussion. Howard Jacobs and Julian Talbot (The Bank, Eye), close friends and colleagues of Ben’s were invited to perform and record.
Just before recording was due to start, tragedy struck. Zoe’s sister Jodie died whilst under-going the heart-surgery. Everyone around Zoe took the view that the session should be cancelled. However, Zoe was determined to go ahead and requested that the work take place, now in aid of the Down’s Syndrome Association. Remarkably the work was completed. Following another live television broadcast on GMTV, when Zoe and Ben performed an original arrangement of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, in June 2005 the album was released and entered the UK Classical Charts at number 2. With instant interest from national and some international media, Zoe looked poised to break world records. Inexplicably, and within four days of the album being released, it was axed from the charts on grounds that it did not qualify to be classed as Classical music.
- Songs For My Sister (2005)
Instrumental version: Brothers and Sisters
Over the next two years, Zoe performed at a number of “charity spectaculars” under Ben’s musical direction and performance guidance. Highlights from this period were incredible performances at Oxford’s New Theatre with Brian Conley and a Stagecoach theatre school gala event when Zoe performed songs from her album with a live ensemble. There was also a moving performance at the Down’s Syndrome Association Ball at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel in London.
With the interest these recordings generated, Zoe teamed up with Mike Tannett for management and publishing and they began work gradually planning a new recording. For this, Ben was commissioned to write a new aria and he set about working on an original piece based on the Italian Violinist Paganini’s “Cantabile”. This was used as the basis for a song, written and sung in Italian called “Una Farfalla Deve Volare” (A Butterfly Must Fly). The song, intended as the central song in a larger (as yet unfinished) operatic piece, is set around the life-cycle of a butterfly and portrays a wretched moment when the butterfly encounters and spider and faces her doom… The synopsis of the story is written and Pants And Vest Productions plan one day to stage the whole work.
- Once Upon A Time (2006)
Orchestral, Octet & Piano and voice versions, “Una Farfalla”
Zoe currently studies music and singing at Kings in London. Recently she recorded a new work for Deltaviolin, actually a re-working of “Little Ray Of Light”, from the Songs For My Sister album. This was the first time she had performed the work in nearly a decade. The recording made as a demo at Challow Park Recording Studios under the kind and mindful production expertise of Will Biggs and Amy Blyth, was used to enter into the recent open-entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.
- Song For Europe (2014)