The barmitzvah band that helped Alex get the X Factor

By Candice Krieger, December 18, 2008
Alexandra Burke singing in pre-X Factor days with the Gilev Showband

Alexandra Burke singing in pre-X Factor days with the Gilev Showband

X Factor winner Alexandra Burke may now be firmly on the path to international stardom. But she is unlikely to forget the Jewish support which helped set her on her way.

The 20-year-old from Islington, north London, who was unsuccessful in her attempt to make the finals in 2005, has spent the past two years singing at weddings and barmitzvahs with leading simchah performers the Gilev Showband, who helped her regain her confidence.

The band’s manager, Jeremy Horowitz, said: “I wouldn’t want to say that we built her but she is a much stronger performer today than she was two years ago. I have definitely noticed that she has more confidence and that is 100 per cent because she has been performing regularly in a very high-end market, and with top singers.” Alexandra began singing with Gilev around two years ago, after Mr Horowitz spotted her at a corporate event in London.

More than 15 million people watched Alexandra beat boyband rivals JLS and Northern Irish teenager Eoghan Quigg to take the crown — and a £1m recording contract — during the final last Saturday evening. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has raced up the charts.

Might she perform with Gilev again? “It’s such a volatile industry, you never know,” said Mr Horowitz. “We have had people who have toured with major stars, who have come back. But I am sure she will do really well. It’s really great news. She is a top girl.” Gilev’s co-director Jonni Gilbert, who spoke to Alexandra after the final, added: “She really deserved to win and we are going to miss her.” But the band - which has exclusive rights to Alexandra in the Jewish function market - hope that she may join them occasionally as a special guest singer.

Gilev played at the wedding of Joanna Gruder and Bradley Silver at The Grove, Hertfordshire, in September.

Joanna, 26, a trainee psychologist, said: “Even if someone had told me afterwards that Alexandra from X Factor would usually have been in the line- up, I wouldn’t have known as they are all good enough to be in the X Factor final. Now I know, it makes me even prouder to have had Gilev performing for my special day.”

Last updated: 3:25pm, December 18 2008