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An interview with Andy Mulligan, of Only Men Aloud - the winners of BBC's 'Last Choir Standing'
A CRITICALLY acclaimed men’s choir, who won a BBC talent show, are about to kickstart a national Christmas themed tour.
Cardiff-based Only Men Aloud bagged an five-record deal with Universal Music and had a sell out tour in April and May after winning Saturday night’s Last Choir Standing in August 2008.
The new festive show, at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on December 14, will feature a selection of Christmas songs, a few firm favourites from their two albums and a touch of new musical theatre in conjunction with a 12-piece band.
The choir’s second album, ‘Band Of Brothers’, with music by the BBC National Orchestra, was number one in the classical charts for three weeks and is due to be released in the US in March 2010.
Warrington-born member, Andy Mulligan, who studied music at Cardiff University and sings bass, told Guardian: “I’ve been in the choir since the start and I’ve always loved it and would always want to be a part of it. We’ve been incredibly busy but it’s rewarding.
“It’s been a whirlwind year. We try to vary our performances as much as possible. Sometimes it will be very classical and then we might throw in an energetic Tom Jones medley.
“We’ve evolved musically over the years and enjoy performing the pop as well as the classical music.”
Talking about Manchester, he added: “Growing up in the north west I have an affinity with Manchester. We always get an enthusiastic reception and it’s an honour to perform at the wonderful Bridgewater Hall. It’s just a shame we can’t spend longer in each city we visit so we can have a proper look round.”
Only Men Aloud, which has 20 members, was formed in 2000 by classically trained singer, Tim Rhys-Evans, and after Last Choir Standing, they joined Merlin Elite's management roster.
The choir's self-titled debut album was recorded over five days at AIR studios in London, and achieved gold status within the first week of sales. The album went on to sell in excess of 250,000 copies in the UK.
Andy, who is one of five original choir members, said: “We had a few labels pitching to us and we chose Universal as it’s a great label, suited us and was laying the best offer on the table.”
Tim’s primary aim with Only Men Aloud was to encourage younger men to get involved with one of Wales’ oldest and best loved traditions, male voice singing.
The group are unafraid to tackle music not normally associated with male voice choirs and their repertoire ranges from the 17th century to the present day.
A collaboration with Bonnie Tyler on a version of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ at home turf, Cardiff National Arena, was a huge success.
Andy added: “The debut tour was amazing, even though we were nervous at the start. We got standing ovations every night. I hope we have the same success with this tour. We’re more relaxed about it all now.
“We try to make the shows as entertaining as possible so we dance too and we make our choreography as professional as possible so the audience really come away feeling like they’ve seen a show.
“Live is where it’s at for us, it’s where the show really comes into its own.”
The choir appears regularly on network radio and television. Notable broadcasts include the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium, Radio Three Choir of the Year from the Royal Festival Hall, and a performance on HMS Belfast for the BBC One New Year’s Eve broadcast.
This year has seen two successful trips to the United States and a private performance for Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, and guests, at Buckingham Palace.
Andy said: “In the US we performed at the Kennedy Centre and the Smithsonian Museum. Back in the UK we’re regularly performing in front of 2,000 plus crowds. We would never have expected this four or five years ago!”
Leading up to their hotly anticipated tour, Only Men Aloud will be hosting and performing for the BBC Wales Children In Need show and performing with Katherine Jenkins at the Chelsea Hospital for the British Forces Foundation.
They appeared at Silence in the Square, in London, on November 11, dueting with Mark Knopfler.
The choir turns 10 next year and Andy hopes this will be marked with a performance made up of members past and present. He said: “That would be very special for us, I really hope we can put something together like that.”
Tickets are £29.50 / £26.00 / £20.00 regional and £35.00 / £27.50 / £22.50 London. They are on sale now and are available at www.gigsandtours.com or from 24-hour hotline 0871 2200 260.
For more information visit onlymenaloud.com