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'Boy band' with an average age of 66.

Miracles can still happen. David Whetstone hears how a Welsh male voice choir hit the big time after performing at a wedding.

For 60 years the men of the Froncysyllte <OK> Male Voice Choir have been raising their voices lustily in song, to the delight of audiences in the north-east tip of Wales.

In its ranks the choir has six singers called Jones, five called Evans and four called Davies. All will certainly be able to pronounce the name of their village, at the eastern entrance to the Vale of Llangollen, better than most of us (it's vron-cuss-ulth tay, if that helps). Which is probably why they are touring the country as the Fron Male Voice Choir.

On April 1 ( and more fool anyone who thinks musical miracles can't happen ( the choir will perform at The Sage Gateshead. It has been sold out for weeks. While the box office staff advise there is a possibility of returns, you might well have to change your name to Jones and join the choir in order to hear the mellow male harmonies of the men of the Fron.

Of course, we have our own male voice choirs in the North-East. And while the Fron is widely acknowledged as one of the best in Wales, there are others who can do justice to Myfanwy and Men Of Harlech.

What has happened recently to lift the Fron Male Voice Choir from the ranks is simply extraordinary, as one of those Joneses would be the first to admit.

"This is our 60th anniversary year so we had been planning to make it a bit special," says David Jones, the chairman of the choir and a member for 30 years. We are one of the most successful competing choirs in Wales and have performed all over the place. But none of us could have predicted what would happen over the past few months."

Last year they were booked to perform at a wedding reception. "There were some people from the showbusiness world in the audience and one of them introduced himself as Daniel Glatman, the former manager of Blue, a boy band.

"Our performance went down well and afterwards he approached me at the bar. He said, 'It's a wonderful sound the choir makes. Has anybody ever tried to get you a record deal?'" We can take it that this is not a question normally directed at the chairmen of male voice choirs.

David Jones, a prison officer, has a sceptical streak but was pleasantly surprised when Mr Glatman later returned to visit the choir with "these people from London". They saw the choir put through its paces.

Later, on the phone, he told Mr Jones: "I'm sitting in my office with a contract for the choir for five albums with the biggest record company in the world".

David Jones recalls: "I thought he was joking at first. You could have pushed me over with a feather."

The upshot was that the 60-strong choir, men ranging in age from 16 to 84 but with an average age of 66, signed to Universal Music, which also handles the rapper Eminem, and brought out a first album, Voices of the Valley, which became the best-selling classical album of 2006 and the fastest-selling ever, out-performing The Three Tenors, Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson.

The choir, made up of ordinary chaps with ordinary jobs, with more than a sprinkling of pensioners and one sixth former in their midst, suddenly became famous, a big deal. There have been radio and TV interviews and even a photo-shoot on the zebra crossing outside the Abbey Road recording studios immortalised by The Beatles.

David Jones has a quiet chuckle to himself as he recalls: "I was in a pop group in the 1960s. Like The Beatles, we all wanted to be famous."

His father, meanwhile, was a founder member of the Fron Male Voice Choir. "I can still hear Dad's voice in the base section sometimes," says David.

Little did he know that fame would only come his way when he abandoned the pop group and followed his father into the harmonising ranks of the choir ( and then after waiting three decades.

Even more amazingly, the Fron's story might yet end up on the big screen. Hollywood producer Zygi Kamasa (the man behind Bend It Like Beckham) has bought the rights.

You get the feeling, though, that the men of the Fron will not be changed very much by their good fortune. The choir's the thing ( and the choir will go on.

* Sage box office: (0191) 443-4661.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 28, 2007
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