Northampton Male Voice Choir now the biggest in England after recruitment drive
A recruitment drive hosted by the Northampton Male Voice Choir has seen the group grow to become the biggest in England.
Last year the 91-strong choir, which rehearses in Kingsley Park Methodist Church, challenged Northamptonshire men to learn to sing in a bid to raise thousands for Prostate Cancer UK.
After 70 people bravely showed their faces at Franklins Gardens for an open event in February the group has gone from strength to strength.
Of those 70 newcomers, 60 people sang at a Spinney Hill charity concert - which raised £15,000 - and 35 men were formally welcomed as official members after vocal tests.
Chairman John Waller said: “Male voice choirs have a problem in that they tend to be old men and when they die, often the numbers dwindle.
“So we thought we would try and change that a bit.
"A lot of the recruits are younger and have fabulous voices, which is great. They've brought a new enthusiasm to the group, they really have."
Since new members have joined, the average age has dropped from 65 to 55 years old, with the youngest member now aged 29 and the oldest member 87.
To keep the group one step ahead of other choirs, organisers have chosen to step away from classic hymns in favour of show numbers from Phantom of the Opera, and other well-known hits.
“Male voice choirs sing traditional numbers based on the Welsh choirs but we are trying to get away from that,” John added. “I joined 10 years ago. I’m a bit musical and I sang in the school choir 50 years ago so I thought as I was retiring I better do something, and I love it.
"I wish I did it years ago.
"It's very good for your lungs and your heart, and all sorts of things. It's like a work out in the gym that produces endorphins... it makes you feel good!"
At their rehearsal on Tuesday night (January 22), attended by the Chronicle & Echo, the group sung Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and Céline Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.
“We are not right up to date ...but we are up to the nearest 40 years,” John laughed.
One of the oldest choristers, Mike Davis, 85, is in his 66th year and has been a part of the group since he was a teenager.
He fell in love with music when he was a seven-year-old chorister at church.
He said: "You come in feeling a bit down on a Tuesday night and you go out feeling uplifted. During the last 12 months, we have added many new people to the list and it’s a great club.
“I had a dream a long time ago that there should be a significant male choir in a town of this size.
“We get on average 70 to 75 people here on a Tuesday night and we have 90 members on the books, which I think makes us the biggest in England.”
Assistant musical director Andrew Howes is helping to change the direction of the group.
He said: “It’s brilliant, there’s something about male voice choirs and something special about the comradery. The new guys and old guys in the choir create an amazing sound.”
New recruit Jon Newcombe got involved when he received a leaflet through his door.
One of the big draws for him becoming a singer was to raise money for charity.
"It was all for the prostate cancer," he said. "I heard the guys in the Grosvenor Centre who were singing 'Angels' and I thought: ‘wow’. I said: 'I wouldn’t mind a bit of that'."