Once upon a time in a (united) kingdom long, long ago there lived four million TV viewers who tuned in to watch the final of the BBC's male/female voice talent show, Last Choir Standing. Within that same jolly kingdom almost double that figure watched the final of another series of ITV's established Cowell talent-vehicle, X Factor. When you consider the magnitude of Cowell's empire and the effect it has had on people's viewing patterns and dreams, half of that programme's total audience is not to be sniffed at.
Last Choir Standing shouldn't have worked as well as it did in 2008, but it did. Here was a format as far away from 'slebs' and 'red carpets' as you could wish to get, a sort of Strictly Songs of Praise and the Pops, though thankfully blessed with a far better title than mine, yet it captivated almost 10% of the population by the end of the series. Its 16 episodes and only series was steered without fanfare by the unlikely duo of Nick 'DIY/Rescues' Knowles and Myleene 'Hearsay/Lottery' Klass, with knowledgeable judges in the form of singers Russell Watson, Sharon D.Clarke and Suzi Digby.
After several weeks of 'judge-power' and whittling down the 1000 hopefuls to a more broadcastable 6, the viewers were given control. Welsh male-voice choir, cheekily-named Only Men Aloud! (tagged with obligatory '!' as if to put one over the similarly-monikered pop-kittens Girls Aloud), proved to be worthy winners, eight years after their formation and haven't looked back since. The public had voted well.
Credit where credit's due, Only Men Aloud! have become an assured bet when it comes to vocal-pop ensembles with a point to prove. Their mission statement was simple enough - to bring a much needed update of the male-voice choir format, something they achieved with their typical repertoire of classic Welsh standards and pop favourites. Their albums have pretty much kept within those boundaries, as have their shows which have sold out with welcoming regularity.
This summer, you can catch the chaps in action as they perform a short tour of Wales, starting in Aberdare on 8th August and followed by Port Talbot, Bangor and Carmarthen. We have tickets to all shows now, priced at £25. Note that the venues are not arenas and may therefore sell out very quickly!