A pioneering choir that hit the high notes when it wowed the Britain’s Got Talent judges has been given a boost by a bakery firm as it struggles for funding during the coronavirus pandemic.
Only Boys Aloud, which has choirs in Wrexham, Rhyl, Caernarfon and Holyhead with a total of 80 members, has received a £1,000 grant from the Village Bakery which was determined to help them ensure that the show goes on.
The money came from the company’s £5,000 Village People Fund that was set up to help local charities, community groups and sports clubs whose fund-raising activities have been curtailed because of Covid-19.
It was presented by the Village Bakery’s Managing Director, Robin Jones, to the choir’s North Wales Projects Manager, Eleri Watkins, and three brothers, Joshua, Tom and Joseph Roberts, who have all benefited from being members.
Only Boys Aloud which has a network of 14 choirs across Wales, was founded by Tim Rhys Evans MBE to provide opportunities for youngsters aged 11-19 and keep the flame of the Welsh choral tradition alight.
They shot to fame when they reached the final of Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, with their audition clip being viewed 28 million times.
The North Wales choirs’ last engagement was a concert at Disneyland in Paris to celebrate St David’s Day.
Since the pandemic struck rehearsals have moved online, enabling them to practice virtually and experience the benefits and unity of choral singing despite not being together physically.
As well as raising funds, Only Boys Aloud is also keen to attract new members because their recruitment has also been affected by the pandemic.
Eleri Watkins said: “This donation by the Village Bakery is amazing, we’re really made up. We really appreciate any donation to keep the choirs going because there is a constant struggle to find funding.
“We’ve got boys from all kind of areas of North Wales, all kinds of different backgrounds, some who have sung in school and some who have never done something like this before. It’s free and inclusive.
“The choir had made a massive life-changing difference to the lads here. We’re very much focused on confidence building, team building and raising levels of self-esteem. That’s what Tim really wanted to focus on and it works.
“We’ve done a lot of research on the future development of the boys who have gone through the system.
“A lot of them have gone on to university when possibly they wouldn’t have done otherwise and a lot of gone on to carry on in the performing arts. Some have not done anything with music but it’s helped them develop their confidence.
“The pandemic has hugely affected Only Boys Aloud but we’ve managed to carry on and we have weekly rehearsals online, we’ve still retained our numbers.
“We’re also looking to recruit new members – there is no charge and no audition. From seasoned singers to those who’ve never tried it before, any boy between the ages of 11 and 19 can join.
“What matters to us is equality of access and quality of experience – these two drivers are behind everything we do in Only Boys Aloud.”
Robin Jones said : “The Village People’s Fund was set up for organisations exactly like Only Boys Aloud.
“Our aim is to support local grassroots groups, organisations and charities.
“What Only Boys Aloud does is life-changing and they can be rightly proud of what they achieve.
“It gives these young men the confidence and emotional wherewithal to go out into the world and do something special.
“For some of them it’s music-related and for other’s it’s not, but it’s helped them develop as individuals, and we’re really pleased we can be part of that.”
Joshua Roberts, 20, a former pupil of Castell Alun High School in Hope and the Hammond School for performing arts in Chester credits Only Boys Aloud with him gaining a place to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
He said: “After joining Only Boys Aloud, my confidence grew and it really spurred me on to the three-year acting course I’m on now.
“After getting into Only Boys Aloud the improvement in my singing technique has been phenomenal. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Only Boys Aloud.
“My ambition is to ultimately be on the West End and be a working actor.”
Brother Tom, 18, who is studying comedy writing at Salford University, has been a member of the Wrexham choir for four years.
He said: “I’ve loved every second of it, it’s fantastic. The conductors have got our best interests at heart and you don’t have to pay anything.”
Following in their footsteps is younger brother Joseph, 12, a pupil at Castell Alun High School.
He said: “I joined Only Boys Aloud three years ago and the amount of opportunities I’ve had is incredible. It’s a dream.”
The boys’ father, David, added: “It’s a brilliant organisation. What they’ve done for my three boys is absolutely fantastic and I am very grateful to the Village Bakery for their support.”