Stephen Hamnett and Only Men Aloud choir ready to spread Christmas cheer at Ipswich Regent

Only Men Aloud vocal ensemble Wyn Davies, David Fortey, Ben Smith, David Mahoney, Craig Yates, Niall

Only Men Aloud vocal ensemble Wyn Davies, David Fortey, Ben Smith, David Mahoney, Craig Yates, Niall Allen, Stephen Hamnett, Huw Euron and conductor Tim Rhys-Evans MBE - Credit: Archant

Last Choir Standing winners Only Men Aloud will be spreading some festive cheer in Ipswich Wednesday night.

Wyn Davies, David Fortey, Ben Smith, David Mahoney, Craig Yates, Niall Allen, Stephen Hamnett and Huw Euron - conducted by Tim Rhys-Evans MBE - will perform favourite seasonal songs like White Christmas and O’ Holy Night alongside musical hits including On The Ritz and Razzle Dazzle.

“There are all the Christmas classics, some beautiful arrangements... Razzle Dazzle is a really great piece of music, lots of energy,” says Hamnett.

The group had finished filming a TV special two days before when I caught up with him. A lot of the songs recorded feature in the tour, along with some new pieces.

Aren’t they a bit Christmas-ed out?

“I know what you mean,” he laughes. “But they’re such great songs and we have such a great time it just gets more and more Christmassy; it’s a huge preparation for Christmas as far as I’m concerned.”

The group is now performing as an eight-man vocal ensemble after some restructuring last year.

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There used to be 18-20 in the choir, starting off as an amateur group from all different walks of life who just really enjoyed singing together. Balancing the choir with work and familiy responsibilities proved a struggle for some.

“You might be able to drop one or two people from a choir of 16, but when you start to drop three or four... It’s really unfortunate so we had to change from what we were, which were talented amateur guys who just got together and sang, to a professional choir ensemble.”

Those first few concerts after were a nervous affair.

“We were only half the number; (but) it’s a really good sound and it’s given (audiences) the chance to get to know us as individuals.”

Since winning BBC’s Last Choir Standing in 2008, the vocal ensemble have sold hundreds of thousands of albums, had nine sell-out UK Tours, appeared on multiple TV shows and performed during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“I’ve been in the choir since 2002. I enjoyed it when it was a group of lads who just got together and sang because we enjoyed doing it. To go from there to what we are now, a professional choir touring the world, performing on TV, in stadiums seating however many thousands of people, it really is a dream come true,” says Hamnett.

“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that 10, 12 years later I’d be doing this; it keeps overwhelming me.”

The We Need A Little Christmas UK tour comes to the Ipswich Regent Wednesday night.

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