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Aled Jones interview: ‘Performing on stage is as natural as breathing to me’

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Nearly 40 years on from the defining moment of his career – singing a version of Walking in the Air used in the animated Christmas favourite, The SnowmanAled Jones remains a regular fixture on our television screens and on the airwaves.

Aled Jones
Aled Jones

The former choirboy, 51, has appeared on numerous TV shows over the years, fronting programmes such as Songs of Praise and Cash in the Attic, and is a familiar voice on Classic FM, where he presents a show on Sunday mornings from 7-10am.

One of the classical world’s vocal powerhouses, he also has his own show on BBC Radio Wales. He is set to embark on a tour of cathedrals and churches around the UK throughout February and March.

Beginning at St Mary’s Church in Nottingham last Wednesday (February 23), the tour will take in some of the most stunning holy buildings in the country, including Bristol Cathedral, Manchester Monestary, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, Coventry Cathedral, Durham Cathedral and Ely Cathedral on March 18.

The Welshman will perform tracks from his 2020 album Blessings, which features songs from a range of different faiths – Quaker, Christian, Catholic, Muslim and Buddhism – and includes uplifting hymns, texts and scriptures set to music.

Speaking to the Cambridge Independent from London, where he’s lived since the age of 18, Aled reveals that the upcoming tour has been postponed twice due to Covid. “So this time is definitely third time lucky,” he says. “I’m so looking forward to doing what I do best, my first love, and that’s singing – I haven’t been able to do it publicly for over two years. I did one concert last year and that was it...

“So I’m so looking forward to taking my music back to where it fits, if you like. These cathedrals are amazing and I’ll be singing everything from pop music to classical music to everything inspirational, but also it’s a real fun night – lots of jokes, lots of stories as well.”

Aled Jones' 2020 album Blessings
Aled Jones' 2020 album Blessings

Aled, probably the original classical crossover star, having performed for the Pope and the Royal Family and racked up more than 10 million album sales throughout his career, continues: “For the past 18 months, not being able to sing has been hell really but I’ve kept myself busy doing other things. I’ve written my first children’s novel that came out at Christmas, called Bobby Dean Saves Christmas.

“I’ve just handed in the second one, which is coming out at Easter, and I’m just finalising the plan for the third book, so I’ve learnt how to write fiction, and for children, which has been really great and interesting, difficult, challenging... and other than that just carrying on with Classic FM and doing Songs of Praise as well.”

Did writing the books mean Aled didn’t miss singing as much as he thought he might? “Do you know what, no,” he says, “it’s one of those things. When someone tells you that you can’t do it, you want to do it more, don’t you? And with the singing it’s something I’ve done all my life, so going on stage and performing is as natural as breathing for me.

“So not being able to do it has been very frustrating, and I did, as I say, one concert last year and I was petrified! I hadn’t been on stage for so long but now it’s a feeling more of excitement – I’m really looking forward to doing probably the best concert tour I’ve ever done.”

Despite not performing, Aled did manage to keep his voice in shape – though not so much during the first lockdown. “During lockdown one I did I suppose the same as everybody else in the whole country and that’s just immerse myself in sauvignon blanc,” he laughs.

“Other than that, I sing all the time anyway around the house and stuff, but I’ve only now started properly singing every day in preparation for the tour.”

On the idea to undertake a tour of cathedrals, Aled says: “I’ve always worked in them through Songs of Praise and one-off concerts, and I just thought I’ve done a small cathedral tour in the past – I think it was only 10 concerts, this is 24, so I literally am taking in cathedrals all over the country.”

Aled adds: “The soundcheck is the easiest thing in the world; you walk in and you sing a note and they [the cathedrals] are acoustically brilliant – every single one of them. Every one is different but to be able to sing my music in these buildings is just phenomenal.”

The star has visited most of the buildings before but says there are “a couple on the list that I’ve never been to” – “but a lot of them, like Ely and Lichfield and places like Liverpool, I’ve been to before, but you never get bored of singing in them – it’s an incredible experience.”

Aled says he doesn’t have a favourite UK cathedral but admits that he’s always had a “soft spot” for Bangor, the cathedral he sang in as a chorister. “I’m also patron of music in Ely Cathedral,” he notes, “so that’s always a special one for me...

“But as I say, they’re all different but they’re all unique, and I always say to people if they’re bored in my concert they can always have a look at the architecture, can’t they!”

Clearly hoping that boredom won’t be a factor, Aled concludes: “I like to have fun when I’m on stage so I hope that people go away feeling happy. That’s what it’s about.”

Aled Jones
Aled Jones

Aled, who reveals that he wrote “four or five songs” during lockdown, began his singing career at the age of 12, becoming one of the world’s most successful boy sopranos. He released 12 hit albums in four years and has since put out more than 40 albums and has more than 40 silver, gold and platinum discs.

He will be joined on this tour by classically-trained BRIT nominee soprano Carly Paoli, with whom he will also be duetting. Born in the UK but with strong Italian roots, Carly has previously sung with José Carreras for the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle, and with Andrea Bocelli.

Her new album, Carly Paoli & Friends, released in September 2021, is a selection of duets featuring artists such as Joseph Calleja, Elaine Paige and Tony Hadley, and she is joined by Aled himself on a new version of the beautiful Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision.

Aled Jones is to perform, with support from Carly Paoli, at Ely Cathedral on Friday, March 18. For more information, visit elycathedral.org. For more on Aled, go to officialaledjones.com.

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