Home grown talent returns to his roots
20 May 2010
Top Welsh baritone Thomas Oliver, who shot to fame with the award-winning choir Only Men Aloud, is returning to his roots for a concert in Carmarthenshire.
Thomas will be bringing the boys back to his home town of Llandeilo when the group performs an open-air gig at Aberglasney Gardens next month.
Thomas, 24, and his fellow choristers, led by musical director Tim Rhys-Evans, hit the big time when they won the BBC TV show Last Choir Standing in October 2008. They immediately signed a whopping seven-figure record deal with Universal and have since been on a star-studded whirlwind of world tours, two albums and countless public appearances.
Their second album Band of Brothers scooped album of the year at the prestigious Classical Brit Awards.
For Thomas, the Aberglasney concert will be his first chance for some time to come back down to earth and be reunited with friends and family.
Thomas’s roots are firmly set in the market town of Llandeilo. His mum Jacqueline Jones worked for many years at Llandeilo Surgery, his sister Lucy works at the Nigel Williams pharmacy, and dad David is a Welsh Water employee.
The Welsh-speaking chorister says he feels an immense sense of pride at returning home to perform alongside his fellow members.
“It will be great to be home again,” he says. “It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride since we won Last Choir Standing. We’ve been to all these fantastic places like Marbella and New York but I haven’t actually been home in ages.
“I’m looking forward to showing the boys what a lovely part of Wales I’m from. I haven’t brought them all back before – hopefully my mum won’t mind putting a few of us up after the concert in Aberglasney.”
“Last time I was at Aberglasney it was at the start of all the renovation work so I’m looking forward to seeing how much it has changed.”
Thomas joined Only Men Aloud after graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in the summer of 2008, just months before the group took the title of Last Choir Standing.
They won the nation’s heart by taking the usual perception of a traditional male voice choir and turning it on its head. Numbers such as Don’t Rain on My Parade and All By Myself, sung alongside more conventional hymns proved it’s cool to be a chorister.
Thomas, a former pupil of Ysgol Teilo Sant in Llandeilo and Ysgol Bro Myrddin in Carmarthen, says he is personally indebted to the Carmarthen Youth Opera for his achievements to date.
“I joined the youth opera when I was quite young and soon got a taste for performing. I don’t really know where the passion comes from as I wouldn’t say we’re a musical family –the voice just came out of the blue.”
He went on to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where he met Tim Rhys-Evans who had founded Only Men Aloud in 2000. Since winning Last Choir Standing, the group has shared a stage with Welsh diva Katherine Jenkins, 80s bombshell Bonnie Tyler and many more big names.
Yet Thomas believes the boys’ Welsh roots help keep their feet firmly on the ground: “We are just a group of Welsh lads doing what we love and we all get along really well. We’re very, very lucky.
“You know, I’ve travelled across the globe to all these wonderful places but I can’t describe how excited I am to be coming home to Carmarthenshire, to my home town of Llandeilo and seeing my family and friends again.”
Only Men Aloud is at Aberglasney on Friday, June 25 supported by Welsh soprano Rhian Lois. Tickets are £40 and £50 and are only available from the Concert Box Office 01558 667 951 or by clicking the link below
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