Before the last date of their Carols By Candlelight Tour, I caught up with the recently reformed operatic quartet G4 to talk about pigs in blankets, Christmas Medleys and terrible Christmas presents.
G4 Interview – St. Georges’ Church, Brighton
How has the tour been so far? Have the audience been in the festive spirit, as some of the tour dates were in November?
It’s been interesting. Ben was reticent to begin with. For a lot of people 1st December is seen to be the start of the preparations for Christmas, but it’s been nice because for a lot of people we have literally been the first Christmas event in their calendar. I think that it’s great to have that live experience early on to get in the spirit.
Does it bring back memories from your early days singing in local choirs performing in Churches and Cathedrals?
(unison) Definitely! That is the exact background that we all come from. For us Christmas was the most memorable time of singing in the church. It’s nice to be able to choose the tracks that we sing now though. On the album there is a version of Away in a Manger with Jon singing the first verse and an old version of Jon singing when he was about 8 recorded on a cassette that we’ve used for the second verse.
These concerts have been particularly interesting for us as we have come around full circle bringing a chorister to each on to start off each performance of Once in Royal David’s City. We ran a competition called ‘G4 Search for a Christmas Star’ where we invited young singers to audition for the opportunity to lead the carol a cappella. The winner tonight is a great young singer called Toby Peters, who also opened up the first date of the tour in Norwich. He was so good that we invited him back to finish the tour with us!
What has been your favourite venue on the tour and why?
Brighton of course! (I think they may have been joking) All of the venues were completely different. Lincoln had a very powerful sound, whereas Derby had real family feel. It was great to be able to travel across the country to play in such beautiful and unique venues.
How did you first become involved with Rock Choir?
We’ve been working with Rock Choir since our reunion gig and they’ve played every gig with us in 2015. We first became involved with them when we enquired after hearing about them as a franchise. We thought that it was great what they were doing, as an amateur choir with a really professional attitude. Because there are so many of the choirs around the country, it’s great to be able to perform alongside different people each night on the tour. It adds a real energy to things where otherwise you might be lagging. From a practical point of view it makes a tour more logistically possible too. It feels like a natural marriage for us with the music and hope that they will continue to perform alongside us in the 2016.
How did you decide on the track listing for the album?
With difficulty. We started out by making a big list of all of the songs that we’d like to sing. Then we worked through some of them to see what would work best. We wanted the album to be different from the traditional Christmas album, pushing the boundaries with some obvious choices, some historic choices – like O Holy Night which was a song that we originally sung back on X Factor but never recorded – and some new moments such as the Christmas Medley and Bring Him Home, which is very fitting with the associated charity for the album, Missing People, and their #HomeforChristmas campaign.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
The Christmas Medley. It was really fun to record. We enjoyed the anonymity of the whistling of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer…until the live performance when everybody was looking to see who it was!
Where did you get the idea for the PledgeMusic campaign and how did you feel when you reached your target?
(Jon) I had previously used PledgeMusic for a solo project and when I put it forward to the guys they were keen to give it a go. It’s a really exciting project to be a part of, coming up with interesting incentives to give the fans more than just an album. It’s about letting them be a part of the experience from the first stages of recording the album through to its completion. Some of incentives included inviting people to the recording sessions of the album, going up The Shard for afternoon tea and going on a limo ride with one lady. It’s a great way to engage with your fans and we even managed to sell some albums too!
What are your plans before the Back For Good tour in April?
We’re on The Saturday Show tomorrow morning (Saturday 19th Dec) at 7am so we are travelling up to London after the signing after the show tonight. After that we have some solo work lined up over the holidays. (Jon) I’m in a pantomime and the rest of the guys have solo work going into the new year. Then we have some promo work to do for the new tour, rehearsals and perhaps some more recording before we start the tour. We’ll also be working on our new arrangements for the tour. We want to try some new ideas for this tour.
What is the most unexpected place that your music has taken you?
About 7 years ago we visited Ghana with the charity SOS Children. We went to an orphanage and saw the difficulty that people had living there, without any running water, scavenging for scraps of anything that they could eat. The people lived in shanty towns, in tiny huts that didn’t seem big enough for one person, let alone a whole family. There was one village that we went to where they had 1 TV, and people came from miles around to gather and watch it. It was a real social experience. Some of the people knew who we were through X Factor and we performed for the orphanage, helping to make some instruments for them to play along with.
Do you feel that by taking a break from G4 to pursue other solo projects, you feel more re-invigorated now you are back performing as a quartet?
There is definitely a much more healthy balance this time around. When we were first coming out of X Factor it was relentless. 24/7 for about 5 years. We only had about 3 weeks off in that time and even then we were on reserve, in case we got a call from Elton John to ask us to play a gig with him as we’d have to say yes. He never did call though… Now we are all a little older and it’s great to have the time to pursue our solo work and have more fun with what we’re doing. I think a lot of classical music and operatic singing is made too formal and we are definitely breaking pre-conceptions about classical music, reaching a mixed audience to make the music accessible to all, regardless of social background or age.
What is your favourite part of the Christmas Dinner?
Ben – Pigs in blankets.
Mike – I was going to say pigs in blankets too but actually I think it’s the bread sauce. We have a special family recipe. I would gladly have bread sauce sandwiches for days on end.
Jon – I like the meats. I like to cook a nice multi-bird roast. I buy all of the birds and then stuff them myself.
Finally, what is the worst Christmas Present that you have ever received or given?
Ben – Dettol. I was given it when I was about 9 years old. I think I still have the bottle somewhere. I was also given a leopard-print mankini.
Nick – I once got the same boring collection of poetry two years in a row from the same relative.
Jon – I like to make my friends fake scratchcards, so that they think that they’ve won like £50,000. It’ quite mean but it is very funny.
You can buy the G4 Christmas album on www.g4official.com.