Friday, August 13th, 2004 NZ

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Wales rugby team on song

Simon Thomas, The Western Mail

THE WALES rugby team
are aiming to hit all the right notes both on and off the field.

Mike Ruddock's players have embarked on a different sort of training in readiness for the coming campaign - they are taking singing lessons.

The idea is to build up team spirit and to make sure they'll be suitably prepared if called upon to break into song.

They have been working with conductor Dr Haydn James, who has years of experience leading choirs in song at the Millennium Stadium before big matches.

All the classics have had an airing in his practice sessions with the Wales squad, including Calon Lan, Bread of Heaven and We'll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside.

Wales team manager Alan Phillips said, "Song is the common denominator around the world. The players like a sing-song and it's great for team spirit. We just want to get them a bit more polished so they'll feel relaxed about it and won't feel uncomfortable if they are called on to give a turn at a post-match reception or when they are away on tour.

"It's also good that they should know certain Welsh hymns."

Phillips, Ruddock and the rest of the Welsh management will be exercising their vocal chords as well, to ensure everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

"We will all be joining in," said Phillips. "Mike is really into music. He can play the guitar and he knows his songs."

Conductor James has been helping the players build a repertoire that will allow them to have something ready for any impromptu singing sessions and team gatherings.

Nantyffyllon-born Dr James will again be "the man in the middle" before all of Wales' six home internationals in the Millennium Stadium this season.

First invited to lead the crowd in singing at the old stadium in 1993, Haydn has worked with a wide range of male voice and mixed choirs, as well as soloists including Tom Jones, Michael Ball, Max Boyce, Aled Jones, Jason Howard, Katherine Jenkins and Hayley Westenra.

Article link thanks to Jon Voslo
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