Darren all keyed up in hunt for next Aled Jones

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HE used to sing with the most famous choirboy of them all.

But nowadays, Doncaster Minster's director of music and organist spends his time making sure that the borough is home to some of the best singing in South Yorkshire.

Darren Williams was a member of Bangor Cathedral Choir, in North Wales, at the same time as Aled Jones, before the Songs of Praise presenter starting making hit records.

And nothing would make him happier than to find the new version of his childhood pal in Doncaster.

Darren said: "It was quite a surprise to us all when Aled suddenly became a star. After he left us, he was offered a place at St Paul's Cathedral but I think he drifted off because of his recording commitments. He is doing very well now, with his own radio show."

This weekend the Minster opened up its doors to youngsters who wanted to find out more about joining the choir - and as a result there will be 10 new singers shared out between the boys and girls choirs.

They were shown round the church, and got the chance to sing. They also got to try on some of the choir costumes that are worn at services.

Darren was delighted to unearth more singing talent - especially because he fears the boys' choir at the Minster could be set to lose a couple of singers later this year as they are getting close to the age when boys voices break - typically 13 or 14.

He said: "The open day went very well - we got six new girls and four new boys. But we are still short of boys and we're still looking for another eight to 10.

"In the 60s, 70s and 80s we had 25 to 30 boys at the Minster, but at the moment we only have 10. We would really like to find another 10."

Darren believes being a chorister is a great thing to do, having done it himself. He still has friendships from his time in the choir in Bangor and thinks it would be nice to try to get a visit from Aled Jones to Doncaster at some time in the future.

As well as days out at theme parks, and Christmas parties, the members of the choir also get paid up to 30 a term. One of its highest earners at present is aged just nine.

He said: "It is a great social life, it brings in extra pocket money, and it is a great way to learn about music, self discipline and self confidence.

"There are a lot of famous people out there who used to be choirboys. For example Alastair Cook, the England cricketer, used to be a choirboy at St Paul's."

But there is a limited shelf life in a boys choir. Member of the girls choir at the minster often stay there until the age of 18. The boys have to leave once their voices break, and then typically move to other jobs in the church, such as the men's choir.

Email Darren on domst.george@yahoo.co.uk if you are interested in joining the choir.

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In good voice: Newcomer Darcy Nason, 12, from Tickhill, sings alongside Darren Williams.

Hit records: Darren Williams was in the same Welsh choir as Aled Jones as a youngster