SIMON Warren and Stuart Allinson each became involved with Wessex Male Choir by chance - and each was instantly hooked.

Simon, a retired local authority chief executive and former RAF pilot, recalled: “I was at a lunch at a pub with a friend who said, ‘I sing in a choir.’

“We had a chat about music – I did music quite seriously when I was younger – and he invited me along. I went along and I was absolutely stunned by the sound of the choir. I was hooked. That was it. I never looked back.”

Stuart, a financial advisor, said: “I joined the choir in 2006. I was chatting with one of the other choristers and he said, ‘I heard you singing at church at Christmas. Why don’t you come along?’.Then the story was almost exactly the same as Simon’s. I couldn’t believe the sound the choir made.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, I shall never be good enough to sing with this lot.’ Some say that’s still the case! But I’ve never looked back and it’s absolutely brilliant. It becomes part of your life, really.”

Both are looking forward to the next big fixture on the choir’s calendar, its summer concert at Steam on July 13.

The choir was founded in 2001 and has won countless awards as well as raising large sums for a variety of good causes.

A major one is Parkinsons UK, which has received more than £67,000; the choir’s eventual aim is to raise £100,000.

The choir has performed at Wembley and Twickenham before matches. Repertoire ranges from traditional choral music to modern pop. New recruits are always welcome.

“We’re always on the lookout for people who want to come and sing,” said Simon.

“Come and have a go. At the end of the day we are an audition choir and we do sing to a pretty high standard; we’ve won any number of competitions in the past.

“You’ve got to be able to hold a note and you’ve got to be able to hold your part against others who are singing something different next to you.

“Everybody can sing. On the terraces at football you’ll sing, in the pub sometimes you’ll sing. It’s just a question of refining it.”

Stuart said: “I think there’s an innate part of everybody that wants to perform at some level, and it’s weird because if you ask people, they’ll say, ‘No, I could never get on stage.’

“I used to suffer, right at the very start, with terrible stage fright. I was terrified of going on stage and singing, even though I was singing with 40 other people.

“I conquered that by knowing my part and just thinking, ‘I’m not going to make a terrible mistake, I’m just going to sing.’ And then, of course, the enjoyment of actually performing takes over, and you really do enjoy singing.”

Both men are strong advocates of choral singing, listing physical and psychological benefits.

Stuart said: “It’s just being part of a group of people that are doing the same thing and producing something which is really worthwhile.”

Simon added: “The other thing we should point out are the health effects of singing, which are well documented. We had one of our members who became very, very ill on holiday and nearly died. One of the reasons he didn’t was because his lungs were in such good condition because he was a singer – and he wasn’t in the first flush of youth.

“We sing from memory, so you have to learn your part pretty well. That in itself helps stave off some of the nastier bits of getting older – not that we’re all old!

“There’s something about live rather than recorded music. It’s spontaneous – things go on and things happen. We generate a huge amount of power. That’s a physical thing as well as an aural thing.

“You know when you stand next to a church organ and it’s in full flow? It’s a bit like that.”

Stuart said: “You don’t know until you try, until you come along, sit there, have a listen and start to sing. Don’t feel daunted by it. We’re a very welcoming bunch and it’s lovely to see new people.”

The choir rehearses from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Tuesdays at the Church of Christ the Servant in Abbey Meads.

Its website is