A choir of fire fighters is hoping to scoop the Christmas number one spot after a chance conversation a year ago led to fire personnel from across the country joining forces to produce a charity single.

The Fire Tones’ cover of the Band Aid classic, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ is already the bookie’s favourite to be in the top five festive songs this year, with all proceeds from the single being split between The Fire Fighters Charity and the Band Aid Charity Trust.

It has come a long way since its roots in a pub in Welshpool, where firefighter and organiser Chris Birdsell-Jones first had the idea: “I was listening to everyone singing along to the music in the bar and it got me wondering if we could do something for charity,” he says. “I said the idea out loud, and everyone thought I was dreaming. But I heard the song again a few days later and I took it as a sign, so I got to work.”

Chris approached the Band Aid Charity Trust to acquire the necessary permissions and started assembling his choir. An email to all fire brigades shared news of the project, and before he knew it, his small group of pub-goers had become a national group of interested singers from within the fire and rescue service.

Among them were a few familiar faces, with Nottinghamshire’s Andy Quinn who had previously starred on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show and Marc Higgins from Southampton and Richard Ryan from Worcestershire, both of whom had appeared as contestants on The X Factor. Now it was time to turn Chris’ dream into a reality.

“We wanted to honour the spirit of the original Live Aid recording, so we decided to do it all in one day,” says Chris. “I must admit, I was nervous on the day, because we’d put all this work in and had no idea if anyone was actually going to turn up.”

But turn up they did. On Sunday, 28 October, over forty fire and rescue service personnel from across the country descended on the BIMM music college in Birmingham. College principle Anthony Greaves had given them free access to the college’s newly-built recording studio, along with support from student producers.

During the 12-hour session, they performed under the watchful eye of seasoned music producer Steve Osborne – whose clients include U2, Placebo, Elbow and the Doves – and vocal arranger Louise Warren, both of whom donated their time for free.

Having taken it in turns to sing solos, duets and in small groups, the choir was so big it had to head to the college’s main stage to sing together for the finale, which was filmed by White Dot Media.

Clun fire fighter Kat Frost has been helping Chris with organisation and was among the choir singing on the day: “When I heard it for the first time, I admit I had a little cry,” she says. “I can’t get over how good the final product sounds. I have loved every second of being involved, and I know I might be biased, but I think it sounds amazing. To think this was just us doing it off our own backs and we’ve managed to get it this far is amazing. It was such an emotional experience going through it all together. We arrived as stranger and we left as friends.”

Despite being in the running for the elusive Christmas Number One spot, Chris is just determined to raise as much money for a charity that means so much to him and his colleagues.

“Yes it would be amazing to get to Number One, but it’s genuinely never been about that,” he says. “We were just determined to make as much money as possible for these two great charities. I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact The Fire Fighters Charity has had on colleagues who have used their services. It’s a cause that is very close to all of our hearts, because any one of us could become a beneficiary at any point in our lives, you just never know when you might need it.

“Every time I’ve spoken to who has been involved with the song, I ask them to just take five seconds to think about how many lives we can make better with money raised from our time singing together. We gave up one day of our time for the project, but those twelve hours could lead to a permanent difference to someone’s life.”

The single is set to be released on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music on Friday, 30 November, with proceeds being split evenly between the two charities. So watch this space for its first airing or follow the choir’s progress on their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

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