Paul Monaghan

Case Study

Paul was a member of OBA Cardiff between 2012 and 2017 and is now combining his passion for music and science in his Masters in Acoustical Engineering at the University of Southampton.

We caught up with Paul to hear about his experiences with The Aloud Charity.

What was the best thing about being in OBA?

The choir really opened my eyes to the endless opportunities in the music industry. I was astonished and excited at the variety of gigs we were invited to perform. One week, we would be performing for the Christmas Sales at the St David’s shopping centre, and the next we would be performing at 10 Downing Street for St David’s Day celebrations in London. To say that the variety keeps you on a toes is an understatement; there were certainly opportunities that I would never have expected to receive as part of a male voice choir.

OBA really helped me to gain confidence; I’ve always found that singing in a choir alongside your friends can be an elevating and fulfilling experience, which you don’t necessarily get from other extra-curricular activities. Having also sung as a soloist, getting up and performing can be a daunting and nerve-wracking experience at first, and I think that promising musical youngsters sometimes shy away from showing their true talents because of nerves. But with OBA, the choir is so inclusive and you really are part of a ‘band of brothers’ from the start. This makes it much easier to perform your best, as you all have each other’s backs, and are sharing the same passion for music together. This is ultimately what choral singing is about.

As a teenager what were your ambitions?

When I was part of the choir, I always had a great interest in music, and still do, and although I have pursued a more scientific route since, OBA was hugely valuable to me. It did wonders for my confidence, not just in performing, but also in presenting and verbal communication, both of which are essential skills. Singing with the boys was also a stress-reliever; when workloads were high during my GCSEs and A Level studies, having a good sing would always give my mind a rest, and allow me to focus on what I was really loved. A stress-reliever is what we all need right now during the pandemic, and I see no better place than OBA for exactly that.

OBA really helped me with my musical education, which I always wanted to develop alongside my studies at school and university. I was chosen to be a member of Only Boys Aloud Academi, for three consecutive years. I found during that time that learning new songs came so naturally, when I was able to apply the music theory that I had learnt to the songs we were performing.

Given the choir has over 200 boys all together, it is impossible not to make some truly great, supportive friends. I still keep in touch with many of my friends four years later.

Did being a member of OBA help you achieve your goals or ambitions? 

The sheer exposure that OBA provides, both musically and through the performance opportunities that I had, paved the way for my musical interests for the future.

OBA had given me the confidence and desire to throw myself into music societies at Imperial College London. After having sung a wide repertoire in OBA, I knew what music I liked best, and decided to join MTSoc, Imperial’s Musical Theatre Society, and audition for The Techtonics, Imperial’s all-male A Cappella group, who I sung and toured with throughout my undergraduate. After three years at Imperial College, I graduated with a Bsc in Physics, and I am now combining my interests in Physics and Music, by reading a Masters in Acoustical Engineering at the University of Southampton, in collaboration with the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.

What advice would you give to a boy who is thinking about joining OBA?  

My advice is to make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.  I would love for as many boys as possible to experience the phenomenal opportunities that I received, and allow The Aloud charity to continue their brilliant work. Opportunities are there to be taken, so take this one; you may find it to be life-changing.

Can you sum up your OBA experience in 3 words? 

Celebration, brotherhood and hiraeth. Here’s why:

Celebration: As a member of OBA you follow in the footsteps of previous male voice choirs that have made their mark in Welsh heritage and tradition. Continuing that tradition and allow it to evolve is deeply rewarding and fun.

Brotherhood: There is something incredibly special about the friends you make in this choir. Whilst everyone has similar interests in making music, there are so many other friendships that develop with shared interests in theatre, arts or science, for instance. Throughout my years in the choir, I never saw a single boy sat alone. Everyone created such an inclusive atmosphere, on and off the stage, and this culminated every time we sang together.

Hireath: This is a word that I learnt in OBA Academi. It means a deep longing for something, such as family or friends or going home, and I think that sums up OBA well. The choir really makes you feel like you belong to something.

So are you thinking about joining Only Boys Aloud? Why not try out your nearest choir! Click here to find out more.

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