Australian actor Hugh Jackman won many fans during his recent visit to Scotland.
And chief among their number were three ladies from Falkirk, who not only got to meet the down-to-earth star but also shared a stage with him!
Vicky Stark, Barbara Mullan and Margaret Anne Garner were part of the 50 strong SoundSational Community Choir which teamed up with the Greatest Showman when he and his orchestra performed three sold-out shows at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.
Vicky, a choir director and member, lives in Larbert.
By day, she works for North Lanarkshire Council as a home school partnership officer at Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell.
But she has also been part of SoundSational for almost five years.
She said: “When Tommy, our MD, called and told me we would be performing with Hugh Jackman, I genuinely thought he was winding me up!
“Being on the Hydro stage in front of 13,000 people and singing with Hugh Jackman was honestly one of the best things to ever happen to me.
“It was an honour and privilege to be part of such a massive production and we were made to feel so welcome and a part of it all.
“It’s an experience I will never forget.”
But being a part of the choir is not about rubbing shoulders with the stars.
Vicky added: “As well as the benefits that singing brings to my physical and mental health, it offers an incredibly unique network of support and I have made special, lifelong friendships.”
Barbara Mullan from Falkirk has been a member for more than four years but never expected to share the stage with a global icon.
She said: “Getting to perform in the Hugh Jackman concert was the most surreal thing to ever happen to me; it took a while to sink in that it was real!
“All of the cast were so talented and lovely – they made the experience that much more enjoyable.
“To be in the Hydro performing on the stage with Hugh Jackman was one of the most incredible experiences.
“I will always remember and be so proud of it.
“When I joined the choir, I just thought I was going along to have a sing song and meet new people but it’s turned out to be so much more than that.
“It’s helped me build so much confidence, not only with my singing but personally too, thanks to all the incredible people I’ve made friends with.
“Knowing you always have choir to enjoy if you’ve had a hard day or week is amazing.”
Margaret Anne Garner from Denny joined the choir three years ago and was over the moon to be selected for the Glasgow shows.
She works as a specialist lymphoedema nurse, supporting people with swelling in their arms or legs.
And even her patients have noticed how much the choir has changed her.
She said: “The patients I see regularly have commented on how confident and happy I have become.
“I am genuinely able to encourage the idea that doing something that you enjoy impacts greatly on your quality of life and improves the ability to manage physical challenges.”
The Lanarkshire-based choir joined Hugh on stage for renditions of the musical theatre anthems You Will Be Found, One Day More and A Million Dreams.
And it was actually the star himself who asked them to take part.
SoundSational members were filmed singing This Is Me, from The Greatest Showman, at Glasgow’s Central Station for BBC Music Day and to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Tommy Chambers from Motherwell, who founded the choir ten years ago and is now its musical director, takes up the story.
“Hugh Jackman’s team had asked for community choirs to hashtag songs from The Greatest Showman,” he said. “So we shared our video from Central Station.
“When I next went on Instagram, our video was number four internationally.
“Three weeks before the shows, I got an email from America at 2.30am asking if we’d like to be involved in the opening of the world tour. I jumped at the chance!
“Music then started coming through from America. We had two weeks of rehearsals to prepare for the Hydro, making everything as tight and slick as possible, then a full day of rehearsal in the venue before the show started.
“When he was speaking to choir members before the show, Hugh said he’d seen our video and chosen it.”
It was an incredible experience for all involved and a great platform for the community choir.
Tommy said: “It was an absolute privilege; the show was a massive, spectacular production and we felt honoured to be representing Scotland with one of the biggest stars in the world.
“Everyone was in awe of the venue. It’s a big arena so we’d prepared for the roar of the crowd – 13,000 people screaming is quite a sound!
“The choir were really excited and nervous but the whole production team put them at their ease.
“Everyone looked and sounded incredible.”
As for Hugh Jackman, Tommy has nothing but praise for the star.
He said: “Hugh was so nice to everyone – he was very inspirational and made everyone feel comfortable.
“Every time he was standing next to someone in the choir during rehearsals he had a chat with them.
“The choir isn’t full of people in the entertainment business. We have folk from all walks of life – gardeners, retired tradesmen, nurses, hairdressers and people who are unemployed.
“They all loved how genuine Hugh Jackman was.”
SoundSational Community Choir members rehearse weekly in Coatbridge. It now has 140 members, 50 of whom took part in the shows.
Tommy added: “We’re back to real life now but everyone is still as high as kites. Reviews for the shows have been incredible and there’s been real kudos internationally.
“We’re so privileged to have been involved.
“Hugh Jackman gave us that gift and we would like to thank him for that.”
The choir, which is run as a social enterprise, also works regularly with school children and NHS patients.
Visit www.soundsationalmusic.co.uk to find out more.