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Boy Soprano Is Savoring High Notes

September 11, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

When rocker/famine fighter Bob Geldoff got married recently, many of England's biggest pop stars were on hand: David Bowie, George Michael, Simon Le Bon, Aled Jones.

Aled Jones? How could a 15-year-old Welsh boy soprano who favors the music of Handel become a pop star? Even he has trouble explaining it--or believing it. But look at the facts:

In Britain, Jones has had three Gold Records, several of his 11 albums have reached the top 10, and his latest single, "Walking in the Air," went to No. 5 and sold 300,000 copies.

"There are a lot of teen-agers in Britain who consider me a pop star," he says with a touch of embarrassment. "I made an appearance on TV at an awards show and some of the girls screamed. I was shocked."

Jones expects no such response when he makes his American debut on Friday and Saturday at Hollywood Bowl. Appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he will sing three arias by Handel at the annual Fireworks Finale concerts.

Informed that he will be serenading an estimated 17,000 people each night, Jones lets out a boyish "Wow!" Then, he calmly shrugs off any suggestion of nervousness. "I haven't experienced any pressure yet." Not that he hasn't had plenty of opportunities.

In what he describes as "a nonstop year," Jones has performed in Royal Albert Hall, made a personal appearance before Prince Charles and Lady Diana, appeared with Leonard Bernstein and the London Symphony with the queen in attendance (a concert later repeated in Rome), acted in a play at the Cambridge Festival, been the subject of two documentaries and a book, recorded four more albums and made preliminary arrangements to appear in concerts in France, Australia and Japan.

"It's all so exciting, just like a fairy tale," he says.

This unlikely success story had a quiet beginning. When he was 6, he sought piano lessons from the choirmaster at Bangor Cathedral near the Welsh island of Anglesey, where Jones lives with his parents, Derek and Nest. "The choirmaster asked me to sing a scale and promptly invited me to join the choir," Jones recalls. "I've always sung--I just enjoy it. But I never gave it any serious thought until a lady in the congregation heard me sing a solo (three years ago) and encouraged me to make a record."

Evidently, success hasn't gone to Jones' head. "I'm enjoying it all," he says, between visits to Universal Studios and Disneyland, accompanied by his parents. "My ambition was never to make records or be a star. I just like singing everything."

His biggest concern these days is school. "I keep (my career) separate," he notes. "I don't sing there. I don't even like to talk about it. I'd rather talk football (soccer). My friends accept what's happened with me, though I do get teased now and then. 'He wears a dress when he sings,' they say."

Juggling an increasingly busy career with the day-to-day rigors of school scarcely gives the young singer a chance to ponder a touchy subject--what happens when he loses his soprano voice. "I can't think about the future."

For one thing, he explains, it's impossible to know when his voice will start breaking. The usual age is 16-17, "but it often depends on height. I'm short (5 feet, 3 inches), so it may happen late." There is no way to escape the inevitable--which, naturally, hasn't stopped well-meaning advisers from offering suggestions on prolonging his career as a soprano. "Everyone tells me something," he says with a sigh.

Jones seems genuinely pleased about his success among younger listeners, who barrage him with fan mail. "If some of them like my pop records, they may want to hear the classical things, which would be nice."

Jones also noted another by-product of his prominence. "Being a boy soprano has become very popular in England lately," he says, with no small degree of pride.

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