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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Olympic effort from Amici Forever
By Keily Oakes
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The unusual blending of opera and pop group has brought Amici Forever to the attention of new fans around the world.

Amici Forever
The five members are all classically trained
They were commissioned by the BBC to sing the theme to its Olympic coverage. The track Eternal Flame is released on Monday.

Amici Forever's debut album - The Opera Band - went top five in the UK classical charts in 2003, becoming a Christmas stocking favourite.

But in New Zealand, where member Geoff Sewell hails from, they shared the charts with the likes of Eminem.

"People try to put us into different boxes in the UK but in other countries they have not said we are just classical. They just like to listen to beautiful melodies and music," said Sewell.

The name came about because people said the quintet looked more like the cast of Friends than opera singers - and Amici is Italian for Friends.

Equal partners

Alongside tenor Geoff Sewell are soprano Jo Appleby, soprano Tsakane Valentine, tenor David Habbin and bass baritone Nick Garrett.

After Sewell came up with the concept of putting together an opera band, it took a while to find the right mix of voices that would work together.

"I'm definitely not the leader of the band, we are equal and there are no lead voices," insists Sewell.

Amici Forever had an impressive debut concert - performing at the FA Cup final, before going on to entertain at the English rugby union final.

"Live performances are what Amici Forever really enjoy, it's the buzz of it, especially at big outdoor events," said Sewell.

The Opera Band was produced by Nick Patrick who had previously worked with the likes of the Gypsy Kings, Tina Turner and Marvin Gaye.

It was nominated at the Classical Brits in the album of the year category.

Geoff Sewell
Geoff Sewell moved from New Zealand to London
Its inclusion brought the inevitable criticisms that the awards had dumbed down.

Mixed reaction

Sewell said they have faced criticism from those in the classical arena, who have also attacked the likes of Bond and the Opera Babes.

Sewell said: "We have had loads of criticism from traditionalists, but you expect it.

"We have also had a really good response from some of them. It is has been about 50-50 between good and bad."

Sewell admits the average audience for their concerts is aged 30 upwards.

But they were pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction they received when they were sandwiched between Busted and Mis-Teeq at the CBBC Proms in the Park event.

"I thought we would just appeal to the parents there with their children, but we got a really good reception from everyone."

Eternal Flame has had massive exposure thanks to its inclusion in the BBC's Olympic coverage.

Country-hopping

The song was written specially for the event, with the lyrics written in Greek to give a flavour of the great tradition of the sporting festival in Athens.

"Presenter Sue Barker has given us quite a few plugs during the coverage," joked Sewell.

Amici Forever are busy promoting themselves around the world, rarely staying in the same country for more than a few days at a time.

But they have promised they will be returning to the UK for a number of live dates in the near future.


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