The winners of the Songs of Praise FA Cup Fans choir competition, who applied to take part in a once in a life-time experience to sing ‘Abide With Me’ on the pitch at Wembley before The FA Cup Final, were revealed on Friday.
Sixty-four lucky football fans, who are a mix of male and female fans with ages ranging from early 20s right up to 100-years-old, will be representing their football club as they join with The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas in front of almost 90,000 people on Saturday 30 May. Each fan represents one of the 64 teams who have made it to this year’s third round in The FA Cup.
Songs of Praise, who teamed up with BBC Sport as part of their FA Cup programming, asked for people to submit stories that reflect their personal memories and passion of the cup from every level of the game. The winning tales - selected by a panel of judges from the worlds of football, music and journalism – are a combination of amusing and moving stories which capture the spirit of the FA Cup and have a strong thread of family, community and tradition throughout.
Over 1,300 people applied to take part in the unique experience to sing ‘Abide With Me’ which, since it was first sung at the FA Cup Final in 1927, has become a constant fixture. In recent years, a celebrity solo singer has performed the song and this year the fans choir will join them on the football pitch. They will be led by international music producer and Songs of Praise conductor Steve Thompson, who is also a life-long fan of the FA Cup.
No singing experience was necessary to apply for the competition; those selected to perform the hymn at the FA Cup Final will now be able to practise singing ahead of the event with an online lesson which will be available on the Songs of Praise website shortly.
All the winners will also meet each other for the first time at Wembley the day before the final, where they will practice singing together and find out what it's like to walk out onto the pitch in front of almost 90,000 people.
Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Commissioning – Religion, TV and Head of Religion & Ethics, said: “We’ve had a great response to the competition which has really sparked the interest of those who have a passion for football. We wanted to make the competition open to anyone to apply hence why no singing experience was necessary. The concept was to involve the whole football family and to find the emotional and personal connection between football and singing. It truly is a once in a life-time opportunity to perform at the FA Cup Final and for two members of the choir, whose clubs will be playing in the final, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.”