ALEX Salmond has claimed that he was a more accomplished boy soprano than Aled Jones, the Welsh singer who shot to fame in the 1980s for his angelic rendition of Walking in the Air.
The First Minister made the light-hearted comparison when he cast his mind back to a childhood filled with sweet songs sung by a politician-to-be whose voice once soared like the wings of a dove.
However, his musical youth was rudely interrupted by the “heartbreak” of his voice breaking.
After enjoying an emotive performance of one of his favourite songs, Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia, at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Mr Salmond recalled a time when the sound of his voice was associated with something other than unseemly rammies at First Minister’s Questions.
Interviewed by the BBC, Mr Salmond reminisced about his own musical prowess.
When asked if had his own “party piece”, Mr Salmond answered: “Oh, I can do Caledonia” before pre-empting the follow-up question.
“I’m not doing it now, so don’t get your hopes up,” he added quickly. “But I have done it with lots of folk.”
That led to some reminiscences of his boyhood in Linlithgow and some show-stopping operatic performances.
“I used to be a singer. I was a boy soprano,” Mr Salmond said. “Unfortunately, when my voice broke, instead of a getting the soaring tenor my coach was expecting – I got a kind of faltering baritone with a five-note range.”
That explained his reluctance to appear on stage with MacLean. “I wouldn’t want to put a spoke in the wheel,” the First Minister said modestly.
He was more forthcoming about his youthful vocal talent when he was asked by the interviewer if he had been an “Aled Jones-type”?
“I was better than Aled,” was Mr Salmond’s swift response, said with the hint of a chuckle.
The First Minister then made a serious point when he waxed lyrical about the benefits of performing in public as a child.
“There is nothing more important for kids than performing… singing, playing instruments or dancing… it gives you confidence. It makes you able to handle and audience.
“If you can handle a big audience when you are 11, then speaking in the Scottish Parliament or the House of Commons is no bother.”
As a child, Salmond’s performances from Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors were so impressive he was asked to tour Australia. The plans were shelved, because he had just turned 13 and there were fears his voice would break while on tour.
A reviewer for the Falkirk Herald said of the future First Minister: “Alex is a fine wee singer. He has a very pleasant voice and carried the part very well indeed.”
Mr Salmond’s biographer, David Torrance, author of Salmond Against the Odds agreed the First Minister had an impressive musical talent. He said: “I think it is true to say that he was very good indeed.”
Last night, there was only the First Minister’s word to go on as to whether such boyhood performances merited comparisons with Aled Jones. The Welsh singer, who has matured into a television and radio presenter, did not respond when presented with Mr Salmond’s claim.