G4 celebrate 20 years with Worthing and Eastbourne dates

Can it really be 20 years since G4 sang Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on The X Factor?
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Apparently it is – and they are celebrating with a brand-new album entitled simply 20 released on April 12, plus a major tour which offers dates including April 16 at Worthing’s Assembly Hall; June 4 at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal; June 15 at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park; and September 27 at Horsham’s Capitol.

At the heart of it all, just as he has been from the start, is former Bognor and Chichester schoolboy, founder member Jonathan Ansell (high tenor/lead vocals) who heads the band with fellow G4 original Mike Christie (baritone). 20 is their first album with Duncan Sandilands (bass) and new recruit Jai McDowall (tenor), who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2011.

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Jonathan still can’t quite believe it has been two decades since those X Factor days: “It’s frightening but every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded that yes, it actually is 20 years! It's amazing to think that we've been doing it that long and actually even longer because we formed prior to The X Factor. It was 18 months before The X Factor that the journey actually began and we are still here.

G4 - Jonathan second from right. TazzyBro PhotographyG4 - Jonathan second from right. TazzyBro Photography
G4 - Jonathan second from right. TazzyBro Photography

“As a band we split after three and a half years and disbanded and went our separate ways and I had a new direction as a solo artist and then it was Mike, my fellow original member from the band, who encouraged us to get back together for the tenth anniversary. He was asking if I would be interested and I have to say I was a bit reluctant. I felt it would be a negative step having had a solo career to go back to it but I'm so pleased I did. It was a scary proposition to re-emerge in front of an audience after all that time but the embrace that we had from the audience was just fantastic. We stepped out onto the stage and we were just completely blown away. There was a choir on stage and they just parted and we stood there and the audience just would not stop screaming. We had to stand there for several minutes and just soak it up and embrace the applause. It was super exciting but it was also humbling. And before we even sang a number we knew that this couldn't be a one-off.

“Since the tenth anniversary we have been continuous every year. We do our Christmas tours in cathedrals and we've also done theatre tours. We've had a theatre tour every year since that tenth anniversary and we just love doing it.

“It has been half of my life! But I still literally can't believe that it has happened. We ended up entering X Factor as a bit of fun to see what Simon Cowell thought and whether we could get a quote that we could put on our college poster and manage to get a few more people in to come and see us but all of a sudden we were getting the most incredible reaction and having the most wonderful time.”

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But maybe the biggest achievement is to have lasted the course – given that so many acts burn very brightly and then disappear: “I would like to think that we've done that by remaining true to ourselves and also not being afraid to push the boundaries. We have never conformed. No one's ever been quite sure where to put our music within the racks and even now on the streaming platforms we're still not quite sure where to align ourselves. We have remained non conformers. But we were there right at the forefront of the classical pop crossover and there were very few of us at that point in time. But ever since then we've continued to break down the barriers and to be our own people. The dream was always to make music and just to continue to make music and to entertain people and to energise people.

“There is huge pressure and huge expectation and we can't blame anybody but ourselves if people don't enjoy what we're doing. We've got our own independent label and we're involved in every element of the new release. We are amongst every single part of it. Just today I've been finalising our graphics.”

And the great thing is that the enjoyment is still huge: “The fact is that we're still getting away with it. I think the last time I had a proper job was in Tesco’s in Bognor Regis when I was 19 years old! My style of career I have chosen has broken with the family mould but the fact is that I still love what I do and I am still generating a career to support my family.”

Looking back on it all, joining the West Sussex boys choir under Arthur Robson was crucial, says Jonathan who attended Nyewood and then Bishop Luffa in Chichester as a student: “I was discovered singing louder than every other boy in assembly. The teacher said that I should pursue singing. I was not the most academic student but I had a lot of passion and enthusiasm for singing. I'm 42 now and I'm just as passionate about singing still.”

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After being picked out from assembly for the strength of his singing, the young Jonathan aged around seven and a half, was steered towards the West Sussex Boys Choir: “And I owe so much to Arthur and the choir. It was fantastic to be amongst like-minded boys that enjoyed singing. That was such a rarity. It was not cool to sing as a boy at school and I had a lot of bullying. But I absolutely loved it with the West Sussex Boys Choir. We had residentials up at Lodge Hill and just to be with boys who felt the same about singing as I did was absolute heaven.”

As for now, the latest tour is their biggest tour yet, with more than 100 headline dates. The tour announcement was accompanied by the release of their take on the romantic classic Io Che Non Vivo Senza Te (You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me), which is available everywhere now.

Pioneering their iconic pop-opera signature sound, G4 were arguably the real winners of the first series of the ground-breaking talent show, The X Factor. Since then, they have enjoyed highlights including the release of their self-titled double-platinum number-one debut album – the fastest selling album of 2005, countless sold-out shows including The Royal Albert Hall and multiple arena dates, plus collaborations with the likes of Robin Gibb, Cliff Richard and Lesley Garrett.

The new album 20 sees G4 return to their roots with a heady mix of self-chosen modern pop songs from the likes of Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and James Blunt alongside timeless favourites and operatic standards. For the album G4 possesses a pair of new voices, but the new album reunited them with Brian Rawlings, the Grammy-winner producer who helped elevate their debut album to such remarkable heights.

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As Jonathan says: “It’s still exciting to be kicking around this industry all these years on.”

Mike Christie added: “Singing covers was the right thing for us because it broke down the barrier of classical music. People hear a pop song they know and we turn it on its head.”

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