MUSIC: Hapton children join The Drifters on stage

Lead singer of The Drifters Michael Williams works with pupils at Hapton Primary School.'Photo Ben Parsons
Lead singer of The Drifters Michael Williams works with pupils at Hapton Primary School.'Photo Ben Parsons

A SOUL sensation has brought “some kind of wonderful” to Hapton.

In preparation for The Drifters’ “Masquerade Tour”, lead singer Michael Williams has paid a visit to 20 lucky youngsters from Hapton CE Methodist Primary School — who will have the privilege of performing alongside the iconic band at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, on November 3rd.

Six years ago, the group, which also includes Pierre Herelle, Ryan King and Carlton Powell, came up with the idea of inviting primary school children to be a part of their performances.

It has since gone from strength to strength, and now more than 30 schools in the UK have the chance to be part of a world class production, performing iconic hits “Stand By Me” and finale number “Saturday Night At The Movies”, in front of crowds of thousands.

Michael, who chooses “More Than A Number In My Little Red Book” as his favourite song, said: “With this tour, we wanted to create a party atmosphere.

“We are involving children because we wanted to give back to the community.

“What better way than to go into schools? It has been absolutely fantastic.

“I never had an opportunity like this as a kid, and seeing them so excited makes us feel so happy and proud.

“Our aim is to make them enjoy the experience, and we treat them like stars.

“This is not the X Factor or America’s Got Talent. This is real — if you work hard, this is what you achieve.”

The Drifters, who have had over 114 million album sales, 214 million single sales, and as many as 65 different members over the course of 59 years, are still owned by the same group, Prism Music Group Ltd, that founded them back in 1953.

Their timeless appeal, proven by the success of their latest album release “Up On The Roof”, is something that Michael, who places Stevie Wonder “top of the list” of people he would like to collaborate with, puts down to past iconic members and inspiring songwriters.

He said: “I think there are two things that make The Drifters so timeless.

“Firstly, we have had some great vocalists in the past, who will never be forgotten.

“And I think the songwriters need to be credited as well. It is feel-good music that will never get tired, and that will never get old.

“We still record in the same way we did years ago — all of us around one microphone, getting the harmonies going round.

“The two new tracks were the first brand new releases for us in 35 years. We were very proud of that moment.

“We got a gold disc from Sony Music, and it was a dream come true.”

Hapton CE Methodist Primary School got sent the songs they will be performing in Manchester a couple of weeks ago, and Michael’s visit involved going through the numbers and dancing with the children, before their big night in the spotlight.

Headteacher Miss J Clarke said: “We are very honoured as a school for this opportunity, and all the children involved are very excited and can’t wait to perform on such a big stage.”

And managing director of PMG, Kathy Mashadi said: “In a time where reality television, particularly programmes such as X Factor, often gives children a false impression of life in performance, this programme aims to give children a more accurate overview of what happens in the music industry — from what is involved in preparing for a performance, through to the actual show itself, giving them an opportunity to perform as part of a world class production. It is an experience they never forget.”

Next year, The Drifters will be celebrating their 60th anniversary. While Michael has his lips firmly sealed at the moment, he promises that there will be plenty for their fans, in the UK and Stateside, to be looking out for. REBECCA COHEN