AS THE man behind the Spice Girls, Paul Conroy knows a thing or two about music.

So when the former managing director of Virgin Records heard his local church choir singing, he knew he had discovered something special.

And thanks to his keen ear, members of Wallingford Parish Church Choir are now taking their place in music history alongside Kanye West, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

They have been picked by Universal Music – home to some of the biggest names in pop – as Britain’s favourite parish choir.

And their prize was to record The Hymns Album, which will be released on Monday, April 18.

The group, which regularly appears as the fictional choir of Causton in the long- running TV drama Midsomer Murders, also visited the Royal Albert Hall in London on Wednesday to perform for Classic FM.

Judges waded through hundreds of entries for the competition from all corners of the UK.

But the choir would never have entered but for Mr Conroy, who spotted an advert in a newspaper and urged them to have a go.

Mr Conroy, who lives in Wallingford, said: “I immediately thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for my local choir.

“The church where they rehearse is virtually next door to my home and I have spent many years listening to them as I walked past.

“I knew they would appeal, partly because of the mixture of youth and experience but also the quality of their performance.

“I am very pleased and proud that they were chosen.”

The choir has 33 adults and 19 juniors, with ages ranging from six to over 70.

Sue Ledger, director of music, loved the choir so much she gave up her career as a GP to follow her dream and lead the singers.

She said: “I got the call from Decca Records to say we had won the competition while on a boating holiday.

“Neighbouring craft heard the ecstatic shrieks as I told my fellow singers on the boat the news. We really couldn’t believe it.

“One of the best days ever was telling the full choir at the next choir practice. They were all overwhelmed.”

She added: “Music is a very important part of the worship in our churches in Wallingford.

“The next few months will bring some wonderful events, and we have already had the amazing experience of recording at Abbey Road Studios.”