The world-renowned Glasgow Phoenix Choir is coming to Helensburgh next weekend – though its members have no idea what songs they’ll be singing when they take to the stage.

The choir has 120 members and performs a variety of music from religious pieces to Scots songs like Highland Cathedral and songs from musicals.

But publicity officer Anne Kay, who sings alto in the choir, one of the group’s alto members and publicity officer revealed even the choir don’t know what songs they will be performing on the night.

She told the Advertiser: “Our conductor Marilyn J. Smith never tells us what songs are coming up because she wants to see how the crowd are responding, so she makes it up and it’s always a surprise. And she always says, ‘if you don’t feel like singing, sing until you do’, and it’s true.

“Sometimes you think you don’t know songs, but you actually do and you enjoy it.”

The choir is one of the longest and most established choirs in Scotland, and the UK, with its youngest member being 18 and its oldest being 80.

The group is celebrating 117 years of choral excellence this year – 67 years as the Glasgow Phoenix Choir and 50 years as the Glasgow Orpheus Choir.

Anne attributed the choir’s success to its wide range of singers and its dedication to rehearse and put on regular shows.

She said: “I think our success is partly because we have been going for quite a long time and we have professional people as our conductor and accompanist Cameron Murdoch

“We are a pretty good choir and one of the things about the choir is that people meet and marry within the choir, so we have good relationships.

“We have had quite a few young people join over the last few years,” she added: “Other choirs just do one show per year.

“I think that’s another thing that makes us stand out – that people come to rehearsals but they are actually performing too, which is good. We have about 20 shows a year.”

The choir holds open rehearsals every September and people are required to audition to join the choir and sing a song to Marilyn, who will tell them if they have what it takes to join the group.

Anne said: “Usually if someone doesn’t get accepted it’s because Marilyn doesn’t think they are ready to join a choir, but that’s not a bad thing.

“She gives them constructive feedback and sometimes trial memberships, so they can see if the choir is right for them or not.”

She added: “The soprano section actually has too many members, so we have a few people on hold.

“We need more men actually – you could always have more men in a choir.”

The choir will sing at Helensburgh Parish Church on May 19 at 7.30pm in a concert hosted by Helensburgh Garelochside Rotary.

Although Marilyn is keeping the programme under wraps, the evening is likely to include something wedding related after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot earlier in the day.

The money raised will be donated to local causes in Helensburgh.

Tickets for the concert on May 19 cost £10 and are available in advance from Helensburgh Garelochside Rotary members, the Parish Church Office in Colquhoun Street, from Helensburgh Heroes at 28 Sinclair Street, and online at