FOR Italia 90 it was the sound of Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma which defined the whole World Cup, Now Oswaldtwistle-born opera star, Sir John Tomlinson, hopes to have a similar effect as the World Cup starts in Russia.

For Sir John is the voice of the BBC’s official World Cup trailer. His distinctive bass baritone can be heard singing a traditional Russian folk song - Ochi Cheryne - as tapestry-like graphics depict some of the outstanding players of the World Cup.

Sir John, who is heading back to East Lancashire at the weekend for a one-off concert at Colne Muni, said: “The BBC just got in touch. I’d been doing a Russian opera at Covent Garden by Shostakovich.

“I think they wanted an Englishman singing in Russian and there aren’t that many of us and also somebody with a low voice, again there aren’t that many of us.”

Sir John spent a day at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London recording with the 40-piece London Metropolitan Orchestra.

“We did 30 second and 60 second versions for the TV trailers but we also recorded the full song with the orchestra,” he said. “It was fun to do and who know? If we win the World Cup I might have a hit on my hands.”

Sir John is one of the world’s leading opera stars but will be taking time out from his schedule for a concert celebrating the work of Frank Smith who retired as musical director with Nelson Arion Male Voice Choir after 60 years.

Mezzo-soprano Samantha Oxborough will also be a guest soloist.

“It will be a good old fashioned concert with some big operatic numbers, some old and some modern songs. It should be really enjoyable,” he said.

“In some respects the concert is light relief for me. In my time I’ve done these humongous Wagnerian roles where I’m on stage for hours. I think the longest one is the Master Singers where I’m on stage for four hours.

“I’ll be doing an excerpt from that on Sunday but it will only be an excerpt!”

Born in Oswaldtwistle, Sir John was destined to be a singer.

“Music was part of family life,” he said. “I was singing from an early age at choir concerts and the Methodist chapel and around the piano at home. I was the youngest of five kids and we were all good singers and all played the piano.”

Sir John is currently the president of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester which often brings him back to the area.

“I like to work with the students each term if I can,” he said. “I have been singing for 47 years now professionally I think you ought to give something back. There are some talented young people out there and it’s good to be able to encourage them.”

Now 71, Sir John’s diary remains as busy as ever. He’s recently performed at Sydney Opera House and with the New York Met and he’s off to Dresden in August.

“I’m almost 72 now so I should have retired several years ago really but I can’t seem to do it,” he joked. “I’m enjoying myself so I’ll just keep going.”

Sir John Tomlinson, Colne Muni, Sunday June 17. Details from 01282 661234 or