THE massed voices of Millegro and Prima Vocal Ensemble are to combine for the first time for the world's biggest road race, the Tour de France.

On Thursday at York Theatre Royal, they will unite for Hit The Road Jacques, a showcase of choral music for Le Grand Départ that will range from hit tunes to powerful modern compositions, all with a touch of French gloss.

The York groups will take to the stage under the guiding hands of their boundlessly energetic and creative artistic director Ewa Salecka with her husband, Greg Birch, on piano and guest musicians at a 7.30pm event hosted by BBC Radio York's Neil Foster.

Ewa, originally from Goleniow in northern Poland, has been an exhilarating driving force on the York music scene since moving to York with pianist Greg nine years ago.

"We'd done London and I knew there was a better life to be had in York, where I'd studied music at York St John," says Greg. "So we came here for a look around, got off at Ouse Bridge and that was it."

"I felt the different pace of the city, the calm," says Ewa.

She had studied music all her life in Poland, graduating in classical piano from an academy, and later moved to London, working as a piano accompanist at a Barbican ballet school while also working in restaurants.

During her four years in the Big Smoke she started a choir in Angel, and within a matter of weeks, For Angel's Sake had 30 members. "It was a horrible experience to have to say goodbye so soon when we decided to move to Yorkshire, because we hadn't expected them to gel so quickly," says Ewa.

The Angel choir had such an impact on Ewa that it was a big factor in deciding to set up a singing group in York.

"When we met in a pub to say goodbye, they were crying and I realised that choir was something special, and I had to get over my guilt about leaving them, so I thought, 'as soon as we settle in York, let's start a new choir there'."

They moved to Yorkshire nine years ago, Greg having organised a job as a chef at Melton's. Such has been the subsequent success of first Millegro and then Prima Vocal Ensemble that their music has become their full-time commitment, along with looking after their 14-month old son, Oscar.

"Millegro was founded on the challenge of singing in different languages, singing music the singers don't know or have never heard of," says Ewa.

"But I also like dance music, rock; we both love jazz, and I've learnt about Broadway musicals over the past five years, so we thought, 'let's start another choir to cover popular music, something more accessible but in different arrangements'."

Before she knew it, she was working 20-hour days. "I'm a night owl; that's the best time to be creative," she says.

"I try to work as much as possible at the same time as Ewa, but having a baby now, we try to be flexible," says Greg. "My role is to help Ewa realise all the plans she's created after her thoughts have been put on paper.

"Ewa will do all the choral arrangements and I cover other areas like producing the graphics and doing all the recordings."

You can sense how Ewa thrives on the music-making of her choirs.

"For six years of my life In Poland, I worked as a musical assistant in alternative theatre and I learned so much by being involved in touring abroad, around Europe, and from being involved in festivals that involved lots of the community. Now I feel just as much at home in York; I feel the same energy as in Poland," she says.

"People are keen to get involved in things and travel abroad, just as they were in Poland, and that's why we've done three choir trips in a year: Alta Pusteria in the northern Alps of Italy last June; Budapest in November/December; and New York in April. 43 people went across to America."

Barcelona, Girona and Costa Brava await in October.

"You can either be a person who can do that or not, and Ewa can," says Greg. "To sit back and watch all that organisation is quite remarkable. I'm kind of in awe of that."

Millegro and Prima Vocal Ensemble may be distinct, but at Thursday's concert they will sing separately before joining together with as many as 180 people on stage.

Looking to the future, Ewa has several wishes.

"I do dream of reaching out to more men to join the choirs, especially tenors," she says. "I'd like to open up workshops later this year for people to join and I also dream of attracting younger audiences, making this beautiful thing of ensemble singing more appealing to them."

Ewa believes everyone can sing. "Though some need to put in more work to sharpen their ear, we've never had one person in the choirs not catch up," she says.

Hit The Road Jacques with Millegro and Prima Vocal Ensemble, York Theatre Royal, July 3, 7.30pm. Tickets: £11 to £15 on 01904 623568 or at