AN ALBUM ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney recorded with boys from Magdalen College Choir has won the best album award at the Classical Brits.

The former member of the Fab Four and the choirboys saw off competition from artists including Sting, Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe and Bryn Terfel, with Ecce Cor Meum (Latin for Behold My Heart), his fourth classical album.

The award was voted for by Classic FM listeners and readers of its magazine.

Sir Paul's link with Magdalen began when he travelled to Oxford with wife Linda a few months before her death from cancer in 1998, to hear the famous choir sing evensong in the chapel.

Anthony Smith, the then president, invited Sir Paul to write a choral piece which could be sung the world over.

The rock legend spent eight years working on the classical piece, which many people believe is a tribute to his first wife.

Organist Tony Froggatt, who is in charge of the choir at Magdalen College for two terms, said: "There was a terrific buzz when we heard the news that the album had won this award.

"We told the boys at morning practice and they were very pleased and excited.

"Sir Paul has been a delight to work with, and has given the choir a lovely memento, a crystal glass from Tiffany's in New York with the album's logo engraved on it. It's amazing to think that we are up there with people like Sir Simon Rattle."

Bill Ives, the college's director of music, added: "Sir Paul was very easy to work with. I'm so pleased to hear this album has won."

Sir Paul, who is going through a divorce from his second wife Heather Mills-McCartney, said: "If you'd told me when I was a little boy growing up in Liverpool I'd be at the Albert Hall receiving this, I wouldn't have believed you.

"How proud my mum and dad would have been," he added, before jokingly singing an opera-style high note and leaving the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall, where the ceremony took place.

Album of the year was the only award voted for by the public, with all the other awards chosen by classical music experts and critics.

Sting had been shortlisted for his lute album Songs From the Labyrinth.

But he was beaten by Sir Paul, who began writing Ecce Cor Meum in 1997 but had to halt work after the death of his first wife Linda the following year.

The oratorio in four movements with English and Latin lyrics was recorded last year at Abbey Road Studios in London and premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in November.

During the recording, boys from Magdalen College Choir joined forces with boys from King's College, Cambridge.

Sir Paul's next pop album, Memory Almost Full, is out in June.