Over the past three weeks I’ve been avidly watching The Choir on BBC2. The series followed Gareth Malone, who currently runs two choirs for the London Symphony Orchestra, taking a choir to the fourth World Choir Games in China. However it wasn’t one of his LSO choirs that he took, instead he put together, from scratch, a choir at Northolt High School, a school that didn’t appear to have much of a musical tradition if any. Essentially he was taking young people whose main singing experience was singing along with R & B tracks, and getting them singing in four part harmony – all in the space of nine months.
Now I have to say, watching the first episode, they were bad, really bad. The simple reason being that even if you’ve had musical training, getting used to singing four part harmony is hard, couple with that the fact that the majority of the tenor and bass lines were struggling with recently broken voices and it is even more difficult. The qualification CD was produced after only seven rehearsals, and although it wasn’t great in comparison to an experienced choir, after seven weeks was impressive. I do have a definite suspicion that the accompanying application highlighted that point in order to get through, certainly the nerves about the prospect of not qualifying seemed entirely genuine – there were real doubts whether they would even get in. It was also very interesting to note that until they were stood on the side of the stage in China, they had never actually heard their competition – I expect if they had things might have been different, with much more fear and doubt over their abilities.
Having said that, tonight in the final episode, we saw the last few weeks of highly stressful rehearsals, where right up to the last minute the tenors were having problems getting their line, and their appearance at the games in China – only their second public performance, their first being in front of friends and family at the school. Not surprisingly they didn’t make it past the first round in the competition. There were some spectacular and much more experienced Choirs there, but from the part of the performance of the Northolt Choir that was shown they gave a superb performance, and certainly did not let themselves down – even performing FaurÃ©â€™s Cantique De Jean Racine in French.
Unfortunately at the end of the programme there wasn’t any details of what has happened since the games in the summer, so I’m not sure whether the choir has been disbanded, whether Gareth is still going into the school or what. Hopefully, they have benefited from the experience, and are continuing singing. The most I’ve found is this item from the Daily Mail which mentions that Chloe Sullivan, one of the alto line who had a record of absenteeism, and indeed regularly missed early rehearsals, has gone on from the programme to join a gospel choir in Harrow, and has even begun a music production course. Hopefully if the series has been a success we can look forward to seeing how the choir members lives have changed as a result of their experience.