The collective power of voices can physically tug the breath from your chest, cloud your eyes and put a lump the size of Gibraltar in your throat.
Or choral music can sound like Last Choir Standing. I have been orally immobilised by the breadth, invention and minutely crafted godawfulness of the arrangements, harmonics and twinkie descants in this spellbinding competition. What is so marvellously compelling is there are quite so many teenagers and students out there who are publicly willing to give up any possible hope of a sex life or respect to live with the ridicule and revulsion of their peers, simply to take part in performing this wall of kitsch. What "Strictly Come Dancing" is to dancing, "Last Choir Standing" is to singing - and, indeed, standing. - A.A.Gill, in the Sunday Times
Presenters Klass and Knowles -
experts on choral music?
The GOS doesn't always agree with everything A.A.Gill writes, but with "Last Choir Standing" he is spot on.
The GOS asks me to explain that he was particularly interested in this televised choir competition because he is a musician himself, used to be heavily involved in running choirs, and actually knows quite a lot about it. He also asks me to point out that despite the wonderful work done by the choirs themselves, the programmes have left him spitting blood and excuse me a minute what's that? Oh come on, I can't say "hacking great lumps out of the furniture with his bare buttocks", this is a responsible website of political and social comment no, I won't! besides, it wouldn't be true, you had your trousers on all the time well, so far as I know, you did look, just leave it to me and I'll no, I'm not going to call Suzy Digby a horse-faced mare I know you don't like her, but she's an attractive middle-aged lady and she knows a lot about choirs no . no out of the ques- No! Look, Grumpy, just go and pour yourself another drink and let me get on, will you? the programmes have left him mildly irritated and he wishes me to express his dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms. Which I have promised to do. So
This has not, in fact, been a proper choir competition at all, because it hasn't reflected the things choirs do and the music they perform. Many choirs don't prance about or use drums'n'bass backing, for instance, they just stand in straight rows and sing beautifully. It is their right to do so if they wish, and they shouldn't be penalised for it just because some ignorant BBC producer prefers the Spice Girls or Steps.
Moreover, certain types of choral music - some would say the main types of choral music - have been outlawed by the format. Where is the folk music? Where are the wonderful children's choirs which abound in this country? Where was the classical music? The only vaguely classical-style piece I remember hearing in the competition so far was the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, sung by an excellent men's choir who were roundly criticised by the judges for daring to raise the tone by performing something halfway decent for a change.
A persistent theme from the judges - from one judge in particular - has been the exhortation to introduce the maximum amount of emotion into every performance. This too has limited the music that choirs could perform. For instance, one shudders to think how a choir would have fared if they had been so foolish as to introduce any music by the greatest of all British choral composers, Thomas Tallis. His music is timeless, incredibly and ethereally beautiful - but has a cold perfection that betrays no emotion at all. To suggest that all music has a strong emotional content is just plain ignorance.
The choirs have been, on the whole, very good. Some have been outstandingly good. But their performances have been spoiled by the artificial, insensitive presentation that surrounds them, by the constant encouragement to go over the top, by the crude and ignorant hype which marks so much television today.
Why must the BBC cheapen everything it touches?
The GOS says: I do appreciate the chance to speak for myself occasionally, even if it is just a little footnote at the bottom of the page. Tosser.
One of the choirs taking part was a girls' choir from Cumbria called Amabile. They're pretty damn good - in fact, they won the Youth Choir of the Year contest two years ago, and as this is the UK's premiθre choir competition they can justifiably claim to be Britain's best young choir. Sadly the producers and judges of "Last Choir Standing" didn't see it like that. Here is a selection of comments from members of the public
"Unfortunately, it would seem that the purpose of the show is not to find choirs that are making quality music but to find choirs that are doing something perceived to be hip and trendy."
" that SHAM of a programme. I was absolutely incensed by it as I had thought, when I saw it advertised, that it might actually do some good in promoting choral singing. How wrong could I be?"
"I was disappointed to see that it is just another X Factor, with celebrity judges becoming emotional and promoting show-biz groups rather than well trained choirs performing good music to a high standard of technique and musicianship."
"I thought that the BBC's treatment of the Amabile Girls' Choir on tonight's programme was quite awful"
"I was totally appalled by the way the judges treated you and your girls. As a choir competition the show seemed to be very one-sided and biased towards choirs who sang pop songs or gospel music."
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