If you thought that spending your Saturday evenings staying in watching retired rugby players and semi-forgotten former soapstars stomp around a stage in sequinny leotards was as low as you could get, think again.
Because we'll say one thing in Strictly Come Dancing's defence – it isn't about choirs. It doesn't take a genius to see that a primetime BBC One reality talent show based around choirs would probably be the worst televisual idea since Minipops or Vernon Kay or something, but tell that to BBC One. That's because BBC One has just commissioned Choir Wars, a sort of X Factor but for choirs. We know, we know, the last thing we want to watch is a competitive Songs Of Praise too, but at least it'll keep Graham Norton off the streets for a few months next year.
Believe it or not but more people watched Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One than X Factor on ITV on Saturday. It might have been because every spare second of X Factor is so full of ADHD bangs and whooshes that the whole thing sounds overbearingly like an explosion in a bubble-wrap factory, or because on Strictly Come Dancing it's far more obvious that all the contestants are doing it with their professional partners, but it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter because the success of Strictly Come Dancing means that BBC One can do primetime Saturday night talent shows better than anyone else. Except it can't.
Take Strictly Come Dancing out of the equation and you're left with a litany of BBC One Saturday night talent shows so unforgivingly shit that even watching a second of any of them will leave you quivering in a corner like a girl in a child abuse advert. If we're not being forced to watch Andrew Lloyd Webber's smug toady face contorting into all kinds of potential sex-offender faces as he watches a ghastly bunch of stage school tossers over-emote to hits of the day, then we're being forced to watch Dance X – the worst television show in history and the sole reason we keep waking up in the night screaming "Stop trying to act like a teenager you ridiculous little Italian bell-end!"
Will the new BBC One Saturday night talent show carry on this proud tradition of dreadfulness or will it be, you know, good? Here's a clue – it's called Choir Wars and it's about choirs. So that's that answer cleared up, then. Basically it sounds as though Choir Wars will be like X Factor, but without the solo singers who always win it. That's correct, Choir Wars is the toe-curling X Factor group category stretched out to fill its own show.
Sadly, it seems as if Choir Wars won't be like Robot Wars and feature choirs with buzz-saws and self-righting mechanisms charging head-first at each other in a pit while Craig Charles screams wordless cries of excitement from a balcony, rather Choir Wars will be about choirs. Singing choirs.
The official explanation for Choir Wars is that choirs from around the country will be allowed to sing any style of music they want 'from gospel and barbershop to classical, folk and rock' and they'll be judged on their 'personality, passion, power and performance', whatever that means. A choir will be eliminated from Choir Wars each week until just one victorious choir is left, holding the bloody torn-off limbs of less successful choirs in the air like in 300 or something at which point they'll release an album and remember why there aren't many superstar choirs. It sounds incredible.
But, hey, well done to BBC One. First it revived ballroom dancing and now it's reviving choirs. If Choir Wars is a success then BBC One might even look at other outmoded forms of entertainment to base Saturday night talent shows around, like Strictly Come Badger-Baiting or Leprosy X.
That's assuming that Choir Wars goes ahead, of course – it might all fall though at the last minute since the Choir Wars team are apparently looking for a strongly opinionated 'Simon Cowell of the choir world' to head the show's judging panel. And surely nobody cares enough about choirs to actually have an opinion about them.
James Davey says
Celebrities in leotards and former soap-stars learning to dance has been a real eye opener into the world of dancing, so is there any reason to believe that BBC One viewers won’t be equally inspired when offered insights into the world of choral singing?
It’s a very brave move for the BBC to tackle such a vast and complex world for the next Saturday night venture. Certainly, the televisual challenges will be tricky, because TV sound will never be able to replicate live choral singing performances – Choirs tend to be most concerned with the sound they make, and less with the visual performance (perhaps one of the reasons why choir singing is not often taken seriously on TV), although many choirs will go to great lengths to put on a visual spectacle!
Nevertheless, singing in choirs is something that thousands of people in the UK do each week, and so is surely something that should be represented in BBC programming? So is the oportunity of Choir Wars the right way to do it? I guess we’ll find out when it airs later this year, but if you agree with the earlier thread of this comment then prepare to have your eyes opened.
There are thousands of choirs active in the UK, representing the whole spectrum of musical genres; including R’n’B, Soul, Pop (check out The Magnets) jazz (The Real Group) and Rock (5 O’clock Shadow), as well as the traditional gospel, church and concert choirs (check out the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year http://www.chantage.org), and of course our heritage choral societies. Then there are Barbershop choirs, world music choirs, early music choirs, experimental choirs (remember the Honda advert), beatbox choirs (check out Shlomo and the Vocal Orchestra). The age old tradition of Kings College choir is the stereotype that sits in most peoples minds, but the true picture is very different. Indeed, it is due to this very stereotyping that many of the UK’s best choirs will travel abroad for their biggest audiences.
Factoid – did you know that almost a third of the population of Sweden sing in a choir?
Singing in a choir is one of the most social activities there is, perhaps more soicial than any team sport as a choir team can have up to several hundred singers all working together toward a common goal. Aside from this communal aspect are the many choral techniques involved in attaining the highest levels of performance, and this will surely be the most interesting aspect of the new BBC show – Don’t forget that ‘The Choir’ on BBC1 did win two awards for this!
The hundreds of X factor auditionees and contestants we’ve seen have demonstrated the importance of having a unique voice (as well as some unique talents) but ensemble singing has a whole new set of challenges, and choirs at the highest level are able to balance and blend their sounds so accurately that they’ll sound like “One voice”, and that’s without the aid of microphones, pitchfixers and voice changers!
As for the judging criteria, if (like our previous commenter) you don’t understand what’s meant by passion, performance, power and personality then perhaps a dictionary may help. It certainly seems much clearer and easier to define than “X Factor” as the basic criteria?
Choir Wars will intrigue us all in the same way that we have been on the edges of our seats to find out from the judges of Strictly Come Dancing what has contributed to good performance. It’s only through watching Strictly Come Dancing over a period of monhs that many of us know anyhing about it at all. Well get ready to find out exactly what developments there have been since Henry VIII founded Kings College, as we rediscover another one of our nations’ hidden (but never forgotten) gems!
Hi, I am in a choir called Angels with Attitude-love the name hey. We are a acapella and there is about 30 in us. We do gospal etc. I told the lad that runs in and she said it would be fun to do this. please email me advice @ [email protected]