Choir of the Year 2010 - review
- THE GUARDIAN:
Walking into the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday afternoon, it was as if one had stepped backstage by mistake. In a mood of pre-show frenzy, the entire audience seemed to be straightening shirts, brushing down jackets, fixing up hair, combing, smoothing, pinning, crimping, ready for the big moment when, each with their choral comrades, they filed on stage to give the performance of their lives for the title of Choir of the Year 2010.
It was only partly an illusion. The auditorium had indeed become a kind of vast green room. Sitting in groups, brightly attired and surrounded by family supporters wearing their colours or waving flags, the six choirs competing dominated the swarming interior. They were chosen earlier this year from 150 ensembles involving 6,000 singers. Four were category winners, two were invited as "wild cards", good enough as runners-up to earn a place in the final, which was presented with cheerful grace by Aled Jones assisted by Josie D'Arby and the BBC Singers.
Perceptions about choral singing have shifted radically since Bill Kallaway founded the biennial competition in 1984 with sponsorship from Sainsbury's. Back then, no one accepted the idea that stuffy old choirs could be fashionable, as well as socially inclusive with everything that expression implies. TV activists such as Howard Goodall and Gareth Malone, not to mention the American teen hit Glee on Channel 4, have engendered a fresh and informal, still highly disciplined, enthusiasm.
Another cool advocate, Brian Eno, who sings in an a cappella group each week, makes it sound obligatory pleasure: "Singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humour." And he should know. Think about that as you reach for the latest snake oil.