The draconian press embargo is now lifted and at last the truth can be told: we only made it as far as Week 3 on The Naked Choir. Not, unfortunately, as one of the lucky eight groups who were selected to perform. But the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted a 1/4 second appearance by Academix on the opening credits for each of the first three weeks. (It’s around 0:44, Mum, if you’re quick with the freeze frame).
We were pleased and excited to get an audition, since we heard they had nearly 300 applications. We weren’t too surprised that we hadn’t made it through to the competition itself, since we also heard they auditioned over a hundred groups for eight places.
We were slightly surprised by the format of the first four weeks, specifically the way each group was given a brand new song and asked to arrange, learn, and polish it in three days. Obviously this is an accelerated schedule: we typically take 2-3 weeks to get notes right, another week or two to memorise, and then enter a phase of continual refinement. Learning a song in 3 days is like learning to speed-read, not like learning the art of literary criticism.
And this process all starts only once an arrangement is ready: the arranging itself can take weeks. Speaking for myself, it starts by listening to the song hundreds of times, almost continually for 3-4 weeks while dressing, driving, eating, anywhere. Then there is the very solitary process of writing down the arrangement and playing it back over and over, agonising over the two or three awkward places where nothing seems quite right no matter how you tweak it. (Every arrangement has some of these. At least, all mine do,) I was pleased to see some recognition given to the poor arrangers of Choral Stimulation and Gospel Essence for the their sleepless nights in weeks 2 and 4.
I write this having just watched Week Four, and the standard is clearly climbing. For the first time there were performances that made me want to pay money for the recordings, and there were also multiple Shiver Moments. (A Shiver Moment is that feeling you get when you watch a performance and a strange involuntary tingle runs down your back and arms.)
As for our night with Gareth – well, we didn’t have one. He wasn’t present at our audition, just a small camera crew and an interviewer. So we have no secrets to spill. Probably just as well, as we no longer make the opening credits from Week Four. For us, it’s the end of the road.