Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Choir That Rocks - or just jiggles about a bit - Part 2

Having got over the disappointment of 'The Choir That Rocks' - or as the Daily Mirror calls it, 'The Choir That Sucks', not the Choir itself, just the documentary, and I couldn't really argue with that, I was interested to see if it pulled its socks up for Part 2. They stayed resolutely around its ankles with the odd foray up to just below knee level.

This episode was to feature the Farnham 'Teen' Choir who I had seen perform at Wembley (well,  you all know we got there so not much point pretending!).  I was knocked out by Rachel O' Brien, who sang 'You've Got the Love' by Florence and the Machine to rapturous applause.  That such a great voice could come from a teenager was amazing. So I was a little bit miffed to discover that she's actually 22 and a university graduate.  It seemed to be stretching the idea of a 'Teen Choir' just a little bit far.  There are lots of new Teen Choirs being set up all across the country. The age range states 11-20. Hmm, so why, I have to ask myself, is someone who is clearly too old for a teen choir taking the starring role in the documentary?

And my dears, the producers must have just about peed their pants when they discovered that not only can the girl sing but she's got a heart condition too! And one, incidentally, that Hugh Bonneville can't seem to get right. He called it Vasovogal Syndrome. It's actually called Vasovagal Synchope, a synchope being a medical name for a faint.  It's not, strictly speaking, a heart condition, rather a malfunction in the autonomic part of the nervous system that regulates the flow of blood to the body. It causes a drop in blood pressure and slowing of the heartbeat and then you faint.  It's not lifethreatening, just bloody annoying, but the producers, and Rachel herself were not about to let that stand in the way of a bit of dramatic telly. 

Most VS sufferers have a trigger that brings on an attack according to a friend who suffers from it. Rachel's was clearly a very rare one as it came on every time a TV camera was pointed at her.  We were treated to a 'beauty shot' of  'all the drugs she has to take to control it' but a quick freeze frame revealed that they seemed to be all the same drug, Fludrocortisone, which is prescribed to anyone with what is called orthostatic intolerance (just see how much you're learning!)  - basically if you stand upright too long, you faint - and what looked suspiciously like vitamin tablets. I'm not trying to make light of her condition but I can't deny that by the end of it I was mutteringr rather unkindly "Just faint for God's sake and get it over with' every time she fluttered her hand and commented on her heart 'going funny'.

My own choir featured far more so it was fun to see who got a close up and who was going the wrong way in the dance moves (Steve, you know who you are!). The sudden appearance of one of our soloists fronting the Stroud Rock Choir was a bit strange. As far as I know, she only goes to ours.  It gave me a creeping sense of unease, that the documentary was not, in fact, being very honest.

This was further compounded by the secondary story of whether or not Rachel would sing well enough for 'The Man from Universal' to be whisked off to record her 'first' solo at the Abbey Road studios and thus realise her dream of becoming a recording star.  We all knew she'd do it, she does have a wonderful voice but when I did a quick Google of her to find out her surname, having missed it on the documentary, I discovered that she has already sung solo on Rock Choir's first album. (Track 5 apparently, in case you actually care). So the big 'will she/won't she' get to sing solo was just another bit of not entirely honest telly.

So it's the final instalment tonight, and I think it will be the best one. The whole Wembley thing was absolutely fabulous and I hope the cameras manage to really capture the atmosphere. I'm looking forward to hearing how we all sounded together. When you are sitting in one voice section it's quite difficult to hear what the whole thing sounds like. 

The single 'Something Inside So Strong' from the (my!) new album goes on download release at 10pm tonight.  It will be available on iTunes for a mere 99p.  Please would you buy it and ask all your friends to as well. The live track we recorded at Wembley is Track 20. All the royalties go to Refuge, and goodness knows they could do with it.  With a fair wind it might even go to the top of the download charts which would mean I could (almost) honestly put No 1 recording star on my CV, which is in itself as much a work of fiction as this whole documentary thingy.

Apparently Caroline is in discussions with the Olympic Games Committee about Rock Choir performing at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. That would be pretty amazing. Watch this space!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Choir That Rocked

Thursday at just before 9pm saw me hot-footing it from the Parents Forum at school through the driving rain to plonk myself down in front of the TV for the first episode of  'The Choir that Rocks'.

Ten minutes later I was Facebooking all my friends to tell them that we really were all normal, honestly.  From the opening credits you'd think that one of the criteria for joining Rock Choir, apart from an inability to sing a note in tune, was to be morbidly obese. I was genuinely worried that what we thought was a serious documentary was actually going to take the mickey out of the Rockettes, some of whom think of it as a virtual religion. Every one they spoke to seemed to be a little bit weird/sad/boss eyed or worse still, a town crier!  In front rooms across the land big women with dodgy eyes would be making effigies of the producer.  His picture was on the Rock Choir website. They would know where to find him.  

I thought of all the lovely ladies I know from my choir, most of them just great fun and very, very funny. They are older than me but they still go to Glastonbury.  Rock Choir was starting to look like some sort of community service for the socially inept.

The problem with the documentary is that it's really just about a bunch of  very ordinary people getting on together, being nice and doing something fun, sometimes even with their own husbands. There are no drugs, clandestine affairs or meanness.  No-one gets vajazzled and there's not a spray tan in sight. Not exactly thrilling television. So the producers have to find a tag. Cue the shot of the rundown council estate with the old sofa almost a little too artistically place in shot while a lady who may or may not actually live on said estate warbles over the top.  The message is that even if your life is shite, hey, you can join Rock Choir - if you can afford the £100 a term of course!  

Later on, the obligatory cancer survivor is wheeled out to tell how Rock Choir practically cured her. The Guardian commented that there should be an OFCOM ruling that if anyone  uses cancer sufferers to spice up a programme one of the production team should undergo a course of chemotherapy. Probably not a bad idea.

We head up North to meet two new choir leaders struggling to get the Rock Choir message across to the good people of Yorkshire who are clearly not getting the point.   Too much stout if you ask me!   The producers managed to find a man in a pub who clearly wanted to make the most of his 15 minutes of fame. He only really needed the flat cap and whippet to be a true Northern stereotype. "It'll never work" he tells the cameras, almost gleefully and certainly seeing poor Nic Slack's many tumbleweed moments as he tries to inspire his choir of nine, including possibly the only person under 30 in the Northern Hemisphere who had never heard of a flashmob, you might be forgiven for thinking he was right.  Even the news that they would be playing Wembley was greeted with silence. Maybe they just hadn't heard of it.

Certainly some people in Rock Choir are discovering the downside of putting yourself in the public arena where you have no creative control and the 'story' is king.  Caroline Redman Lusher has been portrayed in some papers as a failed pop star who came up with the idea of Rock Choir to ensure that she would always be able to front a musical act and a control freak who only became animated when she talked about money rather than the very shrewd businesswoman that she is.  The underlying 'will they/won't they' Wembley story in which they tried to suggest that poor Caroline faced financial ruin if she didn't pull it off was a little weak and of course you lot all know she did.  Our own choir leader having made a throwaway comment about the cost of being separated, arrived to pick up his children from his ex-wife to get the door slammed in his face. 'Too expensive are we?" was the parting shot.

My own feeling and that of the other choir members who I spoke to at Monday's session was that is was just a little dull.  It didn't seem to get to the essence of Rock Choir. It doesn't heal the sick or cure the lame and it isn't a panacaea for all society's ills, it's just good fun. But fun doesn't sell.

That said though, there were so many enquiries about joining after the first episode that the website crashed. It has something like 23,000 hits immediately after and the taster session being run by our choir at the weekend has 150 people booked on it, so it must have done something right.

Episode 2 airs on Thursday at 9pm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Days to remember....

Today is, apparently, National Elder Abuse Day. I don't know about you but I think that's probably a very badly worded national day. I phoned my parents to abuse them but unfortunately they were out.

Anyone can apply to their government or to the United Nations to have their special day recognised and  providing it's not hateful or racist requests are rarely turned down. This has led to a whole raft of bizarre and wacky special days.

Here for your delight and delectation are some real special days


Had enough of the coffee machine breaking down? Maybe you've had enough of your neighbour mowing his lawn every Sunday morning. Well January 7th is for you. It's National 'I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore' Day


Stuck in a romantic rut? Just know that he's going to spend Valentine's Day down the pub with his footie mates while you sit at home crying into your low fat/low calorie/low taste hot chocolate. Well get rid of the lowlife on 7th February.  It's National 'Dump your Significant Jerk' Day.


Scientists have pondered this for centuries. It's that question that we've all asked ourselves. Well on 3rd March, celebrate! It's National What if Cats and Dogs had Opposable Thumbs Day


Fed up with trying to decide what to wear? Waistband pinching a bit? Or do you just want to have a duvet day but the boardroom beckons? Well, 16th July is National 'Wear Your Pyamas to Work' Day. Wear your PJs with pride!


This brings a national day that is particularly close to my heart. It's National Lost Sock Memorial Day. A day when we all recognise the fact that we have a favourite sock which has lost it's life partner. We wait, we hope, we check down the back of the tumble dryer for the hundredth time but they are gone. On this day, May 9th,  we can finally say goodbye. We acknowledge that the sock is lost forever and we throw it's surviving partner in the bin. It's hard but it's necessary...


Does the mere mention of a 'take your son or daughter to work day' bring you out in hives?  Do you cringe at the thought of introducing the fruit of your loin to your work colleagues? Don't worry because June 26th is National Please Take My Children to Work Day. You offload your offspring onto some other poor sucker and they get the glory!


You know how it is. You put them in a pot on the windowsill, give them a bit of water once in a while, maybe even a little snifter of Baby Bio but do you ever think about how they feel? I mean really how they feel? Stuck on the window ledge, same old, same old, day in and day out. Don't you often wonder if they are bored? Whether they might like a change of scenery? Well 26th July is their day. It's National Take your Houseplant for a Walk Day. The world over, houseplant lovers will be taking to the streets with their plants, sharing plant care tips, maybe even a bit of clandestine cross pollination. So go on, take your yukka for a yomp, take your aspidistra for an amble. You know you want to.


It's hot and sunny, everything in the garden is blooming  but down in the vegetable patch there is an apocalyse in waiting. Why on earth did you plant 10 courgette plants? You've grilled and roasted, you've made soup and muffins and even put some in the freezer but still they just keep coming. They may say that in the UK you are never more than 3 feet from a rat but in August it would be true to say you are rarely more than 3 feet from a courgette, in fact, from lots of courgettes. So make use of  August 8th. It's National Sneak a Courgette onto your Neighour's Porch Day. If you wake up to an EU mountain of courgettes on your doorstep you'll know why


On September 19th it's time to splice the mainbrace, put on an eyepatch and get in touch with your inner Jack Sparrow for National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ahoy me hearties, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and all that


Who knows what evil lurks there. It's time to be afraid, be very afraid. On 30th October gather round your friends, keep close and open the door.... very..... very carefully. Who knows what ghosts you'll find in the salad crisper on National Haunted Refrigerator Night. Is  that The Blob in there? Nah, it's just the remains of the last courgette from National Sneak a Courgette onto your Neighbour's Porch day, godammit!


For November's national day I've hunted high and low until the cows come home. So let's not beat about the bush, at the end of the day it all boils down to this -  November 3rd - National Cliche Day. Honest, I'm not yanking your chain. I wouldn't pull your leg about something so serious. You know me, as honest as the day is long.


And finally we arrive at December, the last month of the year. And this particular national day takes place on the last day of the year. It's National No Interruptions Day.


I said NO interruptions!

Oh yes, it really exists!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Share the Lieb

Many thank yous to Hausfrau for very kindly passing on the Liebster Award to me. It's for those small but perfectly formed blogs with less than 100 followers. In the Blogosphere size really doesn't matter and some of the smaller blogs I read punch well above their weight.

Sharing this award is long overdue but unfortunately I've been suffering from 'Intermittent Gadget Outage' which Blogger assures me is not infectious and I can confirm that it certainly isn't as painful as it sounds. It just means that one of your gadgets, in this case the one which shows your followers - and everyone else's, stops working for no apparent reason. Obviously with this particular gadget outage it has meant that I couldn't actually identify those blogs I follow and enjoy which have less than 100 followers.

Anyway, with a dab of cream here and a few pills there, my Followers gadget has now recovered so, here they are, the winners of my particular Liebster award.....

Macy at The View from Macy

Mother Hen at Mother Hen

Sarah at St Bloggie de Riviere

All blogs I thoroughly enjoy reading, even if I don't always get time to comment

So, to you three, newly inducted into the Liebster Hall of Fame, are asked to pass the award on to three of your favourite small blogs (with a link back to me if you wish). Who knows, this time next year, maybe we'll be hanging with the big boys!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Did you see me? Did you.....?

Well, here it is, the first TV ads for my Wembley debut. I'm the one in the black t-shirt with the gold star on the front!