Only the best choirs had got through from the auditions and now the competition was stepping up, with all choirs fighting to make the final 15.
To turn the pressure up, and to give the choirs a taste of what might come, the callbacks were held at BBC Television Centre, in London, in front of a live, studio audience. On top of this, the judges were on tough form, their expectations raised from the auditions and in no mood to settle for anything less than perfection.
First up was Sense of Sound from Liverpool. Musical Director (MD), Perri, had been working the choir hard since the auditions to ensure "discipline and focus". She described the choir as having a few "off task pupils" – a good job she had her teaching background to help keep them in line. One of the choir described her as a bit "scary" and that if "she speaks, we obey!" Sense of Sound sang "Ain’t Nobody" and Sharon gave them an "A plus". But all MDs would have to wait until the end of the day to see whether they had got through to the final 15.
At the auditions, Sharon was concerned that A Handbag of Harmonies were a bit of a gimmick, but along with their entourage of 106 children, MD Matt, said they had been working hard all week to prove her wrong. They sang "Can’t Take My Eyes off You", but Russell felt they had lost their "sassiness" and Suzi agreed by commenting that the "irony had been lost a little". The judges’ comments had left the Handbags feeling empty and they didn’t feel that they’d done enough.
When Russell saw Only Men Aloud! perform in the auditions he couldn’t help but get up on stage and join in with their rendition of "Drunken Sailor". This time MD Tim, decided that they couldn’t rest on their laurels and maybe they needed to be a little more serious. So, they sang "Ave Maria", but it seemed that this had been too much of a risk with Russell commenting that it "didn’t quite happen". All three judges were disappointed with the performance.
Another choir that seemed to take a gamble with song selection were the Alleycats. Although they’d made it through in style, they felt they needed to up their game. They sang, "Don’t Feel Like Dancing", a song they had never performed before, with a complex arrangement. As with Only Men Aloud!, it was a gamble that might not pay off with Russell commenting that they "weren’t as good as last time".
Next up were Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus. They had scraped through the auditions, with Russell convincing Sharon and Suzi they should be given a chance. They were determined not to let Russell down. They sang "Hung Up" and all judges saw a 100% improvement on last time. Russell had been right to fight for them.
It’s becoming clear that the MD is the glue in the choir. They’re the ones who feel the pressure the most and have the most responsibility to make sure the choir performs to its potential. Russell described them as the "unsung heroes".
At the auditions, Dreemz were the only choir who hadn’t got an MD. At first Sharon couldn’t decide whether to put them through and had to send them away so she could have time to think, before eventually giving them a "yes". But it was desperate times for the choir, they needed an MD, and they needed one fast. Theresa, choir manager, had spent night and day searching for someone to take on the role, and finally she found one in Laura. Performing in front of Laura convinced her to take on the role, "I’d love to work with you if you’ll have me!"
Against all odds, and only having had an MD for 7 days, Dreemz performed, "All My Life", leaving Sharon in tears saying she felt "so proud, that they’d listened and had shown so much commitment".
Basingstoke Ladies knew that the way to Russell’s heart was through his stomach, when they’d given him a tasty chicken pie at the auditions. They sang "Gonna Build Me a Mountain" and Russell had loved their "enthusiasm" and hoped this time he might get a steak and kidney pie!
Hereford Male Police Choir had been together for 50 years, and were a real band of brothers, providing each and every one with support through hard times. They sang, "An American Trilogy", which the judges felt had "all the elements of a great choir." The judges were clearly moved by their performance and it seemed even host, Nick Knowles, might have shed a tear!
Someone who was clearly desperate to go through was Maggie, MD of Hear Me Now! Apparently, she rules the choir with an "iron fist" and had been putting them through their paces since the auditions. They sang "Wade in the Water" and although Suzi felt the choreography was "sensational", Sharon felt it "out of tune". Maggie was to go through agony while she waited to find out whether they’d done enough.
One of the final choirs to perform was The City of Bath Male Choir. Russell had given them 11/10 at the auditions and after their rousing performance of "Nothing Like a Dame", he upped it to 12/10.
At the end of a very long day, all the choirs headed home, leaving the MDs with the painful task of waiting to find out whether they were going through. Each MD then had to take the long walk as they headed down the corridor to get the decision, always knowing that they then had to return home and tell their choir themselves.
For some the journey stopped right there, whereas for others, the dream was about to continue.
Here’s a list of the final 15 that go through to the heat stages, starting Saturday 19th July at 18:25. You can find out more about them, watch their performances and leave messages of support in the new Choir Section.
Choirs through to the heats:
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