Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Clash of the Choirs

As I wrote earlier, I was oddly looking forward to this one. Here's my thoughts:

1. These are really more "show choirs" than traditional choirs. Which is ok, because I understand that they're going for ratings, and a bunch of people with white tops and dark pants standing in tiers? Not so much. But all the jumping around and arm-waving and booty-shaking was distracting from the music.

2. Each choir had one or more soloists, and the rest of the choir was basically singing backup. Which is not really the point of a choir, where, except for rare solo opportunities, everyone is trying to blend in together.

3. Could that hostess's dress have been ANY TIGHTER?!! Poor dear. I wonder how on earth she even got into that thing. Maybe there wasn't even any fabric involved. Maybe they just painted it on. I mean, she did look stunning, but how did she breathe?

4. They auditioned choir members individually, but at no time did I see group auditions. Most choir directors want to audition members both individually and in groups, to see how well they harmonize with others. Being able to sing an alto part while the person next to you is singing soprano is a big part of being in a choir.

5. Speaking of auditions, how big of a tool is that country-music-singer guy? An actual CHOIR DIRECTOR came to audition, and the country-music guy picked his brain and then told him he didn't make the cut. Oh, and country-music guy? LEARN HOW TO READ MUSIC. Jeez.

Sorry for all the ranting. Once a choir nerd, always a choir nerd. Oh, and I predict that Michael Bolton's crew will be first to get the cut.


bridgett said...

1. Yes, it's a show choir extravaganza and that still didn't excuse the lack of blend. For a choral show, the sound engineering is very bad -- or else they aren't really doing much parts singing, which is what I suspect.

2. I thought it was interesting that the people who were solo acts (Shelton, Bolton) visualized the choir as backup singers and chose lousy songs to showcase group singing. The people who had gotten their start in choral groups did a better job with song selection and actually working with the choral concept.

3. Yeah, poor hostess. She looked like a carved block of wood wrapped in something blue and shiny. My kid thought she looked like a talking sculpture.

4. They sing like they were recruited as soloists. I've been in some really good choirs that had almost no strong lead singers and I've been in a couple of lousy madrigal groups that were selected as a sort of AllStars dealio.

5. Yes, Blake Shelton came off as a giant doofus. Also, the choir director (after he knew he was cut) gave him some bum spite advice (haha)-- 2 altos? In a 20-voice choir? Good luck with that. All the choirs had a skewed male/female ratio and I think baritones must be in scarce supply.

6. Yes, I was least impressed with Bolton's group as a "choral" group. They had been staged as backup singers and they did that well, but that's not my understanding of what they were asked to do. Then again, this might just turn out to be a referendum on "how much do people like Michael Bolton or Patti LaBelle?" rather than any assessment of the musical content.

Here's my ranking:

1) Philly choir -- great song, great arrangement, good tempo, fairly simple staging that the choir could handle and still sing their butts off. Tellingly, LaBelle had her arranger help her select the voices and probably work them over into a choral unit. The bell effect was great and showy, though I really could have done with about 4 measures less of it. Our local AME could put this choir to shame, but of the ones on stage last night, this was the winner performance for me.

2) Cincinnati -- a surprising song that worked well chorally. Could have used a more complex arrangement that played up the jazzy middle parts. I thought there was a fairly strong lead (never know how people will do when the cameras go on), perhaps too much stage jive. Disadvantaged by a bass/baritone section that's hellishly out of shape and couldn't dance and sing at the same time. (I thought the daddy of the daddy-daughter combo was going to keel over on stage.)

3) Houston -- Love the Malaysian dude who busted out the lead (and soooo glad that it wasn't a William Hung "deluded Asian guy who can't sing but wants to kareoke" thing, which is what I thought was coming), but the secondary lead not so much. A pumping song, but maybe a little too uptempo to establish the sustained chords that give the audience a chance to hear whether you're on key or not. The choir got lost in the jumping and busting a move and forgot to sing in parts. Too much unison work for my tastes.

4) Okiefenokee -- WTF? Life is a Highway? Who chose that? The arrangement suckarooed and all the heart in the world isn't going to make up for the lack of opportunity to bring what you got -- that's what a good song choice does. They'll be saved by their shameless sucking up to the "troooooooops."

5) New Heaving -- loved the lead, thought the woman who opened the show from their choir has one of the best voices on the stage. They have a lot of talent. However...whoever staged them as a showcase for this one guy who had the lead ought to be kicked hard. And the choreography wasn't so great.

Rockycat said...

Love your critique!

Anonymous said...

I didn't see it but I feel I was there!

GingerSnaps said...

Well, darn...I totally missed it tonight.

igitur said...

This show started showing here in South Africa now... Yes, a few months delay from you guys. Being a traditional a cappella choir lover myself, I really was looking forward to this.

But it was a shocker! Yeah, maybe the crowd was entertained, but sorry, they really didn't sing well.

http://llangollen.tv - now THIS is a choral competition.