Wednesday, December 19, 2007

fifty minutes of my life that I can't get back

Last night, while channel surfing, my Wife and I came across the newest in reality TV viewer-vote-in talent contest Clash of the Choirs on NBC.

The whole thing reminded me of a story that was relayed to me by a friend many years ago who was trying to come up with a reason for why we just can't seem to turn our heads away from something that we just don't want to watch. Imagine someone coming up to you and saying "Hey, there's a dead body over by the train tracks, wanna come and see it?" Of course, your instinct tells you that you don't want to see this, but there's that voice inside you that says "I've never seen a dead body before, maybe I'll just go and take a peek". Well, Clash of the Choirs is something like this kind of temptation. After seeing the previews for it, there was little doubt that I didn't need to watch this show, for just from watching the preview I knew it first of all had nothing to do with "Choirs" and watching Michael Bolton trying to resurrect his career by teaching a "choir" how to "sing" didn't really sit well with me.

My wife and I watched the whole show, well, the last fifty minutes of it, as we did tune in late - (just not late enough unfortunately).

Here are my observations:

1) there is nothing about this show that demonstrates "choral singing" as it is traditionally defined. It is more about a few lead singers, and a bunch of back-up singers. It should be "Clash of the Back-up singers", "Clash of the Gospel Groups" or even "Clash of the pretty good Karaoke stars" (more on this in #3).

2) Stage presence and song selection makes up about 95% of the attraction of the contest. The other 5% is the popularity of the "choir conductor" The winning "choir" will likely not be the best musically, but the most attractive, .

3) Sorry if this deflates all the preconceived notions of the business of televised live-music shows, but the performances, with the possible exception of the leads (and even that's in question in my mind) are pre-recorded. Yes, the mics on the stage are just props. Don't believe me? You try running around on stage in formations, turning your head away from the mics, jumping up and down, and produce a seamless steady volume of sound. Some are obviously not even singing because they are so out of breath from the movements they have to make. The band is miles away from the "choir", lead singers and "conductors" wear ear monitors, allowing them to sync themselves to the click track, the choir is set up in formations across the stage which makes singing close harmonies correctly pretty much impossible. By the way - 90% of all music productions you see on TV are pre-recorded, this includes most late-night show music guests, the majority of super-bowl style half-time shows, and just about all live music telethons. Anything that can reduce the margin of error on timing of a show, or preventing possible technical goof-ups will be done now a days. My father was in this industry for many years - Every live telecast they did was just another air-band contest, with the exception of complicated live instrumental solos, and most of the vocal leads.

4) If the group that sang Garth Brooks' "I've got friends in low places" goes on to the next round, it has nothing to do with the performance, as it was horrid, and everything to do with putting the girl with the rather large, um, lung capacity, in the front row.

We'll be testing the "dead body" theory to its fullest tonight, as we are in for the evening - and it runs for a full two hours from 9-11 tonight. And America's Top Model is done.

PLEASE let the writer's strike end soon!


I am Chorus said...

Must. Stop. Watching. Terrible. Show. About. "Choirs." But. Can't. Turn. Away. From. Sight. Of. Nick. Lachey. "Conducting."

From The Podium said...

Funnily enough, Lachey's "conducting" of flight of the bumblebee was first bit of 'conducting' I actually saw on this show, and the performance was the first "choral" performance on the show as well. Therefore, he should win.

stealthdachshund said...

Ever watch Eurovision?

The performances are all live, I'm pretty sure. In fact, I am sure, because if you listen to Lordi's semi-final performance of "Hard Rock Hallelujah", you can hear that the lead singer's voice is pretty much wrecked.

Sadly, Top of the Pops seems to be synced.

From The Podium said...

No, I've never seen Eurovision.

And, yes, after watching again last night, I am pretty sure that the leads on C of the C are in fact live - the choirs though, most definitely on tape, no question in my mind.

singingman said...

Dear, oh dear, oh dear! Apparently here in the UK we have this awful thing to look forward to sometime late in 2008. It's going to be called "Choir Wars". I hope that doesn't mean it's making war on choirs. Actually, I think I'd pay to watch certain choirs attacking each other chainsaws and pointed things!

From the front of the choir.

Celeste Winant said...

singingman- I do not doubt that the UK version will be vastly more appealing and satisfying for classical choral fans like ourselves. First off, the traditional choir is far more ingrained in British cultural fabric than in American cultural fabric. Secondly, perhaps the UK choirs will have had much more time to prepare. As far as I understand, the American Clash of the Choirs was hastily puut together in part to fill programming gaps created by the Hollywood Writer's Strike. The choirs [purportedly] only had 3 weeks to prepare. As few of the members were trained in traditional choral singing, not surprising that the performances failed to meet our standards.

Check out my choir blog- it focuses on how traditional choirs can survice the 21st century given the genearl demise of popularity of classical music. DOnt worry. I DO NOT advocate following the Clash of the Choirs model!

kat said...

From the podium, the show has sparked a really interesting discussion over on the afore-mentioned Choralista.

I hadn't thought of the pre-recorded aspects.....interesting....

Celeste Winant said...

from the podium- Celeste from "choralista" here- I would love to continue discussing more about childrens choirs. One of the SF Bay Area boy choirs, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, does their boys a great service with their "changed voices" ensemble, where boys learn to change their techniques to accomadate their maturing voices, all the while remaining included in the choir school.

I did not begin singing until I was 21, in an adult choir, so I do not have any first-hand experience with childrens choirs.