Let bat­tle com­mence

Mel Giedroyc, Gareth Malone and Kelis are in per­fect har­mony as they tell us about BBC1’S new Satur­day-night choir com­pe­ti­tion

TV Times - - Cover Story - Pitch Bat­tle Satur­day / BBC1 / 7.30Pm Vic­to­ria Wilson

Get ready for some se­ri­ous choral com­bat as the search be­gins for Bri­tain’s best singing group in new tal­ent show Pitch Bat­tle, which kicks off this week.

Hosted by Mel Giedroyc and in­spired by the smash-hit US movie Pitch Per­fect, star­ring Rebel Wilson, the show sees 30 ri­val choirs from across the UK – six in each of the five heats – com­pet­ing in a se­ries of knock­out chal­lenges. These in­clude show­stop­pers, themed ‘riff-offs’ and solo bat­tles. With a £50,000 cash prize at stake, the singers need to im­press – or be sung off.

Judg­ing the vo­cal tal­ents is ev­ery­one’s favourite choir­mas­ter, Gareth Malone, and US singer­song­writer Kelis. Each week, they will be joined by a third ‘su­per­star’ judge: first up is Amer­i­can vo­cal queen Bebe Rexha. Later, there’s multi award-win­ning Seal, US rocker Joe Jonas, soul diva Chaka Khan and Brit hero Will Young.

As the bat­tle lines are drawn, Mel, Gareth and Kelis re­veal why Pitch Bat­tle re­ally is a singing show with a dif­fer­ence… Mel, what made you want to host Pitch Bat­tle?

Any show with mu­sic as its back­bone gets a big thumbs-up from me. I’ve been so lucky this year go­ing from Let it Shine to Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief, Euro­vi­sion and now this. Also, know­ing that Pitch Per­fect’s mu­sic ar­ranger, Deke Sharon, is in­volved as this show’s mu­si­cal di­rec­tor was a ma­jor draw.

It’s more akin to Strictly than to The X

Fac­tor or The Voice UK

gareth malone

How does this com­pare to other shows you’ve done, Gareth?

This show isn’t about dis­cov­er­ing the joy of singing for the first time, which I’ve done a lot of on tele­vi­sion. This feels very much like the next stage for a lot of groups and is about the sheer ex­plo­sive power of mu­si­cal per­for­mance. It’s more akin to Strictly than to The X Fac­tor or The Voice UK. It’s not that kind of show. There are no au­di­tions – there’s a lit­tle bit about who the choirs are, then it’s straight into the singing.

are we go­ing to see a lot of va­ri­ety be­tween the choirs?

Mel: Def­i­nitely. We had a soul group, an Amer­i­can coun­try group, beat­box­ers, gospel choirs and a full-on rock group. There was an a cap­pella group, who you’d look at and think that but­ter wouldn’t melt in their mouths… then they per­formed a hardcore Bon Jovi song!

Gareth: Some of the big­ger choirs do well but the smaller choirs can be in­ti­mate and beau­ti­ful. We’ve had ev­ery­thing from big com­mu­nity choirs to a bar­ber­shop quar­tet.

each week’s show sees six choirs com­pete in a se­ries of choral chal­lenges. Tell us more…

Gareth: All the el­e­ments show what the choirs are ca­pa­ble of.

The show­stop­per gives you one im­pres­sion; you see how ac­tive they are and how dra­matic they can be. Then they’re cre­ative in the ‘riff-off ’, and then the solo num­bers are an emo­tional chal­lenge. In the fi­nal bat­tle with the last two groups, they’re singing the same ma­te­rial, so you can com­pare like with like.

when you see the six choirs at the start of each show, do you have a strong opin­ion on which one will make it to the fi­nal?

Mel: It’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause you can look at one choir and think, ‘They’re a shoe-in’. But the group that goes through isn’t al­ways the one you au­to­mat­i­cally as­sume. Gareth: Some are more trained than oth­ers, so you think the pros will own it, but that’s not al­ways the case. It’s more about whether a per­for­mance works in that mo­ment in front of an au­di­ence. One choir might ‘tech­ni­cally’ be much bet­ter, but it’s their ri­val that brings the magic. Kelis: I think it’ll be one group then, by the end, I’ve done a com­plete 360° and it’s dif­fer­ent one. I’ve been wrong every sin­gle time.

I’m ei­ther elated or I’m dev­as­tated.

what do the ‘su­per­star’ judges bring to the show?

Gareth: They bring the author­ity of peo­ple who’ve all been there on the stage and have lots of ex­pe­ri­ence. Kelis: Gareth and I don’t al­ways agree on which choir should go through to the fi­nal, so it’s nice to have an­other voice. The fi­nal elim­i­na­tion isn’t nasty, though, and there have been no sore losers. Ev­ery­one’s just happy to be part of it. Mel: The judges all bring some­thing dif­fer­ent. Kelis is from a choral back­ground, Gareth is ‘Mr Choir’ and, with the su­per­star judge, you never know what you’re go­ing to get. Gareth uses these amaz­ing phrases like ‘dom­i­nant chords’ and ‘pen­ta­tonic fifths’. I don’t want to say the word ‘nerd’, but he’d own it!

Has the show re­minded you of when you were singing in choirs? Kelis: I started singing in my church choir then I joined The Girls Choir of Har­lem. There’s noth­ing more pow­er­ful than voices to­gether when it’s right. Af­ter 20 years in the mu­sic busi­ness, you can lose the ex­cite­ment a bit, so for me it’s been nice to see these choirs so happy on stage. There’s a mo­ment where you’re like, ‘Oh, I re­mem­ber that feel­ing’. Gareth: I was in a choir from the age of 11, at a time when it wasn’t very cool to be in one at school.

But when I heard Lenny Kravitz had learned all his vo­cal har­monies from be­ing in choirs, I sud­denly thought maybe it is cool. I want kids who, maybe feel like I did back then, to watch the show and think, ‘I’ll join the choir, it looks like fun’.

Band­ing to­gether: this group of ladies is called Song­bird Ses­sions

into bat­tle: Singing groups all the Kings men (left) and

alle Choir

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