I still know next to nothing about the London Show Choir, except they are a very large group – by far the biggest choir I’ve seen perform at Cadogan Hall – the programme lists 150 choristers. Part of Enigma Music Services, which appears to run a number of choirs, vocal groups, as well as corporate workshops, musical direction and orchestral management, amongst other things, the audition process for London Show Choir is indeed an enigma, at least to me. I don’t know how any of them got there, and there is something frankly odd about a 150-strong show choir, based in London, that doesn’t really reflect the diversity of the capital, to put it politely. Its membership secrecy is in complete contrast to that of Rock Choir, whose home page says, proudly and boldly, “Why Join Rock Choir? Click here!”
Here, there was also no attempt at emulating American accents from Broadway musicals, which was simultaneously glorious and weird. “The Jets are gonn-eh have their day tonight!” they sang, in the King’s English. This was like watching a cross-section of the membership of the National Trust take on showtunes and chart music (presumably calling themselves London Showtunes and Chart Music Choir would be too much of a mouthful). Nobody in their right mind would have thought any of them were going to rumble anyone. Would this lot use a gun? Well, they might shoot grouse.
The concert had moments of brilliance, such as the harmonising in ‘You Will Be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen, again, sung entirely in British. But Brits are too cynical and sarcastic to be singing lyrics like, “Even when the dark comes crashin’ through / When you need someone to carry you / When you’re broken on the ground / You will be found”. In Blighty, you’d probably be told to grow a pair and get on with it. You might be found, you might not; but if you were, chances are you’d only be barked at and ordered to go fuck yourself. On the other hand, hearing ‘You Learn’ by Alanis Morrissette in a collective British accent was close to a religious experience. “You live, you learn, you love, you learn, you cry, you learn, you lose, you learn”. How British is that? You did your best, you buggered up, now pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.
Taking songs from various musicals out of context and throwing them into a concert is a curious thing to do, none more so when the concert is in question is to support a foundation set up by the late Doddie Weir OBE (1970-2022), a Scottish rugby union player who retired in 2004. The foundation is called ‘My Name’5 Doddie’, but still pronounced ‘my name’s Doddie’. The number five is a reference to his playing number, though brief speeches given by two women, who were not introduced and did not introduce themselves, assumed prior knowledge of him. No, I’m sorry, I came to hear a show choir sing! Anyway, as far as I could deduce, Doddie had no obvious connection to musical theatre or chart music, but following his motor neurone disease diagnosis in 2016, he continually raised funds to contribute to MND research. His foundation also provides (present tense: it is still operational, hence this concert in aid of it) assistance to people who live with MND. I would have liked to have heard more specifics about what the money raised will go towards.
Doddie Weir OBE (1970-2022). Photo credit: Theo Cohen (www.theocohen.co.uk)
It seemed to me a fair bit of money went on post-show drinks, which wasn’t exactly conspicuous, a large roped off area taking up more than half of the Cadogan Hall foyer and bar space. From my vantage point in the auditorium, the sound balance wasn’t quite right, with the musicians more often than not overpowering the choir. Perhaps I should have sat further back. You live, you learn.