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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Rock Choir is no Glee

The Choir That Rocks (UTV)
Coronation Street (TV3/UTV)

THERE used to be just one musical spectacle that made my flesh crawl and the hairs on the back of my neck prickle in angry defiance: crossover opera stars trying to sing rock and pop songs.

Katherine Jenkins may have a fine set of lungs on her (stop sniggering, this is not the 1970s!) but ask her to cover AC/DC's Highway to Hell and you have to cover your ears.

Now here comes another equally excruciating phenomenon: Rock Choir. To be honest, I didn't even know such a thing as Rock Choir existed until I watched The Choir That Rocks. It seems it's hugely popular in Britain, with 7,500 members spread across individual groups, making it the UK's biggest choir.

The whole Rock Choir movement -- and that's the only way to describe it, because its members take to it with a peculiar mixture of fun and evangelical zeal -- was started in 2005 by Caroline Redman Lusher, a failed would-be pop star.

Caroline takes the whole business very seriously, because a business is exactly what it is. It's a kind of musical franchise, in fact, with choir leaders in charge of local groups in England and Scotland. Curiously, Wales, famous for its choirs, doesn't seem to have caught the Rock Choir bug.

A chap called Nick decided to move his family to Yorkshire to make a go of being a choir leader. As with any other club, people have to pay to join. If Nick can sign up 300 members, he can make a living out of it.

The Choir That Rocks follows Caroline and the choir leaders over five months as they try to rally the troops -- and recruit some new members -- for a Rock Choir concert at the 10,000-seat Wembley Arena.

Caroline paid to book the venue herself and will have to cover the cost of any empty seats. As this first episode reminded us several times, she runs the risk of bankruptcy if the show isn't a sell-out.

What it conveniently dodged around, however, was the opposite scenario: if Wembley Arena is full to the rafters, Caroline stands to make a lot of money. Given that the venue would already be three-quarters full if just one family relation or friend of every person in Rock Choir were to buy a ticket, any suspense is manufactured.

So all we're left with are endless scenes of Rock Choir's members, who are mostly middle-aged to elderly and look like they've never listened to a rock album in their lives, practising ELO's wretched Mr Blue Sky (Caroline picks all the songs) and rehearsing their drunken-uncle/auntie-at-a-wedding dance moves.

The only spark of amusement comes from poor Nick's desperate attempts to fire up his gloomy Yorkshire singers. When he told them they'd be performing at Wembley, they reacted with all the excitement of a dozing dog contemplating a passing cloud.

What the hell has gone wrong with Coronation Street? The trademark humour that set it apart from the soap pack has vanished lately. It's lost its best comic character, Graeme, banished to Edinburgh with his irritating, deportation-dodging Asian bride.

The tedious John Stape storyline concluded ludicrously, with TV's most unconvincing serial killer plunging from a roof to certain death but then doing a supernatural disappearing act, like the killer at the end of John Carpenter's Halloween.

The Steve-Becky-Tracy triangle, meanwhile, was a bore, as are the ongoing travails of those annoying Websters. New producer Phil Collinson seems intent on outdoing EastEnders in the misery department.

The feeling was compounded last night by the arrival of the new bar manager of the Rovers, played by hard-faced Michelle Collins, who used to be super-bitch Cindy Beale in EastEnders, sporting a barely-there Manchester accent.

Can we expect the Mitchells to migrate from Walford to Weatherfield as well?

The Choir That Rocks **

Coronation Street *

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