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(TV Mini-Series)

(2008)

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Summaries

  • After having passed the audition for the choir to perform at the Music for Youth event at the Royal Albert Hall, Gareth wants to inspire the boys and takes them to listen to and rehearse with Cambridge University's King's College Choir, arguably one of the best and oldest boy's choirs in all of England. Gareth also has some decisions to make, namely what to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. To show the diversity of the choir, he decides on one classical piece - "Ombra Mai Fu", their audition piece - and one popular piece, "Stand By Me", in which he intends on showcasing not only the boy's choir, but also the teacher's choir and the school rappers. Also with "Stand By Me", he decides to have a soloist from within the boy's choir perform. Gareth holds auditions in the presence of head teacher, Paul Craven, and head of music teacher, Helen Collins - the successful boy chosen for his ability to sing alone in front of a large and music-knowledgeable audience. Beyond the enormity of the Royal Albert Hall event itself, Gareth has time and illness working against him.

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Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The choir has only four weeks until their performance at Royal Albert Hall. They rehearse their audition piece, "Ombra Mai Fu", with Gareth at the piano and Helen conducting. It is not sounding great, as Gareth would have hoped at this point. He realizes that this song is a different sort of singing than what the boys are used to, the song requiring more sustained notes and phrases, and overall poise, which Gareth knows the boys have, but which they themselves might not know. Gareth is also trying to teach them overall performance decorum. The choirists discuss what they need to do in these four weeks: Dan talks about needing to work on entrances; Jackson thinks the choir is ready but that everyone needs to be more serious about the event; Lewis thinks the choir is good but needs to brush up on a few notes.

    For inspiration, Gareth takes the choir to Cambridge University to listen to and rehearse with the King's College Choir, one of the oldest and most renowned boys choirs. Gareth is hoping the boys will aspire to what they see and hear. Before going to King's College, they first explore the area on a river boat tour. Before entering King's College, the boys are given last minute instructions on decorum by their head teacher, Paul Craven, his instructions including being properly dressed. The boys are slightly in awe even watching the King's College choir enter the building, the boys dressed in formal attire. The choir was founded by King Henry VI in 1441. Inside, the Lancaster Choir listens to the King's College Choir perform. They are world class quality, which the Lancaster boys seem to understand. After the performance, the Lancaster boys join the King's College boys to rehearse "Ombra Mai Fu". The King's College conductor provides some advice, which the boys then try to execute. After the rehearsal, the Lancaster boys express how worthwhile this venture was: Joe thinks the experience has boosted their confidence; Aleister recognizes the experience the King's College Choir has; Michael wished he had a camera to film the event. Even Mr. Craven was excited by the experience of seeing his boys perform at King's College with their choir.

    Gareth also has to choose a more popular piece to perform at Royal Albert Hall, something in which he wants to include other singers from the school, namely the teacher's choir and the playground rappers, the latter whom Gareth refers to as the be-bop choir. He believes "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King is a the type of song that can incorporate all the elements he wants. In announcing this song to the boys, he mentions that it hinges on an opening solo, the soloist who need not have done a solo before but who needs nerves of steel to perform alone to an audience upwards of 4,000 at Royal Albert Hall. On audition day, twenty-five boys have signed up. Helen Collins and Paul Craven are also on Gareth's adjudication team, the auditions to be held in the school auditorium in a formal setting as Gareth wants this to feel like a big event. Mr. Craven in particular is there to add a scare factor into the boys, the chosen soloist who will need to be able to overcome performing in front of the head teacher to a much bigger and scarier crowd. Before entering the audition, the boys express their feelings: Tom is nervous, and doesn't want to sing to Mr. Craven; Anwar echos Tom's sentiment. The first to audition is Kyle. After Kyle leaves the room, the three adjudicators discuss Kyle, who they feel is good in a group setting but not quite yet solo material. Anwar, who walks in dishevelled, is asked by Mr. Craven about his appearance. Anwar is nervous in his audition, the three feeling he is not ready for a solo. Tojan is confident and assured in his audition, and is the best candidate thus far. A series of other boys audition; the teachers are enthused by the confidence of the boys, which they would not have seen six months prior. Outside, Michael expresses how unnerving Mr. Craven's presence was. Wahchi is one of the last boys to audition. At the end of the audition process, the three discuss their choices, Gareth mentioning that they need to be brave and confident in their decision.

    Gareth gathers the auditioners together. He first announces the understudy: Tojan. Tojan looks pleased. Gareth then announces the person they've chosen, who he mentions was a bit of a surprise: Wahchi. Wahchi himself looks shocked at the news. Later, Wahchi does mention how surprised he was to be chosen, he thinking that Tojan was going to be chosen. Tojan will still put much effort into practicing the solo, just in case.

    Back at his parent's fish and chip shop, Wahchi proudly announces to them that he has been chosen. His parents are excited. Wahchi's love of singing started at an early age as seen through home videos of him singing as an infant, wanting at that time to steal the singing spotlight from his sister. Wahchi laughs as he reminisces about the situation of the home video. Wahchi's family, Chinese, settled in Vietnam before fleeing the country because of the war. Because of their difficult life, there was always a culture of singing in the household as a mechanism to lift their spirits. This culture has led to Wahchi being a person who sings from the heart.

    The choir rehearses with their new soloist, Wahchi, leading the way. The choir is making good progress. The staff choir, which has a part in the song, also rehearses. The last element is the be-boppers, who have Christened themselves 'Urban Sounds'. Gareth gathers Urban Sounds together to tell them his vision of the Albert Hall performance, which has them doing a 16-bar bridge of the Sean Kingston song "Beautiful Girls (Suicidal)" under the "Stand By Me" bass idiom. Gareth is nervous about this section, but knows that it has the potential to be brilliant. Urban Sounds is reacting positively to Gareth's suggestion. Further to this section, Gareth wants Imran to sing part of it as a solo. Imran and Gareth had a difficult beginning when Gareth first arrived at the school. But since getting involved with Urban Sounds, Imran has once again struck a good relationship with Gareth. Imran agrees to Gareth's proposal, but Gareth is unsure if Imran really understands the magnitude of what he has just committed to. Later, Imran openly discusses his relationship with Gareth - how bad it was at times, but how he now realizes that Gareth was just trying to help him. Imran is ashamed of his past behavior.

    Less than two weeks before the big performance, all three elements of the "Stand By Me" choir are brought together to rehearse. It is a sight to see since the choir boys and the rappers would not have been seen together six months prior, let alone sing together. At this rehearsal, Gareth is looking for performance quality. After hearing all the elements put together, everyone is buoyed by what they are accomplishing.

    With only a few rehearsals left, Gareth has a chat with Cameron, who tells him of not being able to make an upcoming rehearsal due to a medical issue. Cameron was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease a little less than a year prior, the choir being one of the few school activities in which he can partake. His illness is not affecting his ability to sing. Cameron is matter of fact in discussing the issue, and is even jovial under the circumstances, describing himself as a fighter. After Cameron leaves the room, Gareth heaves a big sigh for what Cameron is going through. Cameron's long term prognosis is uncertain, but his mother Di-anne mentions the importance of the choir adding some sense of normality to his life. She knows the choir has made him happy, which is of greatest importance. Cameron himself states that the work involved in perfecting the sound in the choir makes him forget about the negative aspects of his life.

    One week before the performance, Wahchi has come down with a nasty cold. His cough is preventing him from singing the high notes. After listening to him, Gareth suggests he rest his voice for the time being, but is confident he will be OK by performance day. However, Gareth is still concerned about losing precious practice time with his soloist.

    Another of Gareth's goals is to have a sustained choral program at the school after his imminent departure. With four boys providing testimonials as to the importance of the choir, Gareth makes a presentation at the school's governor's meeting. After the presentation, the governor's wholeheartedly agree to Gareth's proposal. Gareth is surprised at how readily the governors supported his idea.

    Gareth mentions the importance of this venture to him, being the biggest thing he will have ever accomplished. He has enjoyed working with the boys, who are overall a good bunch of kids, but it was a difficult process since there was no history of singing at the school. He feels this is also important for the boys in so many different ways. The boys themselves, doing last minute preparations at home, are truly excited.

    Gareth has private sessions with Helen, who will be conducting "Ombra Mai Fu" at Royal Albert Hall.

    With special medical attention, Wahchi is feeling well enough to sing the solo at the performance.

    The performance day has arrived and the choir - 110 boys, 40 staff and 1 choir master - is bussed to Royal Albert Hall. There is an air of excitement on the bus, and even more so once they arrive at the hall. The choir will be singing specifically at the Music for Youth's School Prom. There will be twelve acts in total performing at the prom, featuring the best that England's musical youth has to offer. Before performing, the choir has to go through logistical stage issues, Gareth impressing on them the importance of the staging. Gareth provides some last minute performance advice, telling the boys to have fun, but also look like they're having fun. The boys are awestruck by the hall and the event.

    As the event nears, the audience enters the hall, including Mr. Craven and the boys' parents.

    As earlier acts perform, the boys wait nervously backstage for their turn. Gareth is alone in his dressing area thinking about the upcoming performance as he buttons his tuxedo shirt. Just before they are ready to go on, Gareth asks the boys to put on their performance smile faces, and to raise their energy. They oblige. As the boys funnel onto the stage, Gareth voices to the camera his nervousness. On stage, Gareth introduces his choir and his history with them. He invites Helen on stage to conduct "Ombra Mai Fu". The choir performs their classical piece to an appreciative audience. Gareth retakes the podium to conduct "Stand By Me". There is much energy in their performance and in the hall. They end to thunderous applause. Gareth and the boys are pleased.

    Backstage, there is much hoopla amongst the boys. Gareth voices his joy to them about what they've just accomplished. He is most happy by their want to sing well. Helen was inspired and proud. The boys and their parents are also overjoyed and proud by their creation. Wahchi, who generally does not show a lot of emotion, was surprised at his tears afterward. Di-anne expresses her joy, in seeing her son doing something he loves so much, especially since he realistically could have passed away as early as age eight from his illness. And Imran is especially happy to please his mother, who is equally proud of her son.

    On Gareth's last day at the school, he has mixed emotions. He will miss the chaos, and will always remember what he as been able to accomplish, which at times seemed like an impossible task. His final farewell is at the school's informal Christmas concert, at which a small group of boys sing "Pie Jesu". Gareth looks forward to seeing Lancaster's musical future without him.

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