Songs of Praise – it’s not what you think it is…….

On Pentecost Sunday, 8th June, BBC’s Songs of Praise will come from Leicester Cathedral.  Laura Gregory tells some of the inside story...

One of the perks of being a circuit steward is attending church councils around the Circuit. At Rothley Church Council, one item of AOB made my ears pick up.  Songs of Praise was coming to Leicester.  As most of you know I do like a good sing so I sent off my application to the BBC at Salford Quay and promptly thought no 

more about it.  Weeks later, I arrived home to find an envelope on the mat from the BBC!  Inside was my confirmation that I was in, along with what one should and shouldn’t wear and times and date of the recordings.

The rehearsal was on a dreary Wednesday night at the Cathedral. The producer spoke to us from the altar explaining the process for the evening’s rehearsal and we were introduced to our conductor, Simon Lole and the organist Daniel Moult.  For both recordings we had 5 hymns/songs to learn, so I knew the evening was going to be hard work and a lot of sight singing of the Alto line. I sat next to two ladies from Barwell Methodist Church; we all agreed that Methodists know how to make a good choir.

The recording day was set for Easter Monday. In the rush to get out, I accidentally put my mobile phone into the washing machine and switched it on!  That, dear reader, is why you have no accompanying photos of the day’s events….

Arriving at the cathedral at lunchtime, there was already a queue all round the building.  I saw Pat & John Towson —they’d come along to be part of the congregation. The choir is basically the congregation that you see in Songs of Praise but with a few people added on for good measures, so you see it’s a bit of a con that it’s that particular church’s congregation—we’re all ‘ringers’!

Inside the Cathedral, we’d been allotted seats in voice parts and there were miles of cables and lighting rigs and drop down microphones, all very elaborate and very easy to trip over.  The service we were recording was for Pentecost, so we’d been asked to wear brightly coloured tops - the cathedral was awash with reds, pinks and oranges.  

A lady sat next to me with two “Well-being” dogs—very sweet and very photogenic, the cameras took great interest in them, so there’ll be a few shots of my feet as one dog took up residency on my foot for about 2 hours! 

There was loads of stopping and starting, singing the same verse over and over again, then again for “the close ups” when a camera on a long pole came swooping in and out of the congregation.

All throughout this process, Simon & Daniel remained positive and were determined to get the best out of us. We got used to Simon talking to himself (when actually he was talking to the control bus parked up outside) and hearing his stories of other recordings he’d made all over the place.  We had fun with a gospel song; Simon trying to get a bunch of ‘respectable church people’ to get funky and loosen up was a joy to watch. 

The first recording of the day was from 1 until 4 and by the end of it I was already shattered. The evening recording started at 6pm and was a sort of ‘best of’ very popular hymns with no specific theme.  There was more getting up, sitting down, false smiles, close ups and dodging the dog sitting on my feet but we were all getting weary and Simon and the production team were earning their collective corn that evening. I can safely say I don’t want to sing “The day Thou Gavest” for a long, long time……

Even though it was a long old day it was thoroughly enjoyable and so interesting to have a ‘behind the scenes’ view of how a popular TV show is put together. I learnt plenty of tips, both from a conducting and singing perspective.  It was great to make music with so many talented people. It didn’t feel like a service of worship as such, but there were definite moments when God was present and everything just “fitted” and the hairs on your neck just tingled.


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