Manchester’s Harmony Gospel Choir sing at the 2012 X Factor final, Lucy Apple describes the choir’s day of fleeting stardom
I speak on behalf of the entire choir when I say none of us felt this was really happening. Surely we hadn’t just been asked to perform on the X Factor live finals as the backing choir to Jahmene Douglas? Yet there we were at 10 am on Sunday morning waiting outside the Manchester Central about to make the transformation from regular university students to international superstars. Well, almost…
It all began this summer when the choir entered into the ‘University Gospel Choir of the Year’ competition, and won! Lorraine, the founder of the contest, has been rooting for us ever since, promoting our choir all over the country and awarding us with the esteemed prize of singing on the X Factor. And what a prize it was.
The day kicked off to a great start. Upon arrival we were each given a backstage pass granting us access to all of the areas behind the scenes. In every direction something exciting was happening, whether it was Rylan skating around on a micro-scooter or members of Union J crooning loudly to anyone who would listen.
Away from the mayhem in the sanctuary that was our private area, we began to practise for our role in the show. We were to sing two songs; the mighty ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams and the iconic ‘Let it be’ by The Beatles. We spent hours mastering the sequence of ‘oooh’s and ‘aaah’s for each song and perfecting our expressions until they were as animated and over the top as possible. Our wonderfully camp choreographer showed us where to stand and how to enter and exit from the ginormous stage ‘like a swarm of bees’. After which, we managed to catch Emeli Sandé’s breath-taking dress rehearsal, which only cemented our beliefs that we were in the presence of some exceptionally talented people.
As if it wasn’t enough, we were then told we were required to go above and beyond our role as the lowly backing choir, we were needed to dance in the front row for Rihanna’s performance. Oh alright then, if we must. Her sound check was unreal. As her group of achingly cool New York musicians began their routine checks, Rihanna’s stand-in ran through the choreography. We almost didn’t notice when the real Rihanna subtly slipped on stage, in the obligatory, yet no less amazing, rock star uniform of a huge fur coat and Raybans. And so for the next three minutes we were mesmerised, as she commanded the stage in what felt like a private performance.
Then it was our turn for a sound check and we ran through our set which we would later perform along side Jahmene Douglas. As it turns out, no amount of rehearsal can prepare you for the full live experience of performing in front of twelve-thousand screaming fans. And so we sang, with over eleven million viewers watching at home, as part of a spectacular show that was a whirlwind of light displays and pyrotechnics.
Unfortunately, at the end of the night our main man Jahmene didn’t win, which was hopefully no reflection on our involvement. The worthy winner James Arthur was as gracious off-stage as he appears on television and seemed unbothered by the crowds of girls lining the streets to shout his name. Our night ended eventfully, with some members of the choir sneaking onto the set of The Xtra Factor and others schmoozing their way into the no-expense-spared after party. What a day.