Lewisham Hospital choir takes NHS to BBC final

Pic: Lewisham Choir

Staff from Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust will fight for a victory tonight in the final of BBC’s ‘Sing While You Work’.

In the program four of Britain’s busiest workplaces have choirs set up and led by choirmaster Gareth Malone.

The Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust Choir consists of 30 members of staff, amongst them surgeons, nurses, a pharmacy porter and a speech therapist.

They were picked by Malone after auditioning, in an episode aired in September.

Choirs from Bristol Royal Mail, Manchester Airport and Midlands-based water company Seven Trent Water were also competing.

They all had four weeks to prepare for the semi-final, which took place at Colston Hall in Bristol.

The Lewisham NHS Trust choir had struggled previously with portraying emotion, and it seemed further stress was added as they had to add choreography to the piece.

Eddie Chaloner, a consultant vascular surgeon had been criticised by Malone for his ‘serious face’.

Speaking before the performance Chaloner said: “The slighty more difficult bit for me is the facial expression and at the same time put all the feet moves in the right place at the right time”

But after the choir’s rendition of Johnny Mercer’s ‘Accentuate the Positive’ Chaloner told the cameras: “It was great, I really did enjoy it. I’d be quite happy to do that again”.

The three judges, conductor Manvinder Rattan, gospel singer Ruby Turner and formed head of music at Eton College, Ralph Allwood were impressed with the performance.

Allwood said: “I found the blend very good, they were all singing with the same kind of light voice”.

Malone said the performance was very “technically assured”.

“I loved it, it had some spellbinding moments” he said.

There was much nervousness within the group as the judges were in deliberation.

Aaron Hoye, a pharmacy porter said: “The entire hospital and the entire trust know about us competing in this, so going back and facing people and say we didn’t go through to semi-finals, that would be tough to take.”

But in the end it was Manchester Airport choir that had to leave the show.

The three remaining choirs will perform to an audience of thousands at choral music festival “the International Eisteddfod” in Llangollen.

Last year Malone’s winning choir ‘Military Wives’ became a Christmas single no. 1 hit. It is unclear whether the winning choir this year is to release a single.

In September, Chaloner criticism sparked debate  for branding the program “misleading” and “mendacious”.

In an interview in Radio Times magazine he said: “The programme-makers knew exactly how they were going to play this.

“They’d put different people in different stereotypes in order to display how we all come together in an example of wonderful musicianship.

But a spokeswoman for Twenty Productions Limited, the production company behind the show said:

“It is not uncommon for contributors to feel worried about the way they come across on screen before a programme transmits. Eddie Chaloner has not yet seen the episode in which he appears.”

The Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust employs over 3000 staff, and is spread across 14 sites with more than 200 departments.

Malone said about working with the trust:

“You never normally get to go back-stage at a healthcare trust, and I hope that the show will give people a sense of how committed the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are.  Everyone lives and breathes their jobs.”

You can wish the choir good luck via their twitter @choir_NHS

The final will be aired at BBC Two tonight, 25 October at 9PM.

You can watch the semi-final on BBC iPlayer here.

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