It’s been a while since a Gleeful Friday

Oh yes Gleeks – it’s nearly back. Not quite, but nearly…

In the meantime, your appetite for cheesy high school singalongs may be briefly sated by this clip of the opening of this year’s Emmy awards. Incorporating funny man Jimmy Fallon (whose rehearsals I watched during my last hours in New York), some of the best from Glee (though sadly no Mr Schue), Tina Fey and assorted other US TV stars, it’s essentially a cheesy skit – but a lot of fun.

And a date for diaries:
On November 26th Glee for the Wii comes out – just in time for pre-Christmas fun. At that point, my life may just about be complete.

Show choirs – how the Brits have missed out

On Monday night I missed out on two TV gems – the penultimate episode of Glee and Gleeful: The Real Show Choirs of America – I’d have been severely miffed, were it not for the fact that I was in musical theatre heaven. (Enjoying Sister Act with my sister, how appropriate.)

Catching up on Gleeful the following day, I was alternately fascinated and horrified by the insight it gave into a world that Brits knew little about until the arrival of Glee on our shores. Basically, show choirs seem to exist to give US teenagers the opportunity to fulfil musical theatre fantasies that we have to recreate in our own homes. For example, I witnessed a girl singing Defying Gravity with full, twirling skirt à la Wicked’s Act 1 finale – we have to make do with jumping on/off furniture to emulate the same moment… [When I say ‘we’, I know at least two other people who do this, so it’s not simply my own fantasy!]

The show began by illustrating the supreme naffness of British choirs. I’ll refute the ‘naff’ label – we have an admirable choral tradition in the classical vein, we’re just not much given to showing off in an all-singing all-dancing style. After all, where would He Who Shall Not Be Named be without our passion for traditional choirs?

The suggested inferiority of British school choirs versus the Glee Club tradition got me thinking that perhaps I’d been brought up in the wrong country. It dawned on me that had we had show choirs in good old Gloucestershire, I’d have been Co Show Choir Captain because, being (joint) queen of my year’s music nerds, I was Choir Captain – so surely it goes to follow I could have made the same rank in Glee world? (Given my dancing and acting skills are virtually nil I realise this is a massive assumption to make, but in my head it made sense!)

The role of Choir Captain was an odd one. My co-captain, Clair, was an excellent musician and thoroughly deserved the role. I can’t quite recall if there was some kind of contest for the job or whether no one else actually wanted it, perhaps I got on board simply by being a good friend of hers – it certainly wasn’t owing to any kind of musical genius on my part!

I have few memories of this job, but do remember fighting for badges, mainly so there could be an addition to our prefect (or in C’s case, Deputy Head Girl) badges on our jumpers. Pride came before a fall though, as we were eventually issued with hideous things that we only wore when formality demanded it. Most of the time we acted as music department dogsbodies – taking choir registers, hunting down no-shows, tidying the music cupboards, and presenting end of concert gifts. There were just two moments of glory:

1. Pippin Choir [our school was named ‘Ribston Hall’, apparently there’s an apple named the ‘Ribston Pippin’ which is how this choir got its name…make your own judgement on the kind of school I went to.]
This was a ramshackle collection of 1st years singing a Christmas song chosen & arranged by us (I chose, C arranged). We were completely in charge – rehearsals, performance – everything, a total risk! Thus far, it has been my only experience of conducting, which I vowed never to repeat, not being entirely comfortable with the whole audience only seeing your backside thing…

2. The Boar’s Head Carol [A version similar to, but not as dramatic as ours can be watched here.]
At the beginning of the Christmas concert’s second half, it was traditional for the Upper 6th (i.e. final year) girls to enter singing a somewhat dramatic version of this medieval carol, while carrying a papier maché boar’s head aloft. The Choir Captains were responsible for its organisation and it was the single-most controversial moment of our 6th form career (even after the hotly fought Head Girl contest – that’s a whole other story!) owing to high competition for solos. Reflecting upon this, it seems this tradition was the closest we got to show choir drama…

Americans get divas, costumes, choreographers and trophies – we got cloaks, home-made lanterns and a papier maché pig. It’s really not the same thing at all and I feel a little bit cheated.

Incidentally, you might have been hoping that this post would come with photos. It doesn’t and I make no apologies for that fact. Photos of me, as a teenager, on the internet? Never. Going. To. Happen. 

Parallel universes

In TV-land, you have to suspend disbelief an awful lot if you’re to truly buy into what you’re watching. This came into my mind this evening while watching the ever-wonderful Glee.

Avoiding possible spoilers, this evening’s episode included a moment when Rachel heard Shelby Corcoran – Vocal Adrenaline’s director, played by Broadway superstar Idina Menzel – singing. The thing is, earlier in the series we learned that Defying Gravity, a song made famous by Menzel as the original Elphaba in Wicked, was Rachel’s “go to shower song”. Thus, surely she (like all other Wicked devotees) would recognise Idina’s voice anywhere?

Then there’s the things you have to ignore, just so that things make sense. Two EastEnders examples spring to mind: do the Carry On films exist in a world where Barbara Windsor is the local pub’s landlady? Have the people of Walford never seen the wonder that is Gavin & Stacey because the guy who played Archie Mitchell is Gavin’s Dad? 
Or, how about the fabulous Brockman family of Outnumbered fame? They seem like just the kind of family who might have Radio 4 on in the background, particularly at lunchtime on Saturday when the Friday night comedy programme’s repeated. But how could you reconcile Hugh Dennis’ hosting of The Now Show with his other role as Pete Brockman, put-upon father of three? [Incidentally, I would love to see a hybrid of the two programmes in which Karen (or the girl who plays her) gets to host a political debate or simply take part as a contributor, it would be amazing!] 
Am I simply thinking way too much??

There are plenty more, but the heat and the lateness of the hour is frazzling my brain. Instead, I leave you with another Glee related snippet – a tribute to the wonder that is Brittany. Even if you’ve not watched Glee, watch this video, you need to know about a girl who thinks dolphins are gay sharks – trust me! 

Be gleeful – it’s Friday

In celebration of the fact the Glee returns on Monday (we’ve had to wait a whole three weeks!) here’s some gleeful Friday fun for you.

The week after next sees the première of a Madonna themed episode. Eagle-eyed Gleeks will already have spotted the fabulous Sue quote: “Somewhere in the English countryside in a stately manor home, Madonna is weeping!” in response (one assumes) to a particularly dreadful Cheerios performance. At some point in this episode, Sue also recreates the iconic Vogue video. In case you didn’t catch it when it apparently went viral a couple of days ago (I know I didn’t), here it is:

Using that link, you’ll also find a few more Glee clips, which may or may not be fun – depending on your opinion of Glee, obviously.

If you’re not a Gleek (shame on you!) perhaps you’ll derive some amusement from the site on which I spied the above video – India Knight’s Posterous. Yes, it’s mostly of female interest, but there’s a link to a great site of archive black & white photographs which look fascinating.

Glee – it’s like totally my new favourite tv show and emotion…

Friendship means…

…sharing.

Isn’t that what your parents taught you when you were small? Most people’s first lessons in sharing probably originated out of sibling arguments. In our household the mantra of ‘you cut, she chooses’ held firm for years – the point being that you’re more likely to divide something evenly if your opponent is going to have first pick.

Recently, I realised that in one of my friendships this sharing isn’t happening quite as evenly as it might…

Annabelle and I’s friendship is one grounded in singing. Heck, our friendship can be dated from the moment I heard her singing along (loudly) to Phantom through the open windows of our adjacent bedrooms and the subsequent Musicademy singing course we went on together.

Over the years we’ve built up quite a repertoire of duets, mostly derived from musicals, which we’ve performed in public (to willing and unwilling audiences) and in private. On Wicked evenings, we’re rather good at sharing the parts out – repeating songs so that both of us get to sing our favourite parts.

However, I’ve realised that a disturbing trend is emerging. Our party piece (Take Me or Leave Me, aka ‘the Lesbian Love Duet’ from Rent) has consistently been performed with Annabelle taking Maureen’s part whilst I sing the significantly smaller Joanne line. This I could cope with (even though it means missing out on hurling fabulous insults) as actually Joanne gets some cracking lyrics:
It won’t work. I look before I leap, I love margins and discipline;
I make lists in my sleep baby. What’s my sin?
Never quit, I follow through, I hate mess but I love you…

[Sound like anyone familiar?]

Anyway, Annabelle rang me a while back to suggest a new duet. It’s not a new song, it’s very much entrenched in our own (mostly shower focused) repertoires, but this is a new arrangement for two voices. The song in question is Defying Gravity, Glee style.

To quote Rachel (lead Glee diva) “Defying Gravity? It’s like my go-to shower song…it’s also my ringtone.” In the show, Rachel has to compete in a Diva-Off with Kurt, to see who gets to sing the song at Sectionals. Watching this episode, it struck me that it was slightly unfair that Ann had delegated me Kurt’s part.

Why? Because Kurt’s mission is to hit a top F, which he doesn’t manage (oh, the humiliation!). Rachel on the other hand has been a diva since birth, has a cracking voice and is by far the glee club’s star performer. Do I want to be the inferior singer??

Actually, on reflection, Rachel’s also mad as a box of frogs. The ballads episode where she sings Endless Love with Mr Schue includes a classic voice-over montage in which the teacher suddenly realises he made a bad song choice: “I don’t like the way she’s looking at me. I shouldn’t have sung this song to her. Crap! She looks crazy right now!” So in actual fact, perhaps Annabelle’s made a good call on that one…

Note: I actually wrote this about a month ago, but left it sitting in drafts. I think I even mentioned it to Annabelle which resulted in shrieks of dismay on her part. Just wanted to say, Annabelle – I jest, you’re not crazy. You are in fact an exceedingly lovely friend and I very much look forward to singing with you again soon, especially if we can have another go at Endless Love or I Know Him So Well!  mwah x