Ten and a half million viewers, 14 hours and two X Factor final contestants later, I can now officially say that I have ‘done’ Wembley.
It’s fair to say that when my choir – The London International Gospel Choir – was confirmed to perform at the final last week, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The X Factor is even madder and more circus-like in the flesh than you’d ever imagine from TV, and it seems nothing is too OTT for Simon.
Here’s a backstage look at when the London International Gospel Choir (@LIGChoir) joined one of the biggest TV phenomena of the past decade…
I frequently moonlight as a singer across the capital – but while all 20 of us from the London International Gospel Choir are used to playing big venues, Wembley is a whole new type of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We arrived last Sunday to a very huge and, at 8.30 in the morning, very deserted Wembley, so naturally our day begun by taking hundreds of photos with us spinning around on the judges chairs and shouting ‘HELLO WEMBLEY’ from the stage at the top of our lungs.
The entire day was completely surreal, from casually bumping into Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood in a corridor (prior to his performance that night with One Direction) to watching runners pretend to be judges throughout the day while wearing massive name labels identifying them as ‘Simon’, ‘Cheryl’, ‘Mel’ and ‘Louis’.
Our first (and only) run through rehearsal of the day was led by Kylie’s dance choreographer Sisco Gomez, where we were immediately threatened with the wrath of Brian Friedman (famous for choreographing Beyonce, Britney and Maria). At which point our normal step-and-click suddenly went into turbo-charge mode.
Once dismissed we watched host Dermot O’Leary run through his ad lib banter for around two hours, followed by dress rehearsals for pop royalty Demi Lovato, Olly Murs and Sam Smith, accompanied by his army of 200 singers dressed in very skinny white jeans. Every now and then one of our clan would remind us all that “this is all totally mad” and we’d all go back to predicting how long until they’d decide we were imposters.
Our dress rehearsal was brief to say the least. We were on stage for approximately four minutes as we ran through all the entries and exits which Sisco had taught us earlier that morning. Sheer terror was now the residing emotion painted on all our faces as the size of Wembley Arena was finally felt in full force – we were set to perform alongside both finalists Ben and Fleur as they separately performed the eventual winner’s single plus the finale…having not yet even heard the songs. It was deemed that ‘Take it to church’ would be sufficient instruction – good job we’re a gospel choir, eh?
Choreography and lyrical accuracy utterly incomplete, we resumed our place backstage for costumes. I was surprised to find out that absolutely everything is budget, from cellotaped microphones on the judges’ table to Primark accessories glued onto Primark clothing in the costume department. At one point we were given 20 wonderful white turtlenecks, which were cut at the last minute and upgraded to black leather jackets. I still thought we looked lovely…
With little under 10 minutes spent on stage practising, less than five track run throughs and a choir director watching from home with his heavily pregnant wife, we were suddenly live on national TV. Wembley Arena full to capacity is one of THE loudest eruptions of noise I’ve ever heard and it was surprisingly comforting as opposed to terrifying.
We were backing vocalists four times in total, front of stage for all and bashing out the most enthusiastic dancing LIGC has ever managed, complete with dry ice, confetti canons and fireworks. The fear just seemed to melt away when we got up there.
LIGC’s mantra is, ‘if your face doesn’t hurt you’re not smiling enough’ – and frankly I’ve never smiled so much in my life. What an experience and what a way for London International Gospel Choir to end 2014. I’m still not quite convinced it happened, and am pretty sure I’ll wake up soon…
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