The invitation came out of the blue at 1:00pm on Monday 10th January.

An email inviting me to ring Erica Budd at Thames TV. An Associate Producer, she had an ‘exciting’ proposal to present to the Choir. A Scam, I thought. Where’s the catch and what’s at stake? A search on LinkedIn quickly identified an ‘Erica Budd’ as an Associate Producer with Thames TV/Fremantle Productions. I rang her.

So began one of the more unusual episodes in the history of New Mill MVC.

Erica thanked me and proceeded to tell me what an ‘amazing bunch of guys’ New Mill MVC was. She’d researched the Choir via our web and YouTube. So much talent and what a great sound! Everything was ‘fantastic!’ After several minutes I’m wondering where this is all going and then the slow reveal began.

‘Have you heard of Thames TV?’. Now I know we live in Yorkshire and breed whippets and ferrets but I had heard of Thames TV!  ‘Have you heard of Britain’s Got Talent?’ and I realised where this conversation might be heading. She wanted the Choir to audition for the show, in London, sometime next week! In TV land this was no problem but getting a Choir, MD, Accompanist and transport to/from the capital city in a matter of days would require a lot of arranging and a good deal of enthusiasm and good will on behalf of the ‘amazing bunch of guys’ which was NMMVC.

Erica was well versed in the dark arts of television productions and skilled in selling a vision that, later, would morph into something very different. Her initial proposal was an audition at the London Palladium (yes, the first Big Carrot!) at 3:00 pm and away ‘no later than 5 or 6 pm’.  We would take part in some filming but, as we had a lot of travelling to do and the Choir members were quite senior (!?) we wouldn’t need to be there for more than two or three hours.

Twenty four hours later the proposal was presented to a rather bemused and incredulous Choir. These guys have been round the block – a few times. TV does not provoke starry eyed wonder. What did press a few buttons was the chance to sing on the stage of the London Palladium. Another tick on the list of ‘Venues I have Sung in.’

The next ten days defined the BGT experience. Information was scarce then arrived in a blizzard, often conflicting with the previous information. One thing was consistent. The demands on the Choir’s time and commitment grew exponentially. We very nearly pulled out but eventually we had a date and a departure time – Tuesday, January 25th at 3 AM! COVID protocols completed, forty-one choristers departed New Mill Club and arrived at the Palladium at 7:25 (AM!).
New Mill Club, 02:50, 25th January 2022
The Coach Arrives! 03:00.

A frenzy of activity followed as we completed COVID induction, were assigned a dressing room and prepared for our sound check. Our first experience of the London Palladium stage. Sound engineers infiltrated our line-up, moving microphones and generally being a nuisance in our performance of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ We didn’t really want to perform this song. We have other items in our repertoire with more impact, but the production team requested ‘Bridge’ so there we were. More on this later.

The Soundcheck

Three of us had ‘volunteered’ to be interviewed for the background footage required for any potential TV appearance. Consequently, we were transported to a hotel close to the Palladium where the TV crew had set up various ‘role playing’ sets. I don’t know whether you’ve tried this exercise but it’s difficult to take it seriously. Maybe it’s an age thing. For example, ‘Pretend you’re about to go on the stage of the London Palladium. Look excited and awe struck’. Pardon! We hadn’t been awe struck for years! We did our best but it wasn’t very convincing. This probably showed because the next stage direction was to straighten each other’s bow ties prior to the imaginary stage entry. Three seventy somethings, smoothing and pinging elasticated bow ties and trying to keep a straight face as cameras peered over our shoulders. I couldn’t help thinking of ‘Last of the Summer Wine,’ which didn’t help.

Next came ‘The Interview’. The three of us carefully positioned, side by side, on a bench seat, and I mean carefully. The camera angles were measured and lights moved by millimetres. Then the questions…

The BGT Interview
Q. Are you Nervous?
A ‘No’

Q. Is this the biggest stage you’ve ever sung on?
A ‘No’
Q. (A little incredulously)  Where have you sung that’s bigger than the Palladium?
A. The Royal Albert Hall. Elland Road Football Stadium and Cardiff Arms Park with Shirley Bassey and 45,000 people in the stands. Oh, and a few Cathedrals. In the UK and abroad.
      And the first hint of why we were really invited along…
Q. What’s the average age of the Choir?
Don’t know but probably over 70.

      And then our ignorance of BGT was exposed.
Q. What would you do with the money if you won the Big Prize?
 Er. Don’t know. What is the Big Prize.
‘Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds!’
‘How Much!’
And so it went on. I don’t think our answers were anticipated and weren’t those required for the show. We didn’t demonstrate enough ‘Awe.’
The Build Up – Several Hours!

During the course of the afternoon the Choir learnt what ‘Reality’ meant in TV terminology. ‘Make sure you’re ready. You’ll be on stage any time. Shortly.’ The same message delivered every 20 minutes.

Be Ready, We were Ready for Hours!

Time stood still and the 2am start to the day began to drain our adrenalin. Our coach drivers began to worry. They were running out of time on the tachograph and we had to be away from the Palladium at 5:00pm if we wanted to get home that night. Perfect. The lever we needed to encourage the production team to push us up the running order and get us on stage. Twenty minutes later we were walking through the subterranean corridors of the Palladium towards the backstage holding area.  Anticipation was high and we were ‘Ready!’ Then another wait and a request to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a lady, probably in her eighties, celebrating her birthday with a performance on BGT! Naturally we obliged.

A very efficient backstage manager gave us our final instructions. A quick chat to Ant and Dec, assemble on stage  and answer any questions by speaking very closely into the stage microphone. Once again, our lack of knowledge of the BGT process was laid bare. We were not prepared for the direction the questions followed. We thought we were on the show because we were a Choir who made a decent sound, but no, we were the old men who could still walk and, amazingly, could sing! How cute was that!

The BGT Stage Interview – Questions from Simon Cowell
Q. What’s the average age of the Choir (again)?
A Don’t know but over 70. Probably.

Q. How old is the oldest member?
A Ninety something. Ninety two?
Q. Where is he?
A.	At home in Brighouse. He didn’t fancy getting up at 2am to come down here! Not the answer that was required.

Q. Well, (with some exasperation) who’s the oldest on stage today?
	The truth was, we didn’t know or care. Neil said he was eighty five which put the question to bed.
Our Performance

Approximately thirteen hours after leaving New Mill we finally prepared ourselves to sing.

We had been asked to forward five songs to the production team as possible performance items. ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was one of the five but we gave them a strong steer towards other options. So they chose ’Bridge …’. A slow, considered song of reflection and support rather than something more upbeat. We changed the ending to ’Go Big’ rather than the arrangement’s subdued finish and off we went.

We gave it everything we had. Three minutes plus of concentrated effort, rising and falling with the melody and mood of the song, drawing applause during the controlled crescendos and a rapturous reception to the ‘Big Finish.’ Two thousand people on their feet, filling the Palladium with applause and the required whoops of appreciation.

We thought it had gone as well as we could expect and waited for the judges performance summary.

The Judges Summary
David Walliams
What was there not to like about that? A ‘Yes’ from David.

Alesha Dixon 
It was great how you followed your MD’s direction. Well done. A ‘Yes’ from Alesha.
Amanda Holden
My grandfather sang in a Male Voice Choir in Wales. It took me back to my childhood and listening to him and his Choir singing. Thank You for that.

Simon Cowell
	Well, for me, the song never got going!
We’ve had some great choirs on this show but…
I blame your MD!

Things started to go off the rails at this point. 

There was a bellowed, expletive laden, request from an audience member, aimed at Simon , inviting him to leave and go travelling. 
Amanda jumped to her feet and said there were two thousand people in the audience who disagreed with him and gave us an emphatic ‘Yes.’ That brought a big cheer.
A rumbling of disagreement within the Choir, culminating in an audible offer to meet Simon outside!

It all got very theatrical and we were unsure whether this was part of the show!

 Simon stuck to his guns and gave us a ’No.’

More audience booing and shouting.

We were just bemused by it all. It was nothing like Huddersfield Town Hall!

That brought the BGT Experience to an end. We were asked to do some more filming but there was a unanimous desire to head North and we hastily packed up and boarded the coach. Despite the unsatisfactory ending we had had a great experience, sung on the stage of the London Palladium and enjoyed a standing ovation from two thousand people. A tired Choir returned to New Mill Club just in time to enjoy a well earned beer (or two).


The following morning I received a phone call from a producer on the show apologising for the unwarranted comments made by Simon Cowell at the conclusion of our performance. He particularly hoped our MD was not offended and hoped they had not detracted from our experience of the show. He wished us luck in any future appearance.

It took another three months for them to tell us that we were not going forward into the next round by which time the Choir sentiment had changed and we were relieved that we didn’t have any more involvement with this behemoth of a TV show. Enough was enough.