Weaver's Week 2013-04-21

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Côr Cymru 2013

Rondo for S4C, 14 April

18.15 Welcome to Wales, welcome to the land of song. Live from Aberystwyth, it's the grand final of Wales's premier (and only) Welsh-language choir competition. We're shown brief clips from the heats, and meet the leaders of the children's, youth, mixed, men's, and women's choirs that won their sections. The heat winners got a piece of slate, it seems.

18.21 After five minutes of this, we're finally allowed into the concert hall, where host Morgan Jones is wearing a slate-grey suit, and goes around the foyer meeting some people who are holding up telephone numbers. Oh! It's the choirs! It's voting for the audience prize; there's also a prize to the best choirmaster in the competition (not necessarily a finalist), and the main prize will be determined by a panel of three.

Côr Cymru Tonight's judges.

18.22 In the arena, we join co-presenter Heledd Cynwal, and she introduces us to The Judges, the people who put these choirs through from the heats and will decide the overall winner tonight. There's Katie Thomas, a singer with the Monteverdi Choir; Barry Rose, the Nicholas Parsons look-a-like who led the choir at St Paul's in London; and Andre van der Merwe, from the Stellenbosch choir.

18.25 Filing in behind Heledd is the first team, Côr y Cwm from the youth section, and we're seeing some more footage of them rehearsing and practising. Like all the other choirs, they're going to perform a short concert – about 15 minutes long – with the choir leader explaining what's happening in each song just before they sing it.

Côr Cymru Côr y Cwm.

18.35 What differentiates Cor Cymru from Glee Club? This choir is young, they look like they're based at a school, and they're primarily girls. The differences are many: Glee Club has a limit of eight performers, this lot run to about 30 voices, accompanied by a live piano and a recorded backing track. It allows for more complex arrangements, taking advantage of various voice tones. The other main difference is repertoire: this lot have sung a Maori folk tune and something religious. We can't see Sam and/or Mark putting up with anything outside the most mainstream pop.

18.38 Ah, this number calls for a soloist, standing front and centre while the rest of the choir performs the backing line, and the bloke on the piano bangs away.

18.42 Well, they filed out of the hall pretty darned quickly, to exchange a few words with Morgan Slategreysuit. Do we sniff a slight pre-record? Back in the hall, Heledd is talking to Caryl Parry-Jones and Gareth Glyn, whoever they are.

18.46 The first commercial break, during which someone sings "Moon river". Not guilty! And it's the return of the Nine O'Clock News, albeit in Welsh.

18.49 And we're back, with the next choir. This is CF1, winners of the mixed choir section. Like many of the choirs competing here, they've been regulars in the competition, making the semi-final in the last couple of runnings.

Côr Cymru The CF1 choir, as seen by the judges.

18.52 Mark this time carefully: the rule of the white witch is crumbling! CF1 begin with "Hodie Christus natus est", a Christmas song that's absolutely perfect for the weather we were enduring up until about three days ago.

18.57 To get here, each of the choirs has been through off-screen auditions, and then into the appropriate group final. When shown on Saturday nights, those finals were substantial excerpts from the choir's performances, about half of the 15-minute performances we're seeing tonight. Intercut was a profile of the choir, discussion with the choir leader and some of the members. It's not going to satisfy choir music purists, but (allowing for the fact that our Welsh still isn't very good) it does make for decent entertainment. We must confess to only seeing one heat, and not seeing last night's warm-up and preview programme.

19.03 Crikey! High drama during the performance of "The Kangaroo", as one of the choir steps out of line and throws something into the audience. What? It's performance art. The choir goes on to perform a Welsh-language translation of "Lean on me" (the Bill Withers song), with two soloists stepping forward. We assume they sung, but the mixing was so shoddy we could only hear the backing choir.

19.08 That's it from CF1, they're back in the foyer. One of the commentators in the hall is saying "Gallie", which sounds a bit too close to "Ghastly", which we're sure isn't what he means. The choir seems to enjoy what the critics are saying. "Just great", says one of them.

Côr Cymru Carel and Gareth, these critics speak during the show.

19.11 The fun never stops – before the break, we see the next choir move on stage. In other music news, we hear that the BBC has played this week's number one single in full, on the grounds that it's by Duke Dumont and not a bunch of munchkins.

19.15 Which brings us (in a slightly cruel way) to Côr Iau Glanaethwy, the second of our Youth choirs tonight. Côr y Cym were dressed in black and hot pink, CF1 in black, Glanaethwy are in black with lime green highlights. And there's a lot of them, bodies to completely fill the stepped staging area.

19.19 The staging area? A large arc, perhaps a sixth of a circle, and long enough for about 20 people to comfortably stand side-by-side on each of its four tiers. Some of the smaller choirs were able to use this as a proper stage, with movement; Glanaethwy are so numerous that they must all remain in place.

Côr Cymru Just some of Côr Iau Glanaethwy.

19.24 On the flip-side, the additional voices means they can do some really complex tunes, with four- or five-part harmonies on "Mi es allan ddoe i'r ffair". Not the sort of thing to try without expert supervision.

19.30 The closest we'll get from this choir to movement: synchronised swaying, not dissimilar to a Mexican wave. We've been slightly distracted during this performance by one of our neighbours, who reckons their Sunday night absence is a good time to let their burglar alarm ring out.

19.32 Our conclusions? The best single number we've heard so far, and it's difficult to choose between these and Cym earlier. One of the members says she's "really excited", and the judges seem to be pleasing the choir.

19.40 Côr Meibion Rhosllannerchrugog are next, the winners of the men's choir. Their conductor has the bad luck to resemble Patrick Kielty. The group are dressed in black suits and bow-ties, with daffodils on their buttonholes. "The choir does smile, once a year", says the conductor – ah! Our Babelfish seems to have started working, we can understand him perfectly.

Côr Cymru Côr Meibion, the men's choir.

19.42 The first song is about missing goats...

19.43 [takes Babelfish out of ear, looks at it curiously, shakes it a bit, puts it back in.]

19.48 Behind the stepped staging arc are some back-projection video screens. For most of the night, they've been showing colours or other abstract patterns. For this choir, Doric arches while they perform from The Magic Flute.

19.54 Trumpets! Bring on the trumpets! It's to support their Christmas number, "Natus est rex Israel". And remember, folks, only 254 more shopping days to go.

19.59 And only zero more minutes of this to go. It dragged a bit, perhaps our hopes were raised too high by that entertaining start. The critical panel don't seem to be saying anything to make the crowd clap, or the choir outside smile.

20.02 We said in the Game Show Times to bring snacks; we're going to get some, and hope that the mutterings we're reading on the interwebs are a hoax. Please let them be a hoax.

20.07 Côr y Wiber won the women's section, and they won it on their first attempt. It seems that Côr Cymru rewards persistence more than anything, most of the choirs took two or three attempts to reach us.

Côr Cymru Côr y Wiber.

20.12 And after the popty-ping delivered our snack (cheese, onion, and mustard on toast, natch), we note that Wiber are properly colourful. Black blouses, yes, but underneath a cardigan in a bright colour, and all of the two dozen members are wearing a vivid necklace. The relatively small numbers mean they can't do the terribly complex arrangements, but they can move about, turn and clap, and almost dance.

20.18 Billy Joel is the sort of person we would expect to hear in a competition like this, even in translation.

20.23 And they're singing a song from Serbia. OK, so it's not "Molitva" (we reckon that could work brilliantly), but it'll win points from all the Welsh-speaking expats in Belgrade.

20.24 Are there any Welsh-speaking expats in Belgrade?

20.26 Well, if this was being decided on the interwebs, it would be between CF1 and Wiber, both have been saying "Vote for us!" as though it was the most important thing on the planet tonight. It's probably more important than the leadership of the federal Liberal party in Canada, where lines closed at 8pm. It's expected that the role will go to Justin Bieber, assuming he's not blown it by making a comment about Anne Frank even more asinine than Angela Chase's. Er, back to the competition. We liked that set, the commentators seemed to like it.

20.30 One more choir, after this commercial break. And – crikey! The return of Sion a Sian next Saturday. That'll be more fun than Britain's Got Buzzers.

20.34 Aelwyd y Waun Ddyfal won the children's section. They filmed their profile before CF1 performed, because we can see the snow falling. We're not entirely sure what the difference between "children" and "youth" is, but we do know that some choir was warming up in the foyer while Wiber were talking to Emelyn Greysuit.

20.37 About 50 in this choir, enough to jig about on the spot, enough to duck down and reach up, but not to move in a dramatic style. There's going to be some Mendelssohn, and the gentlemen performers are wearing sky-blue ties.

Côr Cymru Hands up if you're in Aelwyd y Waun Ddyfal.

20.49 Well, this is soothing and relaxing and all perfectly well sung, but we're not getting any sort of emotion from it. Their closing number is "Cymru", which ends with them raising an arm aloft. The suggestion that this choir would finish by performing "Gangnam style" was a hoax. Let us be thankful for small mercies.

20.56 The Active Voting Window is now open! Calls will cost 25p, and the lines open before the critics talk about the last choir. It gets dark late in Aberystwyth, there's still natural light flooding in through the windows, and members of Glanaethwy waving from the stairs.

21.07 The commercial break is over, and now comes the recap. Extracts from each of the choir's performances, and then Emelyn Greysuit talks to some of the members out in the foyer. What's been happening on RTE The Voice of Holland of Ireland? Stooshe performed, Kian from Westlife and Jamelia had an argument about postcodes, the favourite was A Bit Pitchy, and five people we'd never heard of progress to the next stage.

21.16 Well, the recap is over. It dragged. And we're going for a commercial break, and after that the lines will close and we'll be actually live and not recorded a half-hour ago.

21.20 The break is over, the lines are now closed; it's the only caption of the night displayed in English. Who were the commentator's favourites? Caryl went for Cor y Cwm, Gareth preferred Côr Meibion Rhosllannerchrugog. But their votes don't count. The judges give an award to the best choirmaster in their opinion: it's to Aled Philips of Meibion, and brings about a brief reprise of his work.

21.25 We have a result of the viewer's vote. 3rd for the women of Wiber, 2nd for the children's choir Aelwyd, and the winners — it's the youngsters of Cor y Cwm. Good.

21.27 But that's not the big one. The overall prize, the title of Cor Cymru champions 2013, the small glass trophy and the prize of £4000 goes to.. Cor y Wiber!

Côr Cymru Côr y Wiber's leader accepts the trophy.

21.29 After fully two minutes of excited screaming, stage confetti firing, and more hugs than a rugby team, there's a brief interview with the choir mistress.

21.30 And we are going to get a winner's reprise, leading the audience in a singalong of the national anthem.

More Welsh singing in five weeks, and some people are hoping that the expats in Serbia will still be voting for her.

University Challenge

Semi-final 1: UCL v New Oxford

It's the 35th match of the series, and perhaps the host is justified in not explaining the missignal rule. We have, after all, heard it 34 times before, and another metric dozen in the celebrity tournament over Christmas. New gets the first starter, but the rest of the opening stanza is all UCL. After the first visual round, on Portugese-speaking nations, UCL leads by 85-20. It brings us to Question They'll Have Got in the Only Connect Studio of the week:

Q: 20 miles from the royal residence of Balmoral, which Aberdeenshire hamlet has, since 2011, seen an unusual number of hits on its Wikipedia page? Somewhat unfortunately, its name is an acronym of that of an ITV2 reality show whose principal figures include Jessica Wright and Lauren Goodger?

The place of Towie, obv. Another starter asks for the most recent date in which its eight digits added to four. That's one of four starters in a row missed by both teams; we'll later find that no-one knows a kazoo when Thumper talks about it. The teams do know about the composer of the Sarabande from Jamie Theakston's unreasonably short-lived show The Search (Channel 4, 2007). UCL knew their Handel, and other British-born composers, and lead 95-45.

Thumper is harsh – but fair – to disallow "they moved from the Conservatives to Labour" for a bunch of MPs who crossed the floor, going from the government to the opposition or vice versa. It ends a brief revival from New, though UCL run into difficulties when discussing the specific quark composition of deuterium. We're not sure we understand the answers, let alone the questions, but then this is the semi-final. Paintings for the second visual round, UCL's lead is staying at 130-95.

Keates's personifications of love are the subject of a bonus round, and then an easier-than-it-sounded starter: when asked to arrange German länder in alphabetical order and name the second, the viewer will think of a part early in the alphabet and say, "Bavaria". It's the right answer, it allows UCL to open up a 70-point lead, and that's one starter away from victory. Or a series of dropped bonuses, as New put up.

The Oxford side are going to give it a good go, getting the next starter and the next return of Halley's comet. But UCL knows the former name of Durban, and that's game over. Thumper will hurry on the side as though he's herding cats onto a train, but the result is known. UCL get a set of questions on pigs to wrap up their win, 195-115.

University Challenge New Oxford was: Remi Beecroft, India Lenon, Andy Hood, Tom Cappleman.

This Week And Next

Some weeks are jam-packed for other news, some weeks we find the cupboard is bare. This week, it falls into the latter.

Straight to the ratings figures, supplied as ever by BARB. After all the catch-up viewing is considered, BBC The Voice of Holland of UK was top of the pops, with 7.6m seeing the episode on 6 April. Saturday Night Takeaway finished its run on 6.65m viewers, with Have I Got News for You starting its new series with 6.05m. Masterchef and Who Dares Wins had 5.55m, Catchphrase returned to 4.75m, and there were 3.95m viewers for The Cube.

University Challenge pulled 3.05m to BBC2, with The Great British Sewing Bee attracting 3m, and the Mastermind final 2.15m. The opening episode of Five Minutes to a Fortune had 1.55m viewers to Channel 4. ITV2's favourite Celebrity Juice had 1.91m viewers, 510,000 did Come Dine on More4, and vintage HIGNFY on Dave attracted 400,000. A heat of Cor Cymru had 51,000 viewers on S4C.

We're trying to not turn into an S4C publicity machine, but they do have two shows of interest: young cookery show Cog1nio (Tue 6.05), and 100 O Blant (Wed 7.30) seems to be somewhere between Pointless and Child's Play. For viewers in English, there's a new run of 1001 Things You Should Know (C4, 3.30 weekdays), the final of The Great British Sewing Bee (BBC2, 8pm Tue), and last in the "present" series of Food Glorious Food (ITV, 8pm Wed). As you have been, don't forget to miss it!

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