The clash of choirs commences as Pitch Battle brings a unique blend of sass, swagger and a pinch of mischief to summer Saturdays on BBC One.
This brand new series, which sees rival musical groups facing-off against each other, will be presented by Mel Giedroyc with regular judges Gareth Malone and Kelis joined by a different third Superstar Guest Judge each week to preside over Showstoppers, Riff Offs, Soloists Battles and Final Battles as the groups pull out-all-the-stops in this sing or be sung off choral clash.
Each week, six vocal groups of all different styles and sizes battle it out in a series of different singing challenges, before one emerges victorious and goes through to the live final at the end of the series.
Each episode opens with a dramatic themed mash-up, arranged by the series musical director Deke Sharon – the musical director of the Pitch Perfect movies, where all six groups take to the stage before host Mel Giedroyc enters and introduces the two resident judges Gareth Malone and Kelis, plus that week’s special Superstar Guest Judge. Then the clash of choirs commences!
Showstoppers and Riff-Off
The first two groups go head-to-head – each performing their Showstopper – a song that typifies what they are all about. And then it’s battle time! The theme of their Riff-Off is revealed by the theme machine – any topic from Happy to Angry Break Ups – before the two groups try to out sing each other, showcasing their versatility by singing songs based on the Riff-Off theme.
After the Riff-Off, Pitch Battle’s Musical Director Deke Sharon gives his take on proceedings before the judges deliver their verdict – the name of the group they want to go through to the Solo Battles, and therefore which group will be heading home.
Then the next two groups go into battle – performing their Showstopper and Riff-Off, with the judges revealing the winner. And then it’s the turn of the final two groups.
The Solo Battles
Following the three rounds of Showstoppers and Riff-Offs, three groups remain and the pressure mounts. In the Solo Battles each group must nominate a soloist to take centre stage and perform a solo, backed by the rest of their choir. After all three solo performances the judges will decide which two groups are sent into the Final Battle, and who has sadly missed out.
The Final Battle
In the epic Final Battle, two groups remain and stand side-by-side on the stage. They must now share an iconic song associated with this week’s Superstar Guest Judge. Then, towards the end of the song, there’s an instrumental break and the Superstar Guest Judge will rise from their seat, mic in hand, and make their way to the stage and join in with the group the judges have decided should go through to the live final.
All is not lost however, as each week the losing Final Battle group still has a chance to grab the last remaining spot in the Grand Final as a Wild Card entry. Gareth and Kelis will reveal to the viewers at the end of episode five who the Wild Card entry is.
MEL GIEDROYC INTERVIEW
Pitch Battle presenter Mel Giedroyc is a self-confessed music lover and no stranger to the world of singing herself, having previously starred in The Rocky Horror Show Live and Eurovision spoof Eurobeat.
Her television presenting credits include Let’s Sing And Dance For Comic Relief and The Great British Bake Off.
How would you describe Pitch Battle?
First and foremost, it is a non-brutal competition. There is a £50k prize for the winning group, which is amazing, but this is about the genuine love of what they are doing rather than ‘look at me’ kind of thing. That makes a real difference. Also, they all know each other so well and it is like having a bunch of friends and family on stage.
You have sung before in a choir, including with Gareth Malone for his Children In Need single…
I can hold a tune, God bless you! The great thing about being in a choir is you don’t have to be Beyoncé to sing in one! You have to be able to listen. It’s all about the blending in.
It’s your first solo Saturday night project. How are you feeling?
I am really looking forward to it but this show is not about the presenter at all. I am there to keep the whole thing going. It’s about the joy music brings.
What are the judges like?
Gareth has definitely got a Saturday night glitz about him! Kelis is so down to earth and Deke, who is helping out behind the scenes, has so much energy. He is our Zen grandmaster and there is nothing he doesn’t know about singing.
Does presenting this show make you want to sing in a choir again?
I have got some mates who are in a rock choir near where I live and I am going to investigate! I think you can do a lot worse in your week than spend an hour singing. It’s a cure for loneliness, anxiety, stress and some types of depression.
Do you hope Pitch Battle will inspire viewers?
Yes. I hope it does for choirs and singing what those other shows have done for dance. It’s also great for kids and their self-esteem. Working in a team means it is not just about you.
You have been very busy this year with Eurovision and Let’s Sing And Dance For Comic Relief amongst others. Are you planning to have a rest?!
I have got the whole summer off. I feel ok because I had a gap between this show and Let’s Sing And Dance For Comic Relief but I am also ready for a break. Eurovision was so much fun this year and Lucie Jones, the UK entry, was a real pro. She was so hard working and she had an incredible voice. But I do feel incredibly grateful to have been given all these opportunities. It’s been amazing.
Do you ever feel under pressure?
I haven’t really thought about it if I am honest. It is such a treat to do the job I do, it is all so much fun! I just keep my head down and plough on!
And finally what advice would you give the groups?
Seize the moment and enjoy it all. There is nothing like being on stage, surrounded by the love of your friends and family – I know this from being in a double act for so long!
GARETH MALONE INTERVIEW
Thanks to his passionate work, Gareth has galvanized the British choral scene and brought choirs back into contemporary conversation.
Gareth was awarded an OBE in 2012 for his services to music and is a BAFTA and International Emmy Award Winner with two No.1 singles in the UK under his belt.
This is your first Saturday night entertainment show. What are you most looking forward to?
It is completely different for me but having encouraged a lot of people to join choirs and groups over the years, Pitch Battle seems the most logical progression. It’s really exciting and this show is all about vocal talent. To have Deke Sharon on board, too, is an amazing coup. What is so great about this series is the fact it is all about their voices. It is really great for me to be able to talk about their performances and give advice.
What kind of judge will you be?
All I can do is give my opinions. If a group moves me because they have got lots of heart, I will be the soft judge and say “you really moved me and it was out of tune but it moved me”, but if it didn’t move me, then I will be the technical person saying “that’s not good enough”.
Are you going to be nasty?
No. I think it is mean when people who aren’t musicians start laying into people about song choices. You don’t walk into a music career suddenly overnight as it does take dedication and lots of feedback. But I don’t want to shatter people’s dreams. I want to inspire the audience. I am going to be honest.
What advice would you give to the groups performing?
It’s a Saturday night show and you have to give your whole self. You have got to know the track inside and out and you have to deliver a great performance to the audience and judges. Music is passion.
Can you see the hunger in the contestants?
They are great and I can definitely see the hunger. They have got the best vocal coaches helping them and the atmosphere is amazing. I really do think they will all go on a huge journey taking part on this show.
Acappella is massive in the States. Do you hope this show will inspire the viewers watching it to form a group?
The misconception about this show is that it is entirely A cappella. But actually we have got country, gospel, musical theatre and choirs also taking part. It is not just a load of people from the Pitch Perfect movie as that would be a bit twee!
How are you getting on with your fellow judges?
They are really great! Mel is great, too, and we have worked together before. Mel has all that experience of putting people at ease. Her warmth is central to that. Kelis is fantastic. I predict the public are going to love her. I hope people will watch our show and think it is so much fun.
Why is Pitch Battle different to other shows?
It’s a celebration of music in a way that other shows aren’t. There is no other show where the guest judge gets up at the end and reveals which group has got to the final by singing a line of their song and walking over to them.
And finally, what else are you working on?
I am living and breathing Pitch Battle at the moment! I am on tour in the autumn. What I do now is music on TV or the stage. It’s absolutely ideal!
Kelis started out singing in choirs before embarking on her illustrious singing career which saw her nominated for Grammys, win a BRIT award and tour the world having sold millions of records across the globe.
She will really empathise with the singers on Pitch Battle, although her passion for music and singing means she won’t mince her words.
Why did you want to get involved on Pitch Battle as a judge?
I thought it would be really fun. I have hosted TV shows before but this is completely different for me. I have watched shows like this but never judged on them, only food shows.
Are you excited about being a judge?
Definitely! When you see the show, you will see that there is so much energy amongst everyone, including the judges and the whole thing just feels really good. There is a real fun vibe of people wanting to have a good time and I think it’s an amazing opportunity for everyone taking part in Pitch Battle.
What kind of judge will you be?
I am going to be honest, I’m not mean at all I promise! Everybody is looking to be a star but the great thing about Pitch Battle is that it is a team effort. Music is such a personal thing and so I think it’s important to just be very honest with everyone. You can be honest without being mean. In terms of what I am looking for, I want people to sing technically well and also, from the heart. That is really important to me.
Are you looking forward to sitting alongside Gareth on the judging panel?
For sure, he is great to hang out with and is super talkative! He is also really easy going which I love – I am really enjoying getting to know him.
What advice would you give to the contestants?
There really is one thing that stands out above everything else and that is to listen. That, for me, is vital. A lot of people will be able to sing really well but that is not enough on a show like this. You have to be able to blend in well. So my advice is listen, listen, and listen!
Does it matter if the group/choir is all male or all female?
No it doesn’t matter to me at all. Men, women, older people, it really doesn’t make a difference so long as they can find a cohesive sound. That’s the key.
You’ve had an incredible career. What are you most proud of?
To be completely honest with you I never planned for this career. For me it all started with a choir when I was 17 and it’s been crazy ever since! I love my career so much and I feel so grateful to have done the things I have done. Now I am on an awesome new BBC singing show in the UK, that was never in the plan but I am having the best time here!
DEKE SHARON INTERVIEW
Born in San Francisco, California, Deke Sharon has been performing professionally since the age of eight, and as a child toured North America and shared the stage in operas with the likes of Pavarotti.
Heralded as ‘The Father of Contemporary a cappella’, he is responsible for the current sound of modern a cappella, having created the dense vocal-instrumental sound in college, subsequently spreading it around the world.
Deke produced The Sing-Off worldwide (USA, Netherlands, China, South Africa), which had the highest ratings of any new, unscripted television show in the USA in 2009, and was the third highest rated show on NBC in 2010. In addition, Deke served as Arranger, on-site Music Director and Vocal Producer for Universal’s Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2 movies starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson.
Deke is the Series Music Director for Pitch Battle.
You are the pro when it comes to a cappella music. What appealed to you about getting involved with Pitch Battle?
I love vocal music. I believe we can spread more harmony through harmony. The groups are better when there is diversity and with the powerful ballads, they do need each other.
What is it about this kind of singing that you love?
The voices are all better when they are sung together. Also there is something about these groups. The thing with amateur is it stands for love and I have seen many amateur groups perform with so much power and emotion. It is compelling and powerful for the audience.
This style of singing is big in the USA. Do you hope it will become as popular in the UK?
The Executive Producer who is overseeing this show, Karen, is a genius. She was involved with Strictly Come Dancing at the start and that is one of the biggest shows ever. When she flew to the States for lunch, I knew within five minutes I wanted to get involved in this show. My hope is Pitch Battle will start here but spread around the world because it has such big performances by the choirs, followed by the Riff-Off which nobody has done before and then ending with the celebrity guest judge. It is electric!
How are the contestants? Nervous? Competitive?
I have stressed to them that the other groups aren’t their competition. Their competition is every other show on television and every other person on the likes of YouTube. You want the group that performs before and after yours to be amazing as then we have something compelling that everyone will talk about it. Variety is what makes the show stronger. I am so pleased we have got gospel groups, show choirs, pop choirs, and cool quartets – so many different styles.
What advice would you give to the groups?
They need to know all their notes and rhythms before the show but as soon as they go in front of the cameras, they need to let go of the technical and sing from the heart. They need to connect through song and story. You have to focus on the energy. This show is going to be loved by people. There is a lot of power, character and charisma involved.
What are the judges like?
They are honest. Every judge needs to deliver positive messages as well as negative messages.
Is it true you have just finished making the third Pitch Perfect movie?
We have just wrapped number three! We made the first movie and we hoped it wouldn’t go straight to DVD. This show is going to start small on TV and then I think it is going take over like wildfire!
And finally do you want to sing again?!
I do love to sing. But as I get older, it is time to slip into the elder statesman role and help inspire others
SUPERSTAR GUEST JUDGES
Each week, Gareth and Kelis will be joined by a Superstar Guest Judge.
The guest judge is not only involved in critiquing and advising the groups throughout each episode, but at the end of each show they will join the winning choir on stage for a rendition of one of their best loved tracks.
Bebe is no stranger to choirs, having sung in one whilst growing up and has since become one of the most sought after songwriters in the world penning hits for superstars including Eminem, Rihanna and Iggy Azalea.
Bebe is now concentrating on her own music and in the last 12 months has had a Top 10 hit with Martin Garrix with In The Name Of Love, collaborated with Nicki Minaj on her single No Broken Hearts and hosted the 2016 MTV European Music Awards.
The groups will be singing her Top 5 single Take Me Home as the Final Battle song.
Multi-awarding winning singer songwriter Seal has sold over 30 million records and is best known for international hits such as Kiss From A Rose and Crazy with a music career that has spanned three decades.
His inimitable voice was first heard on Adamski’s 1991 club smash Killer which reached number 1 in the UK charts. Another Top 10 hit Crazy arrived shortly thereafter as Seal went on to achieve global acclaim with his debut album, even winning the prestigious BRIT Award for Best British Male in 1992.
However, it was the legendary song Kiss From A Rose which turned him into an international superstar as he received three Grammy Awards in the categories of Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
The groups will be singing the choir favourite Kiss From A Rose as the Final Battle song.
Chaka Khan is one of the world’s best known and critically acclaimed soul divas, having had a career spanning over five decades, winning 10 Grammy awards, and multiple platinum selling records.
Chaka Khan is widely known as the Queen of Funk and initially achieved great success as part of the soul-funk band Rufus, including hits like Tell Me Something Good, Sweet Thing, Hollywood and the coveted Ain’t Nobody before she embarked on a solo career in the late ’70s and made waves on the charts again with tunes like I’m Every Woman, and I Feel For You. Throughout her career, Chaka has collaborated with legendary artists including Miles Davies, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Prince. In 2011 Chaka was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has also been inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.
The groups will be singing Ain’t Nobody as the Final Battle song.
Joe Jonas has successfully transitioned from Disney Channel favourite to international superstar as the frontman of multi-platinum selling band DNCE.
Joe Jonas shot to fame as part of the boy band Jonas Brothers in 2007. Their self-titled album went double platinum and reached the Top 5 on the Billboard charts. Joe then took the lead role in Camp Rock, alongside singer Demi Lovato and his brothers. The soundtrack to the movie marked an industry first with the Jonas Brothers having three albums in the Top 10, with their follow up album A Little Bit Longer also going platinum.
In 2013, the Jonas Brothers split and Joe created a new band DNCE with his friends Jack Lawless, JinJoo Lee and Cole Whittle. Their debut single Cake By The Ocean was released in 2015 and became a huge hit around the world.
The groups will be singing the new DNCE and Nicki Minaj track Kissing Strangers as their Final Battle song.
Will Young is one of the most well-known and recognizable figures in British contemporary music and on the performing arts scene. Since 2002 he has had a career encompassing multi-platinum albums, sell-out live tours and acting in both film and TV.
Growing up in Hungerford, West Berkshire, Will’s first taste of singing success was as a chorister at Horris Hill preparatory school. He took part in many school productions but decided to study politics at the University of Exeter before concentrating on musical theatre more full time at Arts Ed in London. He put his studies on hold in late 2001 to become a contestant on Pop Idol which he won in 2002 and went on to release his debut album From Now On – which went straight to number one. Since then he has continued to dominate the charts and has worked with a variety of artists and performed live with James Brown, Elton John and Burt Bacharach.
The groups will be singing Evergreen as their Final Battle song.
The Superstar Guest Judge for the Grand Final will be announced soon!
MEET THE GROUPS
The groups that are taking part across the series are the beating heart of the show.
A total of thirty musical groups from across the UK will be taking to the stage in their bid to be crowned Pitch Battle Champions 2017.
Polish Jazz group who came together to find friendships through music – they rehearse in their musical director’s living room, and the group includes a waitress and a pastry chef.
London International Gospel Choir
A community gospel choir, featuring a beatboxer, who provide a home away from home feeling for their international members.
Two music teachers (one is a backing singer and the other has performed in the West End) and four of their music students – old and new.
Seaside Welsh soprano, alto, tenor, bass choir from Aberystwyth with a big sound, and a soloist who wants to make music her life-long career.
The 4Tune Tellers & Kimmy
Newly formed cool vocal group who found their female beatboxer busking.
All-singing and all-dancing musical theatre students aged 17-19 from the Arts1 School of Performance in Milton Keynes.
Newly formed all-female country music group who are full-time musicians, and each play the guitar.
The Bristol Suspensions
Fun a cappella students from Bristol University who are proud to say they are current International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semi-finalists.
Over the Water
Liverpool based choir who have the oldest male singer in the series at 64 (a retired cruise ship director), who are from both sides of the Mersey.
Portsmouth University Gospel Choir
Lively and loud gospel choir from Portsmouth University whose musical director Heaven is a forensics student.
A ‘triple-threat’ group of musical theatre performers who came together especially for the series.
City Academy Songbirds
Unapologetically fun, all-female, group made up of teachers, a vet and a nanny.
A nine piece contemporary pop vocal group from London who have sung together since childhood.
Husband and wife duo who have joined forces with their oldest friends to make their kids and Loch Lomond proud.
Out Of The Blue
World renowned YouTube a cappella sensations from the Universities in Oxford.
Former West End performers who put surprising vintage style twists onto pop mash-ups.
Fun pop/a cappella group who sing together to escape their nine to five jobs – teachers, financial advisors and a solicitor.
Liverpudlian group of music students whose emotional flash mob video went viral with more than 2 million views on YouTube.
The Uptone Girls
All-female group from The University of Birmingham who want to bring some girl power to a cappella.
Leeds Contemporary Singers
Soulful 2nd and 3rd year music students and their lecturer Craig who create their own ambitious musical arrangements.
A 13 piece choir with a cool, urban and diverse feel from the Home Counties.
Vocal Dimension Chorus
An all-female Surrey based group of barbershop singers with bags of humour who also have the oldest member in the competition at 70 years old.
A church gospel inspired group who met in East London who have never performed together outside of church.
All The King’s Men
King’s College London’s nine-piece a cappella group made up of former choir boys.
Classical opera crossover group made up of an engaged couple and their West End friends.
Tring Park 16
Chamber choir aged 17-18 from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.
West Midlands based vocal group who rehearse in their local British Legion once a month who are huge musical theatre fans.
Full time music students from all over Europe who hope for long term music careers.
Young male group from Ireland who want to make Barbershop cool.