A voice in the church – is this the X-factor?

On Saturday evening in a small church in Bromley, I heard a voice whose utter beauty left me literally speechless (and no, this was not a religious moment for me!).  I’m not going to try to describe how I felt or what the voice was like because it was simply beautiful and any other words will just sound cliched or hackneyed.

What, you may ask, has this got to do with a blog devoted mainly to critiques of news coverage in the media? Read on, and you might see a connection…

The singer on Saturday was a young soprano called Jocelyn Somerville.  She performed a short solo song by Grieg and accompanied the Bromley Choral Society for Rutter’s Magnificat. 

Her solo Grieg song brought tears to my eyes, but not at the words themselves; it was the sheer purity of her notes which were utterly overwhelming.  

(I, for one, will be trying to find out where she is singing next.  I am told she is shortly to set up her own website,  so if you’re interested, keep googling her name till the site is up and running).

What struck me is how very rare it is to hear a voice with such pure notes.  So many women aspire to have the croakiness of Duffy, or the big sound of Katherine Jenkins with its excessive vibrato.  But why?

I guess croakiness can be interesting in moderation, but vibrato just drives me round the bend (I am one of the few in the UK who actually doesn’t like listening to Jenkins, apparently).  Singers are all too often coached into this style (same with basses – but that is for another entry, maybe), when surely the most beautiful voice is the one that is just pure.

So, what does this have to do with the X-Factor or with the media? Well, let me say first of all that I am a fan of the X-Factor; I love listening to a singer who really gets to the soul of any piece of music and I think Leona Lewis is one of the great discoveries of recent years.

In recent years on the X-Factor, Leona apart, there have been far too many ‘big’ women voices, trying to be Gloria Gaynor or Whitney Houston; or the Duffy look-alikes.  But actually this year the women singers are pretty good and their voices feel nicely under-coached!

The problem with the X-Factor (and with all TV programmes based on the ‘public vote’) is that the public all too often vote on the basis of so-called entertainment value, rather than quality of performance.  Look at how, this week, the ridiculous John & Edward sailed through to the next round even though their singing is shocking, while the fantastic Danyl, who is a real performer, came in the bottom two and had to sing off to stay in the programme.

Which does, in a way, bring me back to the Saturday night performance. I missed the X-Factor because I was at a small church in Bromley. There were perhaps 150 people, including the choir, sitting listening to the most wonderful singing voice I have ever heard; there were countless millions watching 10 performers on the X-Factor, of whom maybe 2 or 3 have any real talent. 

It would be a disaster if Jocelyn Somerville were to audition for the X-Factor, but she really is the one who has it, of all the people I heard sing this weekend.

A final point on the nation’s (and especially the media’s) sweetheart, Cheryl Cole.  Was anybody else struck by how she ducked out of inflicting the killer blow to the very inferior girl-band, thus risking the very talented Danyl being sent home on the basis of the public vote. I can’t help feeling that Cheryl Cole is so desperate for everyone to love her that she cannot really carry out her function as a ‘judge’ on the programme.  I know I risk universal loathing across the nation for criticising her, so I might need to come back in a future entry to look at the media obsession with her and how I see her in light of her role on the X-Factor.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out Jocelyn Somerville.

And Jocelyn has now got her website up and running: http://jocelynsomerville.com/page3.htm


One Response to “A voice in the church – is this the X-factor?”

  1. Jocelyn Somerville Says:

    Hi Blogsbeginat50!

    I have just come across your blog entry regarding my concert last year and would like to thank you very much for your kind words. I would love to feature your blog on my website – would it be possible for you to email me so that we can discuss it?

    Thank you,

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