MORE than four million viewers watched Chester choir A Handbag of Harmonies impress the judges on BBC reality show Last Choir Standing on Saturday.
But director Matt Baker says the choir had a hard decision ahead of them before the second audition, which was filmed in June.
Last Saturday saw judge Suzi Digby immediately signal her support for the Chester ladies but then Sharon D Clarke countered with a “no”, branding the group a “gimmick”.
That left it to million-selling Salford singer Russell Watson to make the casting vote and, to the obvious delight of the group members, he said yes.
But Matt said: “What was not shown on last week’s programme was Suzi Digby saying that we had the perfectly-crafted British tongue-in-cheek style.
“The dilemma we had then was, do we change that style to prove to Sharon we are more than just a gimmick?
“We considered adopting a more soulful sound but in the end we decided we didn’t want to fundamentally change who we are just because of one comment.”
On Saturday, The Handbags will sing Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
Matt said: “Then the rest of the choir travelled back up to Chester and I had to wait in London an extra night to find out if we were through or not, then travel back to Chester to deliver the news.
“The judges played the same game that I then played with the Handbags. We’ve all seen it on reality TV before when they tease you into believing you may or may not have won but when you are in front of the judges it is hard not to get drawn in.”
Matt was banned from speaking to the choir members until the following day when they gathered at the Eastgate Clock with film crews.
He said: “I have never received so many text messages asking how my journey was, not even when I travelled across the world – of course all they wanted to know was what had happened. I even had to ignore a phone call from my mum.”
Matt – who is himself juggling the Handbags with being musical director of Chester Mystery Plays – says he is “overwhelmed” with the dedication the Handbags have shown to the choir this summer.
“We are not a choir of professional singers, we are a choir of full-time mums, teachers, nurses and every profession imaginable.
“A lot of them joined Chester Mystery Plays thinking the Handbags would stop for the summer.
“It has been amazing what these women have done to juggle all their commitments.”
Of Last Choir Standing he said: “The programme is trying to challenge the perceptions of people who are completely sceptical about music making or choral activity.
“If as many people want to take up singing as have taken up ballroom dancing after other shows, that can only be a good thing.
“My mum overheard a woman in a cafe in Lache saying: “I wish I could be in the choir with the feather boas.’
“That shows the appeal of our choir, it is about having fun.”