The aim for UNFINISHED SONG was to create an authentic adult community choir.
When producer Ken Marshall and writer/ director Paul Andrew Williams were scouting
in the North East they came across a fundraising choir competition to benefit St.
Oswald's Hospice. Their ears were caught by Heaton Voices. An open-to-all choir
with no auditions from Newcastle-on-Tyne, it was set up in 2000 by Richard Scott and
-- thanks to the ever-increasing vogue in singing TV shows like The Choir and The Voice
-- now has a hefty waiting list. "I think they were intrigued by my arrangements," he
suggests. "I work from a jazz approach using riff-based accompaniment rather than
harmonization." Scott became the musical arranger for UNFINISHED SONG. "I had no
idea what I was letting myself in for," he chuckles.
Scott is used to being unconventional in his choice of choir material. "At Heaton
Voices we tend to do a really eclectic mix. We'll do African songs, Eastern European
songs, Gospel, jazz numbers and even things like Moon Dance or Under My Skin." But
nothing prepared him for what was about to hit him. "I was given the list of songs that
included titles like Ace Of Spades and Love Shack and was a bit taken aback," he
admits. His approach was to strip the songs right back to the melody and then build
them up again. "I tried to get over the character of the song, but at the same time in
a way that the choir feels that they can enjoy and perform naturally.'
Rather than just enlist Scott's existing choir, the UNFINISHED SONG production team
put out an ad for people who were already singing in choirs to come along to a
casting. Choir leader Richard Scott led some singing workshops whilst director Paul
Andrew Williams went round with a camera looking for likely characters. But it wasn't
meant to be The X-Factor. "We didn't want audition voices," insists Richard Scott. "In
a community choir you have strong voices, you have weak voices. When we chose
the choir we'd never even heard them sing! We struggled to begin with. Some
people could keep pitch, others not so well, but it was a joy to watch a disparate
group of individuals turning into a unified choir."
Some of those individuals, of course, will already be familiar to audiences, including
national TV treasures like Anne Reid (DINNER LADIES, CORONATION STREET) and Ram
John Holder (DESMONDS), but the actors so integrated themselves into the ranks that
Richard Scott found himself forgetting that this was anything other than an authentic
community choir. Even so there were occasions that were definitely out of the
ordinary. "I have worked with a great many voices," he sighs. "But watching Vanessa
and Terence sing their solo songs for the first time was something very special. The
intensity took me by surprise. On set their performances reduced many of the choir to
A veteran of singing on screen and stage in productions ranging from Camelot to the
Three Penny Opera, Vanessa Redgrave still confessed to being a bit nervous before
her big solo, though she hugely enjoyed being part of the choir. "I felt extraordinarily
lucky that I found all these wonderful people. We had some of the best sessions." As
she recounts it, "I've always loved singing. My father gave me loads of singing lessons
as a child. When I sang in a benefit with my Natasha [Richardson] for the
Roundabout Theatre in New York, we did a Little Night Music. My Natasha put me in
touch with her brilliant singing coach John Mace who found my voice back again for
me." That she was asked to sing the solo True Colors in UNFINISHED SONG was a big
thing for her, not just because she loves singing, but because "I find it very life giving."
Says Redgrave: "The point of Marion's song when I sing it in the film is that I am giving
my life to my husband. And that is a very lovely thing."
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