The Bach Choir, one of the world’s leading choruses, has sung in prestigious venues around the UK, collaborated with the Rolling Stones, and worked on blockbuster films including Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
Now the choir, whose history includes such notable names as Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Ralph Vaughan Williams, can also add the title of the brainiest cultural institution in Britain to its honours board.
The 140-year-old institution was tonight crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz, which pitted some of the UK’s biggest cultural bodies against each other.
After answering questions on topics from Gilbert and Sullivan and children’s authors to the artist who designed the Chupa Chups lollipop wrappers, the Bach Choir triumphed, edging out the Nottingham Playhouse in the final
General manager Nick Cutts and singers Laura-Jane Foley – who had previously competed on University Challenge – and Juliet Telford, became the first to secure the trophy after successfully negotiating four rounds.
Mr Cutts said they had entered the show to get exposure for the choir, set up in 1876 to play Bach’s Mass in B minor: “It has a formidable history in this country but it’s good to keep it in the public eye. We didn’t have any expectations other than raising awareness.”
Ms Telford said “you really find out how competitive you are on a panel show. It was tough, every team was so bright it could have gone the other way.”
The show has been compared to University Challenge meets QI but presenter Anita Rani said: “Everyone loves a quiz, but this is specifically about the arts which no one else does. It has real warmth about it.”
The Great Culture Quiz final was a tense affair with the choir trailing for most of it only to turn things round in the last round. After winning control with a question about dance, correct answers on theatre and art proved decisive.
Mr Cutts buried his head in his hands at news of the victory and proclaimed himself “stunned” with the final score 79 to 54 in their favour. The team had beaten the Royal Court, the British Museum and the Wellcome Collection on the way to the final.
Ms Rani said: “It was a really close fought final. I think in the end the Bach Choir were just a bit more competitive. They wanted it more.”
A total of 16 of Britain’s great cultural institutions competed from English National Opera to the Royal College of Music as well as the British Library and the Handel House Museum competed.