Songs of Praise: Gospel Choir of the Year, BBC1, review: An X Factor-style spin-off

There really wasn’t much to frown about in this show

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This X Factor-style spin-off of the institution that is Songs of Praise (going strong since 1961) brings together six choirs from across the nation, to compete over two rounds at the Hackney Empire in east London.

Presenters Josie D’Arby and David Grant grinned manically throughout, but really there wasn’t much to frown about in Sunday’s show. While Christian rock has a well-earned reputation for naffness, gospel is the still the musical tradition from which so many of today’s popular music genres hail. You didn’t have to be a fan of the great choirmaster in the sky to appreciate the quality of His music.

Gareth Malone’s efforts to wring a melody from City bankers and firefighters in The Choir are always admirable, but this was a welcome opportunity to hear what a well-rehearsed, professional singing group can sound like. Plus the laid-back attitude of the competitors made for a refreshing change. Interviewed backstage after her choir’s performance, one woman simply shrugged: “If we win, hey, we thank God. If we lose, hey, we thank God!” That’s a sentiment you’d never hear on The X Factor.