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Six of Britain's most talented young singer-songwriters...
I think my first song I wrote was when I was about five.
..and award-winning choirmaster Gareth Malone...
A-A-Ah. Do you feel the difference?
..team up with the biggest names in the industry...
Really, really deliver those lyrics to the audience.
..to prepare for a Big Performance of historical significance...
BELL RINGS Get under your desks immediately!
When there was an air raid, the mother probably thought,
"Am I going to die?"
..on the 100th anniversary of WW1.
Only one song will be chosen to represent the nation.
Writing the right song for the right occasion, that's the challenge.
Can they do their ancestors proud?
Or will the responsibility prove too much?
I think it's risky to put them under so much pressure,
but, you know, he who dares wins.
This is something we'll remember for the rest of our lives,
so I just don't want to mess it up.
Today Gareth struggles to motivate his musicians.
I know they're being creative, but they're just basically lying down.
There is terror in the trenches.
Gas, gas, gas!
And the group perform for a music megastar.
It's a new day at the Big Performance music headquarters.
Everyone is knuckling down on their WW1 songs
and spirits are high after last week's performance
in front of their idols, the Vamps.
I don't think I can get rid of, like, the excitement.
It's just amazing.
You just never thought you'd be performing in front of
someone you see in magazines, so it's really surreal.
I don't really know how it's going to get better, but I hope it does.
The guys did very well at writing a song for the Vamps.
Now I've seen what they're capable of,
I'm going to push them harder to achieve something really good.
To help the accomplished kids move their songwriting forward,
in today's challenge, Gareth plans to take them
right out of their comfort zone.
Last time you did a fantastic song for the Vamps.
Today, you're going to do a completely different style of music.
It will suit some of you better than others.
The artist that you are going to be performing to this week is...
# So turn around... #
Conor Maynard started writing songs in his bedroom
and recorded his first track aged just 15.
After being spotted on YouTube,
he went on to have a number-one selling album.
I'm really excited I'm meeting Conor Maynard.
I can't believe I've got this amazing opportunity.
-It's going to be really cool.
I'm going to start being a lot tougher on you now
because I've seen what you're capable of.
I think you can write really great songs and that's what
I want to see in front of Conor Maynard. Conor expects the best.
In just 24 hours, the musicians must write a song in Conor's R&B style
and then perform it to him.
To get things started, Gareth has chosen
Conor's song Turn Around for inspiration
So we are going to pick from this song
three words to base our song on.
Off you go.
Sky is quite a nice one.
-You've got one, two. Have you got a third one?
The kids pick "sky", "floating and "music".
OK, so we're going to go over to the songwriting area
and start writing our song.
Gareth wants the group to use the three words they have chosen
to brainstorm new lyrics for their song.
-I'm flying high in the sky.
-It is kind of an obvious rhyme.
I'm flying high in the sky with a pie in my eye.
A lot of their ideas were very, very cliched.
I want them to move beyond that.
We are drifting together.
-The sky is just beyond us.
-Your mind is clouded.
If you start to read these out, "music to my ears",
"your mind is clouded". Doesn't it start to feel like a song?
The brainstorming session seems to be inspiring the kids.
But where do established artists get their ideas from?
My inspiration to keep making music is
because there's always more music to make.
I get most of my inspiration from conversations that I've had
with my friends and family.
Personal experiences, things you want to get off your chest.
I can't imagine ever not being inspired to make new music.
With the song quickly taking shape,
Gareth decides to take a backseat.
But will the young songwriters keep up the momentum?
I think "is the night sky black or blue".
-So that's number one, yes?
I know that they're being creative,
but they are just basically lying down.
I want them to be energised, excited,
they are trying to make a pop song.
I'm just watching you, carry on.
God, such low energy!
I think they are riding high off their success in front of the Vamps
and now they are just take it easy.
Even the most vocal members of the group are taking a relaxed approach.
This won't be hard.
There's loads of things you can do, so it's not hard to write.
In my opinion.
Ben is a 13-year-old rocker
who knows what you need to make it as a performer.
My top singing tip would probably be confidence.
You can't go up on stage without confidence.
Back at the auditions, he made a big first impression on Gareth.
-You are tall.
-And his performance lived up to his hype.
# They have the eyes of a wise man
# So it got me through the... #
Ben is very talented. Very smart and obviously really creative.
Ben is going to do things with music, I really sense it.
Lovely to meet you, I'll be in touch.
Despite their laid-back attitude,
Ben and the others have managed to put a song together.
# Music to my ears... #
But so far, it's not impressing Gareth.
I think they need to shape up
because Conor Maynard is going to expect a really good song.
And I'm expecting it to be better than last time.
Gareth has decided the group need a break
from today's songwriting challenge.
In just four weeks' time,
they will be performing a song one of them has written
at the World War I centenary commemoration in Belgium.
To inspire their writing, Gareth wants them to experience
something every soldier went through.
The dreaded trenches.
The network of trenches was where the British and German armies
came face-to-face across Belgium and France.
The soldiers lives, ate, slept and fought in the muddy ditches
for many months at a time.
And now the young songwriters are going to experience it first-hand
on a recreated battlefield. But they won't be going in alone.
They will be under the watchful eye of the infamous Captain Dodds.
Right, you, stand still.
You lot, dress back along this line here. Facing that way.
Come along this line, straight line. Not hard.
Let's see if we can do something with you.
Tallest on the right, shortest on the left, move now.
-Who are you?
-Private Jasmine, sir.
Private Jasmine. Are you nervous, Private Jasmine?
-You are not? We'll soon change that.
Don't snigger. I can't abide sniggering.
There is an idiot on the end of this stick, and it's not at this end.
-Private Sam, sir.
-I'm really scared.
You are like a soldier, only much smaller.
Captain Dodd's strict style has rattled Sid and Sam.
But in 1914, young soldiers' lives
depended on following the orders of senior officers.
A few hundred yards that way is the enemy lines.
-So you must do what I tell you.
-ALL: Yes, sir!
Come on, let's go.
Dodds leads the battalion into the muddy maze of the trench.
The troop must remain disciplined and vigilant at all times.
We are going to go through these communications trench is now.
We can be seen, keep your heads down, keep quiet. OK, let's go.
Keep down, keep close. Keep down. This way.
Oh, it's a great smell!
Once safely in the bunker,
Captain Dodds spells out the harsh realities of trench life.
There are big rats in this trench.
If you go to sleep with food on your lips,
the rats will come along and lick it off.
If you see something that looks like a rat, that's a mouse.
If you see something that looks like a big cat, that's a rat.
But giant rats were the least of your worries on the front line.
Take your gas masks out. Unfold them, so they look like that.
One of the biggest fears was a poison-gas attack,
which every soldier had to be prepared for.
When you hear the command, "Gas, gas, gas!",
stick them over your head, grab the tube between your teeth
and then just tuck the hood in round, like that.
Oh, it's just awful.
I can't believe how they used to live, it's just awful.
Its horrifying, it's horrible, rats and mud,
discomfort, cold weather.
And the enemy just there, ready to kill you. It makes you think.
Some survivors were interviewed many years after the war ended.
Here is one soldier's account of being wounded under German fire.
I had a terrific pain in the back and the chest.
I found myself sinking down in the mud.
And I thought to myself, well, if this is death, it's not so bad.
For those who avoided injury,
maintaining and manning the 500 miles of trenches
was a daily ordeal.
Captain Dodds wastes no time in putting his new recruits to work.
OK, so your job as sentries
is to look out for the enemy coming over this way.
Keep your heads down and don't stick your hands up,
because if you stick your hand above the parapet,
this top bit here, you may get it shot off.
Periscopes enabled sentries to keep watch over German activity.
It was a vital, but boring job.
Soldiers who fell asleep on duty faced severe punishment.
I can see the trenches.
No helmets at the moment, not as yet.
We are really getting a taste of what it was like in the mud
and the horribleness that they had to go through.
They had to be doing this just for our country.
It's a disgusting place to be in to do it.
The sentry team are struggling.
And Molly, Ben and Sam aren't getting on much better.
Sandbags, two-thirds full.
They have been tasked with filling sandbags
to help reinforce trench defences.
There's a worm in this one, sir.
I couldn't do this on a daily basis
because, like, it's just so hard
and just not really worth living, to be honest.
After a hard day's work,
even mealtimes were not much of a morale-booster.
Rations were measly, meals repetitive,
and hot food practically non-existent.
I keep wanting to blow on it but then I remember it's stone cold.
It's not very nice.
I'd prefer it if it was warm,
but I think Ben likes it, he's eating all of it.
It sums up the experience, with this cold food.
Cold food, mud, and people shooting at you, it's not fun, is it?
And at any point in the day,
there was the chance of the most feared attack.
-Gas, gas, gas!
-Gas, gas, gas!
-Get your gas mask on, get your gas masks on, quick.
You still can't see, can you? Can you breathe?
In 1914, Sid could have been in real trouble.
A bit of a set-back, but I think we can deal with it.
I look like Donald Duck.
Is this all they had to protect themselves?
Only once the air was safe to breathe
could soldiers remove their masks. But this could take hours.
The kids have only had a small taste of life in the trenches,
but Gareth is hoping it will have a big impact on their songs.
Up till now, all the songwriting they've done about the war
has just been from imagination. Now it's from reality,
so I'm expecting a big upturn in their songwriting.
The whole experience has been uncomfortable, so I think
we can feel their pain from being in a trench for four years.
To help the songwriters feel more connected to World War I,
Gareth has been looking into their family histories.
Today, he wants to talk to Sid about his ancestor, George Davis.
His service record shows that at just 19 years old
he joined the 12th Battalion East Surrey Regiment.
I've actually managed to find out about your great-great uncle.
He went out in 1915 and, while he was out, his mother died.
So, as a memorial for her, he got some black crepe paper
and put it over his second button.
And the Army didn't like this
because they thought it wasn't the proper uniform.
So they strapped him to a big cannon wheel as a punishment
-and left him there for hours and hours on end.
I... I've never known that story.
Sid's great-great-uncle had been subjected
to field punishment number one -
a common penalty soldiers faced if they refused to obey orders.
Would you have been that kind of character,
do you think you'd have got into trouble?
I think I wouldn't have been the greatest and best,
the most politest soldier of all of them though.
Next it's Jasmine's turn to find out about her own link to the war.
Do you know anything about your relatives?
Did any of them fight in World War I, do you know?
-My great-great-auntie's husband was a soldier in the World War.
He was from St Lucia.
A lot of people came over from the Caribbean
and fought in the British West Indies Regiment.
For the men who bravely volunteered,
it was a 4,000-mile trip to the front line.
And any reminder of home was welcome.
There was an official list that the government made
of gifts that people could send from the Caribbean.
And this is something
that your great-great-uncle might have received.
The gifts were considered so important to morale
that the lists were published in Caribbean newspapers.
Local delicacies were top priority.
What have we got?
We've got some Jamaican guava jelly.
We got some...
A little bit of Caribbean fruit.
What's this? This is Solomon Gundy's spicy smoked-herring paste.
People would have sent that out
to make them feel a little taste of home.
Has this experience changed the way you're thinking about your song?
It's given me a bit more of an idea of how the soldiers coped.
Little things like this, they can give you hope.
And I think hope and positive spirit are what carried us through the war.
I hope what they get from today is just what people did.
It was not easy, it was brutal, it was horrible,
and so we owe it to them to write the right song.
With the rest of the group back at base,
Gareth is taking Sid and Jasmine to test-run their World War I songs.
This is Universal Music Studios, where some of the world's
greatest artists have recorded their hits.
They have an appointment to meet Laura Wright,
a super soprano with 1 million album sales under her belt.
# Through the dark cloud shines... #
Today, she is recording a cover of a famous World War I song.
And her feedback on Sid and Jasmine's commemorative songs
could be invaluable.
# ..come home. #
Very good, Laura. This is a Sid and Jasmine.
So, Laura, tell us a bit about the song.
OK, so it's called Keep The Home Fires Burning.
And it's written in 1914 by Ivor Novello.
# Keep the home fires... #
The song was written to keep everyone's spirits up back home
while loved ones were away fighting.
So, do you think your song will match up
to the song Laura was singing, 100 years old and still being sung?
-Wow, that's a big task.
-Jasmine, why don't you start?
# The war ends
# The peace came
# And the poppies grow
# The war ends
# The peace came
# Soldiers, let's go. #
So impressed, honestly,
the way that you've got all your inspiration so far.
I like how you've got a bit of your personality into the melody as well.
-I thought it was really beautiful.
-I love the bit about the poppies.
I have to admit, I got a little shiver up my arm.
Shall we have a listen to Sid's?
# The last thing they ever saw before the Great War
# Was the white cliffs staring back at them proudly
# Before the boat heading to France
# Was lost in the great blue sea. #
-Great. Well done.
-Well done, really good effort.
There are some really nice images in there, aren't there?
The idea of the boat getting lost in the mist as it goes out,
I thought that's really strong.
I think, Sid, if you can really think about pronouncing the words,
because the words you've used in that verse are so beautiful,
you really want people to hear them. So think about projecting them.
But both fantastic performances,
considering that's the first time you've performed them. Well done.
I thought really good, thank you so much, Laura.
It's a step in the right direction
for Sid and Jasmine's World War I song.
But how would professional artists approach such an emotional topic?
I think, for the kids, being 11, 12, 13,
it's going to be really difficult to write a song for World War I.
They'll really have to put themselves in those people's shoes
and try and get the emotion of what it was like back then.
I'd probably just think about how I would want to feel onstage,
the kind of emotions that I'd want to get across to the audience.
I guess stressing what's important about life is probably
the thing I would try and do.
It's not kind of thinking about sad things,
just thinking about how you would kind of bring out the happiness.
With the group reunited back at HQ,
it's time to get on with today's challenge -
performing their own song in front of one of their idols.
Conor Maynard, I think, is very, very near.
So let's make sure we get this absolutely perfect.
The kids took a chilled-out approach to writing the song
and now Gareth wants to see a change of attitude in rehearsal.
So, immediately... Hang on, thank you.
First things first. Mic technique.
You've got to be right there. This...
# Here's a nice guy... # Disaster.
# Drifting... #
Now, in the background there I had people like this...
Unfortunately, it looks like some of the group are still taking it easy.
The energy levels are really low today. This group are capable
of turning what they have into a great performance.
But that will take hard work
and I'm not seeing that happen at the moment.
He wants a show. He wants to see
six people that love what they are doing.
And at the moment, one or two of you
look like the headmaster might be coming.
It's not the headmaster, it's Conor Maynard.
Gareth isn't the only one with a few concerns about the performance.
Right out, you should be here by now.
I'm a bit worried about the song, because I don't think
we're putting enough energy into our performance.
Exeter lad Sam is only 11 years old.
But when it comes to music, he takes a rather mature approach.
I'm really passionate about songwriting.
Whenever I get back from school, I pick up the guitar
and I start to write new songs.
Back at the auditions,
he put on an accomplished performance of his own tack.
# Thinking of you
# In another place. #
And Gareth knew he had found the real deal.
I just felt like, yeah, you really are what you say you are.
You could see his guitar was worn away from playing.
You could tell he loves it and I really warmed to that.
Time has run out for Sam and the rest of the group back at HQ.
And Gareth is fearing the worst.
I don't think the kids are ready.
I don't think they're taking it seriously enough.
I hope it goes OK in front of Conor Maynard.
Conor Maynard is one of the biggest names in the UK pop industry.
With a number-one selling album under his belt,
he knows what makes a hit record.
I plan to be honest with them.
I think I'd only give them constructive criticism.
If it's amazing, I'll say yes, that's really good, well done.
I'm really excited about Conor Maynard performing.
It's going to be nerve-wracking,
but at the same time I'm just going to have to enjoy it.
Just can't wait to do it. I'm really excited.
-Hello. You all good?
Just to explain how we wrote the song.
We took three words from your song Turn Around,
which were sky, floating and music.
-The best words in the song. My favourite words.
And we've used those to inspire the song you are about to hear.
How's it been, writing an R&B song?
It's been tough, but I think
-we've just sort of linked with it, it's OK.
-Would you like to hear Drifting?
-I would love to hear Drifting.
Have a seat, let's perform.
It's a defining moment for the young songwriters.
But will their laid-back attitude cost them
in front of one of the biggest names in the music industry?
# Is the night sky black or blue?
# Is the love I have still there for you?
# We were always meant for trouble
# We were always meant for trouble
OUT OF HARMONY: # Drifting
# Reminding is heartache
# Stars within my reach
# The sky is beyond us
# The sky is beyond us
# Drifting. #
Wow! Very cool. Very, very cool.
It's an underwhelming performance by the group.
Guys, did that go perfectly?
-Did we forget the tune?
-When it started to go wrong and people were forgetting the melody,
people weren't coming in correctly, I thought,
"This is not the song they're written that Conor is hearing,"
so I'm disappointed today.
Gareth's not impressed, but will Conor see past the mistake?
Well, tell us.
I think you all have amazing voices.
I think you guys wrote a really, really nice song.
It was catchy and it repeats, people would remember it.
-Not a disaster, then.
-No, I would never say a disaster.
How did you guys think it went? What's your view on the performance?
I thought we did quite well.
I just think next time we need to be a bit more familiar with the tune
and what we're singing, to make it even better next time.
Yeah, I think for me, personally,
I think on the "drifting",
when we did the "drifting", I went a bit off tune.
I think the song sounded good
but I think we needed to be a bit more confident.
I could definitely see that you attempted to really perform.
I noticed when your verses came up, you guys stepped out. That was cool.
The first time I performed,
I literally clung to the microphone the whole time,
like, "Please don't let me fall over," all that kind of stuff,
and I didn't want to move. You just need a bit more confidence,
but you can learn that, and that comes with time,
once you've kind of mastered being on stage and not caring.
If you're just having fun, the audience will be there with you,
like "Yeah, raise the roof, whoo!" That kind of thing.
I think the performance went, like...
It went well, but there's areas for improvement.
A few people forgot their words, I think,
but we sort of just carried on and went with the flow.
I was expecting everybody to have a bit of nerves
but I didn't realise this was going to happen in the song.
I thought we'd rehearsed it enough.
It was really awkward forgetting the words, but, yeah,
I think we did well to carry on.
There was a moment when they were all sitting on the beanbags
during the writing session and they weren't digging deep,
and it just wasn't coming together like it came together for The Vamps.
We have to find a way to come back from this and do better.
It's been a difficult lesson for the group,
but things are only going to get harder.
They have just a few weeks to write a song
to commemorate of the biggest events in world history.
Writing a song for World War I would be extremely, extremely difficult.
For me, I'd go out and try to learn as much as I can about it,
just so that I have quite an in-depth kind of knowledge about it.
I wouldn't write a song about something I knew nothing about.
Thank you so much for your feedback. It's been really, really good.
I think...they've performed for you,
-and now it's only fair that you perform for them.
-It's only fair.
-He's going to sing Turn Around!
-Here we go.
-Go and have a seat.
# Turn around
# Open your eyes, look at me now
# Turn around
# Girl, I've got you
# We won't fall down, no
# We can see forever from up here
# Oh, yeah
# So long as we're together
# Have no fear, no fear. #
Here we go.
# So turn around
# Floating so high above the ground
# I'm floating so high
# Turn around
# Together nothing can stop us now
# Listen, baby, turn around
# Floating so high above the ground... #
A private gig from Conor has lifted the kids' spirits,
but can they bounce back from their first disappointment?
Next time, a new pop superstar comes to HQ.
I'm, like, really excited.
Molly and Ben debut their World War I songs.
That was one of the sternest-looking crowds I've ever seen.
And the group are asked to dance, but will it end in disaster?
It doesn't look balanced at the moment.
I don't want this to be a step backwards.
Choirmaster Gareth Malone is back, this time with a Big Performance of historical significance. Six of the UK's most talented young singer-songwriters have been chosen to represent the nation at a World War I centenary event. All six young musicians will write a song as a tribute to mark the occasion, but only one will be chosen by Gareth for the group to perform together on the big day.
The six songwriters are on a high after their success in front of The Vamps but Gareth plans to push them right out of their comfort zone in their next musical challenge. In just 24 hours the group must write a song in the style of R & B artist Conor Maynard, and he will be coming to critique their performance.
After the six soloists struggled to work collaboratively last episode, their extremely laid-back approach to the challenge is a concern for Gareth. Will it cost them dear in front of one of the biggest names in the music industry? Conor Maynard knows what makes a hit record - do our six kids have it in them?
With just four weeks to go until one of their songs is chosen for the World War I centenary commemorations, Gareth wants the kids to experience something every soldier went through - the dreaded trenches. In a recreated battlefield, under the watchful eye of Captain Dodds, they will understand the harsh realities of trench life: cold food, mud, rats the size of cats, gas attacks and the enemy ready to strike at any moment.
Will what they discover have an impact on their song writing? For Jasmine and Sid, history becomes personal when learn more about what their own ancestors did in the war, and they debut their songs in front of super soprano Laura Wright.