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Six of Britain's young singer-songwriters...
I'm really passionate about songwriting.
Whenever I get back from school, I start to write new songs.
..and award-winning choirmaster Gareth Malone...
-Say it more!
-I am an expressive singer.
..team up with big name stars...
Really feel it from your heart.
..to prepare for a Big Performance of historical significance...
-Gas, gas, gas!
-Gas, get your gas masks on, quick.
..on the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Only one song will be picked to represent the nation.
Writing the right song for the right occasion, that's the challenge.
Can they make their ancestors proud,
or will the responsibility be too great?
I think it's risky to put them under so much pressure,
but, you know, he who dares, wins.
This is something we're going to remember for the rest of our lives,
so I just don't want to mess it up.
Today, the music maestros must dig deep
for their next songwriting challenge.
-Nobody's going to cry? Just Sid.
-I'm sorry, guys(!)
They enrol at a wartime school...
If you have ears, use them to listen!
..and the group give it everything they've got
for superstar Pixie Lott. But is it enough?
The big question is, were you moved, Pixie?
At Big Performance HQ,
the kids are busy working on their World War I songs,
and the mood is positive.
Last time, the group had success writing an upbeat song
for Eliza Doolittle.
-Yeah, I loved it!
-Well done, everyone!
I think it went really, really well.
One of our best performances yet.
I think it is a real confidence booster for everyone.
I think we all really connected, and the dance moves,
we were all enjoying it and the energy was high.
But their writing task today is the toughest yet.
They've got to write a song this time that I think is going to push them
emotionally as well as technically.
We had a really, really strong performance last time.
I want to make sure the next one is even stronger.
Very excitingly, this week's singer you're going to be performing to
-is already here, and I'm going to go and get them now.
-Oh, my God.
-They're actually here?
Hi, it's me, I'm Pixie! KIDS GROAN
Yes, I'm here.
Pixie Lott, Pixie Lott is coming to see you. Excited?
-Yes, I love Pixie Lott so much!
Brit pop princess Pixie Lott began her career aged just 14,
and now has a string of number one hits to her name.
Ah! I can't believe it.
Her voice is just amazing, and that I'm really in awe of.
She's very unique and individual
and there's not many other pop stars like her at the moment.
I am definitely the biggest fan here of "the Lott".
Gareth has chosen her ballad Cry Me Out as inspiration
for the kids' emotional songwriting challenge.
# The tears that will fall mean nothing at all
# It's time to get over yourself. #
It's a hard thing for any performer of any age to make an audience
feel something, especially to make them feel moved.
To help give their song genuine emotion,
Gareth wants the group to draw on their own life experiences.
I think Pixie Lott's song is about a break-up,
so what everyone can relate to are painful goodbyes.
Does everyone have an experience of saying goodbye to somebody or
-something that you've loved?
-My rabbit died a few years ago.
No, not a rabbit! Oh, that's the worst.
Sid, who have you had to say goodbye to?
I think when I was about five or six, my dog died.
-So you know the pain of saying goodbye.
-What about you, Molly?
I think, I don't know what age I was, I think I was about...
five, my mum and dad split up, so... That was really hard.
A very difficult thing. Very difficult.
These things happen, don't they, in life?
And that's real life, and it's worth putting into a song, isn't it?
Molly was very honest and said that her parents split up
when she was young and she remembers saying goodbye in that situation.
A very difficult thing.
But this could turn into a very positive use of that
emotion in a song.
I think everyone in the group has had a goodbye moment,
and I think that will really help all of us to connect to the song.
Sharing their emotional stories has got the group thinking.
But how do the professionals approach writing a moving song?
I've tried in the past to write a universal song that would
appeal to millions of people all over the world, and it always fails.
When I just try and write a song that connects with me,
people understand it because it's true.
I probably just think about the emotions that I would want to
get across to the audience - who is going to be in the audience?
What kind of setting will it be?
People know when it's natural.
-It's real as well.
-It's coming from you.
Now it's time for the group to turn their emotions
into lyrics for the song.
-I was going to say that!
-I'll be waiting for you.
-Watching you walk out of my life.
-We both see the same sky up above us.
-We've got a romantic here.
I like it.
One of today's soloists is 11-year-old Molly,
whose songwriting comes straight from the heart.
I normally write songs about love, which is weird,
because I've never been in a real relationship before.
Back at the auditions, she performed one of her own tracks.
# It's like everything in the world has fallen apart
# Really miss you, but where should I start? #
And Gareth was in no doubt when it came to picking her
for the Big Performance.
I think she's full of life, full of fun, she's got a nice voice.
I hope she's ready for this challenge.
Writing all those love songs seems to have paid off for Molly,
but Gareth is concerned about today's other soloist - Sid.
-Nobody's going to cry? Just Sid.
-I'm sorry, guys(!)
You can't carry on.
He can sometimes be a bit silly and mess around.
I really need him to work hard this week,
because he's going to have to actually sing emotionally.
Putting today's Pixie Lott challenge on the back burner,
the musicians must now focus on their World War I songs.
In two weeks, they will be performing a track
one of them has written at an historic event
in front of Princes William and Harry.
To help inspire their writing,
Gareth wants to show the kids a side to World War I
they can easily relate to.
Right, here we are. Find a place.
To complete your World War I songs, I think you need to have an
appreciation of what was going on on both sides of the Channel.
None of you have considered what was happening back home.
Today is going to change all that.
Are they ready to find out what school was like 100 years ago?
Anyone who messes around in my classroom will be punished.
You can wipe that smile off your face immediately.
In 1914, teachers were very strict,
and punishments if you misbehaved were harsh.
But the class don't seem to be taking this seriously.
You! Into the corner.
And Ben is first to discover the consequences.
Stand facing the corner on one leg.
Right, you may sit.
-Malone here shall be my classroom monitor for the day.
-Malone, you may get the slates.
Young sir, you may rejoin the class. Do hurry up, Malone.
Yes, Miss. Sorry, Miss.
Hands behind your backs, no giggling. Repeat:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
Peter Piper picked a pick of peckled pepper...
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper!
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
You, spell "foreign".
If you have ears, use them to listen!
Rise, follow me.
I can't believe there were teachers anywhere near her severeness
in World War I.
Stand up, you snivelling idiot.
But super strict teachers were the least of your worries
in wartime Britain.
You see, children,
it's not just the soldiers at the front that are being attacked.
We at home in London are also under attack.
The recent invention of planes meant that, for the first time,
the country was at risk from air raids.
German bombing resulted in thousands of casualties,
and no-one was safe.
At some point during this class, you will hear an air raid siren.
As you know, we are at war.
When the siren sounds,
I want you to get under your desks as fast as you can.
Am I quite understood? Yes, Miss McCreadie!
-Yes, Miss McCreadie!
Everyone, get under your desks, immediately!
I would have been really, really scared when there was an air raid.
And when they had to get under the desks,
they would have probably thought, "Am I going to die now?"
It's just awful, thinking that.
Even hiding under your desk didn't guarantee safety if a bomb struck.
Have you heard about the school in east London where 18 children
have been killed by a German bomb falling on it?
On 13th June 1917, a German bomb fell
on an infant school in Poplar, east London.
The 18 children were given one of the biggest funerals
London has ever seen.
Had you thought about
what it would have been like for children at home
while the war was going on?
No, I hadn't actually thought about that,
I was just so focused on the soldiers,
about them doing what they were doing,
that I wasn't really focusing on what was going on back home.
It wasn't just the people
on the front-line fighting that were fearing for their lives,
all the people collectively made an effort in the war.
It is horrible to think that their life is going to end
because of a war.
A tough lesson, but it's more food for thought
for the young songwriters.
Almost everyone in the country has a link to World War I.
Today Gareth is taking Sam and Molly to the Imperial War Museum
to find out how their ancestors were involved.
They are meeting historian Nigel Steel.
Tell us what we've got here.
We've got a little medical group here to start with.
I think one of you has got a medical connection,
-someone was a nurse, I think?
-I think it is my great-grandmother.
Your great-grandmother. This in fact is your great-grandmother.
-Have you seen this photo?
-There she is.
Obviously this is after the war.
Molly's great-grandmother Mary Jones
was born in Bangor, in north Wales.
But as a young teenager she moved to London
and trained as a nurse,
caring for soldiers returning from the front at the end of the war.
What would it have been like for my great-grandmother in the war?
I think for most of the nurses the principal thing was
the emotional strain. They would see these very, very serious wounds.
This here, it is a fairly heavy piece of shrapnel,
this hit somebody in the jaw.
So that is going to do some serious damage.
You would have literally a hole.
The first way they started to try and mend these
is they used to make these tin implants.
So, say if that part of your face was missing, they would make this,
on a mask, and it would just sit in the corner there.
I can't imagine ever having to go through what she did.
She had to do some really terrible things like deal with people
who had shrapnel in their faces, really bad injuries.
It is quite horrific seeing what she had to go through.
By 1918 it wasn't just the nurses
who knew about the horrors of World War I.
The public were well aware of the terrible conditions
and dangers of the front line.
But young men were still ready and willing to do their duty
and Sam's ancestor was one of them.
Sam, here we have something very exciting from your family history.
This is your great-great-grandfather and his brother. This is Reginald.
Towards the end of the war, Reginald wrote
some letters to his then sweetheart,
these are the letters that he wrote.
Have a little look at this bit. This was written in 1918.
In 1918 Sam's great-great-uncle Reginald was only 16 years old,
but with the war raging on
it looked like it wouldn't be long
before he joined the battle.
Interesting bit here, it says, "Dear, I should like to get up
"in the air with my pals, who follow me wherever I go."
He obviously wanted to go up in an aeroplane.
"We are in the same place now as when it started.
"But I am willing to do my bit up in the air, tomorrow, if they want me."
How does this feel, to read these things from your relative?
I suppose as it was written in 1918, he sort of would have known
what it was like in the war, but he was still willing to do his bit.
I sort of feel quite proud, in a way.
-Do you? It's quite brave, isn't it?
He has drawn a little plane. "This seat is reserved for me."
It was a bit weird,
because it was like obviously 100 years ago
and obviously he is not alive now
so I wouldn't be able to talk to him about it.
But having the letters sort of put me in the shoes of him
and made me feel what he would have felt.
Sam and Molly have both discovered a bit more
about their ancestors
but now Nigel has a surprise for Gareth.
-We've also been doing research into your family.
So now we have a direct connection with the First World War for you,
which we will run you through
and explain a little bit more about that for you as well.
The Imperial War Museums have just launched
their Lives of the First World War website.
These are the bits of evidence that various researchers have found,
all entered here.
It aims to document the lives of all those
involved in the conflict
and Gareth's great-grandfather, James McEnroe, is on their system.
-This is a photograph of him.
-I have never seen this man. That is amazing.
He looks like my dad!
He is wearing the uniform of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
And this date here, May 19, 1915,
is the date on which he then goes into the fighting front.
It is written down here as the Balkans.
At that date, that puts him at Gallipoli.
The Gallipoli campaign in Turkey was one of the biggest disasters
for the British in World War I.
More than 20,000 men died in the terrible conditions.
One of the common things was sickness.
You got terrible diarrhoea, dysentery...
And we can see that your grandfather is eventually discharged sick
by March of 1916.
I've spent so much time getting you into your family histories
and making you understand the First World War,
and I've realised I knew nothing myself about my own family history.
It's really brought it powerfully to life.
Especially to see this amazing photo.
It's 100 years ago, but everybody has a connection.
It's very exciting to find out about a part of my family
that I knew nothing about.
That they did something that's worthy of being proud.
Everyone is starting to feel a bigger connection to the war.
But are Molly and Sam's commemorative songs right
for the prestigious occasion in Belgium?
Gareth has assembled a rather imposing audience for a dummy run.
It's time for you, Molly and Sam, to try out your WWI songs.
And what better place to do it than at the Imperial War Museum,
to four historians? Shall we start with you, Molly?
# Friendship and unity
# All one community
# We all stand together as one
# Let's relive the moment of the Christmas truce
# When a football match was all we had to lose
# A hundred years have passed and peace is here to last. #
APPLAUSE Well done, Molly.
So, historians, experts in this period,
you know when things are at the right tone.
Do you feel that Molly's got it?
What I really liked about it was that it sounded quite folky.
And you mentioned in the song, the word "friendship".
I think your song picked up on that.
Both in the way it sounded and the words that you used.
You had some really nice phrases in there.
-The flow of the piece was really nice.
-I feel like the tone is good.
It's not overly sombre, but it has an emotional heart to it
that I think is appropriate.
So, a very strong start, I think.
So, Sam, off you go.
# Both sleeps over, 5am
# Depart in the morning rain
# I have to leave my family behind
# I know I'll miss them
# When I'm far, far away
# But I'm sure
# That I'll be fine
# In the Great War. #
There we are. Sam has quite a different song. What did you think?
I think using the phrase the "Great War" is very good, actually.
We call it the "First World War",
but, for a long time, it was known as the "Great War"
because it was the first of the 20th century's total wars.
The only thing I would look through
is maybe try and find two or three phrases
that the soldiers then may have used. Put that in the language.
What I like about Sam's song
is that he's taken everything that he's learned about WWI,
and put it into the first person.
So, it has a simplicity, it has a kind of truth about it.
-Thank you so much.
We must get on with our songwriting! Come on!
Back at base, the group must get rehearsing for today's challenge.
# I'll miss you while you're gone... #
Gareth is doing some coaching with soloist Sid.
The group have written an emotional goodbye song for Pixie Lott,
inspired by her hit, Cry Me Out.
For this to be a real success,
I would want Pixie to have a tear running down her cheek
at the end of it. I would love her to be genuinely moved by our song.
I don't know whether we can pull that off.
# Give me one escapade before you're gone! #
BOOM! And you've exploded!
Sid's definitely got the lungs for a solo,
but can he deliver real emotion in his performance?
Well, I think your voice is good.
I think, sometimes, you overblow it a bit and push a bit hard.
With singing, it's about SHOWING your audience what you're feeling.
You don't want to feel here what you should be feeling here.
Tell me why you're singing this song? It's your dog, wasn't it?
It's one of the few memories I really have of my childhood.
I remember he was really old, and for the last few months
that I remember, he just lied in the corridor.
Did you get to say goodbye?
I don't actually remember saying goodbye because I was at school
at the time and I think it was when I came home
that I actually found out.
-Oh, so you never really said goodbye?
-I never said goodbye.
So, this is the perfect opportunity.
This is my opportunity to say goodbye.
I think Sid's challenge as a soloist in an emotional song
is to make Pixie Lott feel something
and I think that's going to be really difficult.
-Wow, you've got a big task ahead.
Thank you very much. Thanks, Sid.
I'd really like Pixie to feel the emotion
that I'm trying to put into it and how this means something to me.
I'm trying to make this a really real performance.
Time has nearly run out for Sid and the other songwriters.
Pixie Lott is now just minutes away.
And everyone has high expectations for the performance.
I hope that Pixie Lott feels the emotion
that we're putting into the song.
I'd like her to connect to it
and think of somebody that she had to say goodbye to.
If they really go for this and put their heart and soul into it,
that will be moving.
Pixie Lott has three number-one songs to her name
and knows what makes a hit record.
I'm hoping to hear some amazing voices and some soul.
I'm excited to see what they've come up with.
-Welcome, Pixie. Come in.
-Thank you. Hello, everyone.
-This is Pixie Lott as I think you all know very well.
-Nice to meet you all.
So, how have you guys found writing this song?
I think we're all connecting in very different ways.
My one's a bit of a silly one, it's to my dog.
So, I think, because we've got a connection to the lyrics
in the song, I think we're all going to put in a lot of emotion.
It's based on Cry Me Out in the sense that your song
is a break-up song, ours is a goodbye song.
-Yes, emotional songs.
-An emotional song, yeah.
-I can't wait to hear it!
We're looking for emotional performances, aren't we?
OK, dig deep, everyone! Are you ready?
-Go for it, guys. Good luck!
-Let's do it.
Performing to Pixie is a big deal for the songwriters.
Can they deliver their goodbye song with real emotion?
# I miss you while you're gone
# I'll be waiting for you
# Give me my last goodbye before you're gone
# My heart is weeping
# Tears falling from my eyes
# This pain is never-ending
# Since we said goodbye
# So we'll break up
# Walk out of my life
# Underneath the same stars
# We'll see the same times
# Goodbye. #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-That was beautiful!
-Pixie, how did you feel about that?
I loved it, yeah, it was brilliant!
I could see you guys really getting into it. Really, really great job.
-I'm very impressed!
-Well done, everyone!
Give yourselves a round of applause.
Well done, guys! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!
The big question is, were you moved, Pixie?
I was, especially from hearing some of the stories beforehand
of what you were relating to when you were singing.
These are actually my favourite songs to sing
because you can really get into the character of the song.
Are there any areas for improvement?
Because we've got a very big performance coming up.
The only thing that maybe you can work on more is just really,
really delivering those lyrics to the audience,
so they can feel that emotion,
especially if you're not even singing a solo,
to make sure you're still a part of it.
And, don't blend in. Everyone has their story to tell,
so make sure you tell it to your audience.
How do you show your emotions to the audience when you're performing?
Very good question, Jasmine.
Again, I think I get back into the character of what the song is about.
If it's about a personal experience of mine,
I try to go back to that time and how I felt, and sometimes,
when you really go into that character
or that situation you were in,
you can well up and get really emotional.
So, you just have to tap into that, I think.
To stand in front of somebody like Pixie Lott
and pull off an emotional performance
and one that is expressive and characterful, that's good news.
I feel like we have achieved our aim,
because our aim was to make sure Pixie Lott connected to the song.
You could see her, she had teary eyes.
So, so happy, because I proper pulled this one off,
and because it was my solo, it was even better.
Writing a convincing moving track is a fantastic accomplishment.
But the singers face an even bigger challenge,
finishing off their commemorative songs.
That was their last group performance
before I have to make the very difficult decision
of which individual World War I song
is going to be chosen to represent the nation.
I've heard that the kids are going to be writing
a song for the World War I event,
and I think they're going to have to put themselves
in those people's shoes and try and get the emotion
of what it was like back then.
So, they've performed for you, would you like to perform for them?
I would love to, if you'd like to watch?
I think they would. That's great!
# You see me howling at the moon
# It's what you taught me to do
# I touched that flame just to get back closer to you
# You see the ashes by the fire
# The only life that I knew
# I touched the flame just to get back closer to you
# Show me the way
# I've travelled too far with a cross on my back
# And a hole in my heart
# Now you say there's no love to be found
# Went six feet down and I thought that'd make me closer to you!
# Why don't you lay me down, lay me down, lay me down
# Won't you lay me down, lay me down, lay me down... #
The singer-songwriters' stint at the Big Performance HQ
is nearly at an end.
Can they put all they've learnt into their World War I songs?
Next time...the group's final history trip is an emotional one.
-I can't believe he's so young...
The songwriters make waves on the radio.
That would be welcome in the Live Lounge any day.
And it's decision time.
Whose song will be picked to represent the nation in Belgium?
The song we've chosen is...
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 music maestros must dig deep for their next song writing challenge. They had success writing an upbeat song for Eliza Doolittle but their next writing task pushes them emotionally as well as technically, and pop megastar Pixie Lott will judge their creativity. Can they write a moving song based on her hit ballad Cry Me Out?
To help put genuine emotion into their song Gareth wants the group to draw on their own life experience. For one of the soloists, Sid, it's the memory of his dog dying that pulls on his heart strings but can the joker of the group be serious when it counts?
The kids step back in time to attend a 1914 school lesson and get a greater understanding of how World War I impacted those at home. Gareth takes Sam and Molly R on a trip to the Imperial War Museum to find out more about their ancestors in the war and has a surprise himself. All the kids are beginning to feel a bigger connection to the war, but are their commemorative songs heading in the right direction? Molly R and Sam test run theirs in front of a rather prestigious audience.
With Pixie on her way, there's just enough time for a last minute music session with soloist Sid - he's got the lungs for a solo but can he deliver real emotion in his performance? Pixie has high expectations for their soulful ballad.