Sing For Your Life: Review

Sing For Your Life, Monday 15th Oct, Channel 4, 8pm

I challenge you to watch this documentary without welling up. I do so for two reasons: firstly, because I want you to watch it anyway, and secondly, because I do not think it is physically possible.

Sing For Your Life follows a newly-formed choir, consisting solely of cancer sufferers, as they form, learn to sing, and finally perform live at the Albert Hall. But they also have another purpose: the choir is part of an experiment to find out whether singing can improve cancer-sufferers’ well-being.

Now, unquestionably, they are all terrible singers. But, as condescending as it sounds, this really couldn’t be further from the point. Because there’s something undeniably special about bad but enthusiastic choirs. They remind you of school, they remind you of quaint Welsh villages, they remind you that music, that quintessentially public thing, has somehow become something private that you listen to alone on the bus (or, if you’re a teenager, in public, on the bus). But the point is this: music doesn’t have to be good to be good.

Its a very unusual thing, really, because here we have a group of very average singers, some of whom have always dreamed of doing it, some joining in for a laugh, and all with a sob story: exactly the same ingredients as the X Factor, but somehow more honest, more wonderful, less cringeworthy.

There is, however, too much clapping. Far, far too much. They clap when someone introduces themselves, they clap at the end of each performance, sometimes they just clap because they seem to like the sound, but mostly they clap because some non-cancer sufferer has made them start. You feel like screaming: “They’re not children! Well, some of them are. But still, if there’s one group of people you should never patronise, its children!â€?, but it’s rather a mouthful.

All in all though, it’s a beautifully-made documentary, but beautiful in an unobtrusive way that serves only to emphasise what’s being said, like the tiny, hidden German-made microphones Tom Cruise probably imagines are hidden inside his house.