‘It was devastating’ – Barry Manilow drops community choir just minutes before Leeds show | Music | Entertainment
Members of the Love Pop Choir spent four weeks rehearsing after being approached by the American superstar’s team offering the chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity of backing him at his sell-out Leeds Arena show.
But after the 20-strong choir assembled on stage to soundcheck on Saturday evening a member of Manilow’s production team arrived to deliver the bad news.
Choir leader Lauren Elliott said: “It was devastating, they never even heard us sing.”
The choir have been raising funds ahead of the World Transplant Games to be staged in Leeds next month – and Saturday’s performance was due to be the climax of a 100 hours of singing fundraising video.
But they have now urged the 79-year-old legend to make a donation to support their charitable efforts to make up for cutting them from his show.
Lauren, 31, said: “We were there ready to sing our hearts out and everybody had put so much effort into getting ready. We really want something positive to come out of our experience after we put in so much work.
“We had put in so much hard work and sounded absolutely bloomin’ awesome. We did six extra rehearsals while everybody put in hours and hours of preparation time at home. We had friends and family buy tickets to see us perform on the stage at Leeds Arena alongside a global superstar, so it wasn’t just the singers who were left disappointed.”
Award-winning choir director Lauren was contacted by email four weeks ago by Douglas Hallenbeck, Manilow Tour choir director, who had seen their videos online and said he was recruiting local choirs for the UK tour and wanted the Love Pop Choir to perform at the 13,000 capacity Leeds Arena.
Lauren, who runs a number of “singing mums” choirs in West Yorkshire created a special ensemble of her singers – and recruited four male vocalists at the specific request of the Manilow team.
The professional musician asked if there was any budget available to cover her costs but was told the star – who has an estimated £79m fortune – would not be able to pay them anything.
Lauren said: “Obviously I had my own costs involved – it’s my job – but decided it was the opportunity of a lifetime for everybody so we would go ahead anyway.”
After arriving at the venue the choir were assembled on stage ready for the soundcheck to run through their two songs – It’s A Miracle and Let Freedom Ring – when a member of Manilow’s entourage arrived and said he had some “exciting news”.
He told them that Barry had decided to perform a new song that night, which prompted chuckles among the assembled singers who thought they may be asked to learn a new song at the very last moment.
But the American crew member added: “Don’t laugh just yet, I’m afraid it means you won’t be singing tonight.”
As the choir members reacted in disbelief he continued: “But Barry is willing to come out and have his photograph taken with you – and I’ve got you some complimentary tickets to the show.”
The deflated choir declined the offer but appealed to be allowed to sing one song on the stage before departing – and burst into Let Freedom Ring.
Lauren added: “I was so proud of everybody for standing firm and delivering that performance – even though it was to an empty arena. We have still sung on the stage and that can’t be taken away from us.”
Since April Lauren’s six choirs have been recording performances for the 100 hours of singing fundraising to try and raise £300 for Leeds Children’s Transplant Team’s Charity. They planned for footage of their performance with Manilow to mark the climax – and give their fundraising an extra boost.
They are also performing at the Transplant Games gala at the Royal Armouries in Leeds on July 31.
Lauren said: “I’ve sent an email to Barry’s people and really hope they choose to support us. “Everybody was so disappointed on Saturday night but this would be a really nice way for him to apologise and help a really good cause.”
To support Love Pop Choir’s fundraising visit https://leedshospitalscharity.
Barry Manilow’s management failed to respond to a request for comment.