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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£19.99+ £1.26 shipping

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Trollope's 'The Choir' is by far my favourite of her novels (and was one of my top reads in the 1990s). Inevitably when this TV series came out in 1995, I found some elements didn't quite measure up to the original, and was a bit disappointed. Revisiting it some 20 years later, I was much more impressed - although I feel the series had its problems, there is much to praise.

Chief among them must be the acting of David Warner (surely the perfect choice for passionate headmaster Alexander Troy), John Standing (a brilliant kindly and slightly bumbling Bishop Robert), James Fox (a superbly suave and tormented Dean Hugh Cavendish) and Peter Vaughan (the Labour councillor Frank Ashworth who finds himself trapped between his dislike of so-called 'elitism' and his love of music, and fundamental liking for Alexander Troy). There's various other strong cast members too. Nicholas Farrell may not be great at miming conducting (or singing) but he conveys a sense of Music Director Leo Beckford's passion, intensity and charisma. Anthony Way (a real-life chorister) can be very touching as chorister Henry Ashworth: his inauguration and subsequent duet with his friend Chilworth (a finely-acted cameo role), his scenes with his grandfather and his realization that his parents' marriage is ending were particularly fine. Richenda Carey slightly overdoes Bridget Cavendish's bossiness and coyness to start with, but her depiction of the character's realization that her marriage is falling apart was superbly done, and she can also be very funny. The actress playing Ianthe Cavendish, the Dean's energetic but spoilt daughter (Clare someone - can't remember her surname) was perfect in this role, making you both want to shake the character and feel very sorry for her, and also impressed by her determination. The actors playing Nicholas and Sandra were terrific too, and the woman playing Bishop Robert's wife. The setting - Gloucester (though I think Aldminster is meant to be Bristol?) was beautiful, the script often strong, and there were fine performances by Gloucester Cathedral Choir, A great deal to like, then.

The problems, I felt, were partly in terms of the scenario, partly in terms of casting and partly in terms of music. While the script was good on the whole, I don't feel it quite took into account how in the original novel Trollope gives an awful lot of back story to help us understand the characters, plus lots of passages showing their thoughts. As with adaptations of Thomas Hardy (who does the same thing), simply taking passages of dialogue from the book direct meant that occasionally exchanges seemed a bit cryptic - we just don't learn enough about some of the characters. On the other hand, when the script DOES depart from the book (as with a bit of Sally's row with Frank in episode 2 or with Leo in episode 3 or the row between Alexander and Felicity at the end of episode 5) the drama tends to abruptly veer towards melodrama - sometimes with unintentionally comic overtones. This isn't a big problem, but jars occasionally - you really need to read the book as well as see the series to truly understand these characters.

As for casting - to be honest I thought neither Jane Asher (Felicity Troy) or Cathryn Harrison (Sally Ashworth) were entirely ideal. Asher deals with Felicity largely by staring into the distance in a soulful way - and the decision to cut the details about her work as a poet in the script meant that she just came over as a rather fey housewife, rather than a strong literary personality in her own right. Harrison is lovely in the scenes between Sally and Henry but doesn't really convey enough of Sally's enthusiasm for her new life or her courage - she can come across as rather petulant and bad tempered. There's also no real chemistry between her and Farrell for much of the time, meaning that their smiles can come across as a bit fixed, and some of their romantic exchanges unintentionally funny - there's no sense of the warmth and fun that Leo and Sally have in the book. True, they are only two characters out of a large cast, but their lack of real depth still weakened the drama a bit for me.

Most problematic though was the music. First, if Henry was making an award-winning recording, why only show him recording one song, Panis Angelicus (not even that good a piece). It made it seem as though the CD was only three minutes long - and I got really tired of hearing 'Panis Angelicus' all the way through the last couple of episodes. Couldn't they have picked something a bit more interesting? But much worse was the awful television score composed, which would have sounded more appropriate for some kind of fantasy epic, or historical romance. Wildly over-the-top melodramatic backing music, or sentimental romantic melodies sounding like a rip off of Concierto d'Aranjuez tended to give too many scenes a farcical element (one friend commented that the music accompanying Frank Ashworth's resignation from the City Council made it seem as though he was Napoleon being exiled to Elba). The final scenes of Episode 6 veer right off into sentimentality, with an unexplained balloon fiesta, and a weird fantasy-like sequence to close.

Not altogether a perfect dramatic rendering of the book, then - but what TV series is? In the end, I would say that the remarkably fine acting from much of the cast, the interesting story and the cathedral music makes it well worth a watch- and it's certainly better than those lifeless adaptations of 'The Rector's Wife' and 'A Village Affair'. Four stars, for sure.
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on 14 November 2009
An excellent production which is well worth purchasing especially for those interested in church architecture and choral music.
The breakdown of family relationships involves a child and a box of tissues nearby is useful!
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on 8 January 2015
Arrived promptly. Reasonable value. Well put together. Good cast and acting. Wife well pleased with her gift and enjoying the DVD.
Regards David Barton-Smith
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on 15 November 2013
Although it is several years since this was serialised on TV, it is still as fresh as ever. The music is so moving, and Anthony Way excels as the young chorister
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on 7 September 2012
Have been a fan of Joanna Trollope's for years and the making of 'The Choir' and being able to get it here in Australia is absolutely fantastic. The adapation of the book is very good, the beautiful voices of the Choir does bring a tear to the eyes, the Cathedral itself stunning and a stellar cast of my very favourite actors. Highly recommend this DVD.

THANKYOU AMAZON.CO.UK for my being able to purchase this DVD.
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on 10 February 2017
Well worth seeing again. I loved it when it was a TV series back in the 80s in Australia, I then bought the book which makes excellent reading, as well as the CD. Now having the DVD completes having the set. This in my opinion is the sort of series that is worth repeating on the BBC, it has a strong cast, very compelling storyline & the music is beautiful.
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on 8 April 2014
I had been looking for a copy of this DVD for some time, but I was put off by the price. However when I found a used copy in Amazon which was a tenth of the price of the new one, I pitched in and bought it. The plot of the series is good since the original book is excellent. I am sure that it is a DVD worth seeing again and again.
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on 16 September 2014
Very good BBC mini-series of largely sympathetic characters creating predicaments for themselves. Not having read the book, I can't directly compare it to this production, but it is steadily paced, interesting, plausible, well-written with good acting and, of course, Anthony Way's singing. I recommend the CD also.
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on 28 December 2014
I love The Choir, and have just finished watching it. I had bought this before, when it first came out, and sent it to my sister in Australia. I wanted to see it again, so I bought it again, and this time, I will keep my copy. It is just wonderful, esp. the boys Choir singing.
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on 25 October 2014
Found this an odd Dvd Almost as though the 2 dics had no relation with each other and needed a central disc to carry the 1st disc into the 2nd. Probably been edited too heavily! A shame because the good story is far too good to cram it into two dics,
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