This December an exciting new quiz comes to Sky Arts. In each show, The Great Culture Quiz tests two teams of arts professionals on their knowledge of the arts and of their own institutions.
Along with 15 other arts organisations, The Bach Choir was invited to field a team of three. The trio comprises me, fellow singer Juliet Telford and General Manager of the Bach Choir Nick Cutts. We aren't necessarily the best quizzers of The Bach Choir - just the only members willing to take the risk of appearing a fool on national telly.
I have form for this sort of thing. I was a team captain on University Challenge in my first year at Cambridge. We did ok - as ok as a team of English and History students can do in a wide-ranging general knowledge quiz which requires advanced knowledge of mathematics and science. So The Great Culture Quiz seemed much more attractive to me; a half hour quiz of interesting cultural questions without the worry of naming capital cities and captains of football teams. Plus we seemed to have a good spread of arts interests between the team (aside from the obvious music interest!) Juliet and me more literature and art enthusiasts and Nick the film and pop culture buff.
Each team taking part in The Great Culture Quiz offers a prize which is awarded to the winners of each show. The Bach Choir's prize? VIP tickets to our Carmina Burana concert at the Royal Festival Hall in February 2015 along with an invitation to a drinks reception with the conductor and soloists. So far, so glamorous. But really all of the competitors are doing it for the glory of their team... and the promise of a gleaming trophy at the end of the series.
What starts as a fun day out soon develops into a highly competitive battle. Once those studio lights come up, friendships formed in the green room turn into spirited rivalry - hammering on the buzzer, jumping in (I don't know what came over me!) No points are deducted for incorrect answers so once the nerves dissipate there is nothing holding us back from having a go.
The producers encourage chatter in between the questions so with each show viewers will get the opportunity to learn more about the organisations taking part. In the first round we meet a team from the Royal Court Theatre who let us in on some of their backstage secrets. Team member Chris Campbell talks about the weight of responsibility he feels as Literary Manager. He receives nearly 3,000 unsolicited scripts a year and worries he might miss the next Jez Butterworth. On The Bach Choir team, Nick discusses some of the memorable tracks the choir has been invited to sing on including the Rolling Stones's hit You Can't Always Get What You Want and the soundtrack to Ridley Scott's epic Prometheus.
Hosted by the bright and beautiful Anita Rani, the quiz is influenced by QI and University Challenge. Over four rounds teams are tested on a wide range of arts trivia from David Bowie to George Eliot. The highlight of the show is undoubtedly the A-Z of Arts: a quick-fire finale where answers are worth more points than ever and teams keep control of the board until they get a question wrong. This round gives teams the chance to run away with the game - much to the frustration of the other side.
Sixteen teams will battle through first round heats to quarter-finals and semi-finals before the last two teams standing face each other in an extended 60 minute Grand Final where the winners will be crowned The Great Culture Quiz Champions 2014... and I believe someone mentioned a giant gleaming trophy?
Wish The Bach Choir luck!
The Great Culture Quiz is on weeknights at 7pm on Sky Arts 1.
The Bach Choir vs The Royal Court will be broadcast on December 3rd.