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PUBLIC 'CONNED' BY TV MIMERS; Top music exec's blast at industry.

Byline: BRIAN RADFORD

SINGERS who mime on TV are conning the viewing public, says a senior figure in Welsh music.

Former S4C executive Robert Nicholls, now director of Ty Cerdd (Music Centre for Wales), launched a scathing attack on star performers who lip-synch when giving the impression they are singing live in front of a studio audience.

From his Cardiff office, he stormed: "The public is being conned. That's the bottom line. It's quite dreadful what's going on.

"To say this publicly could open a huge can of worms, but it's totally true. I know it as an absolute fact.

"I've protested to television companies about it, but artists are ruling the roost. The tail is wagging the dog.

"So the companies go along with the artist. Everything possible is done to keep the peace with the artist.

"It's a big scam. They give the impression that they are singing live when they are not. The public is being cheated.

"What these artists want to achieve is the best sound that has been produced in a studio situation. It comes down to an artist's basic ability and confidence in a live performance. There is no way it would occur in the classical world or in opera performances.

"Television producers and programme-makers should not allow it to happen. It's totally wrong."

Mr Nicholls acknowledged he was content editor at S4C and specifically responsible for its music and arts programmes when world famous mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins mimed during a special TV programme recorded at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

The S4C broadcast, entitled Katherine o'r Brangwyn, was screened in 2009 shortly after the singer had joined Warner Music and featured several songs from her new album Believe.

Avanti Media, who specialise in TV entertainment and documentaries, produced that S4C concert. The company's chief executive Emyr Afan did not respond to a request for a response put to him through his personal assistant at Avanti's head office in Cardiff.

Mr Nicholls detailed in an e-mail that Jenkins had mimed in the Katherine o'r Brangwyn programme, saying: "Due to various logistic and technical factors Katherine Jenkins was unable to perform the whole concert live.

"On the tracks that weren't completely live, Katherine Jenkins was singing over a guide vocal that already existed on the track. Katherine Jenkins always performs live when she can, unless outside factors dictate otherwise."

Mr Nicholls did not elaborate on what those "outside factors" could be, or how often they could arise.

The e-mail was very similar to a statement released by S4C at the time, to which Wales on Sunday was referred by representatives of Jenkins, now a global star and dancing up a storm on hit US show Dancing With the Stars.

Jenkins is far from alone in having mimed on television. Among the most famous miming performances was that of Britney Spears on The X Factor, which has also come under fire for using auto-tune to enhance performances.

Continuing his attack on mimers, Mr Nicholls said: "Yes, Katherine Jenkins did mime on a programme broadcast by S4C when I worked for them as contents editor, and I did state that in an e-mail to a viewer who believed she was not singing live.

"But let's be absolutely clear. Katherine Jenkins is far from being the only artist who has mimed in a television broadcast.

"Very few artists in that form of music perform live."

Robert Nicholls, pictured left, was born in Penclawdd, cockle-picking capital of Wales, and educated in Gowerton before gaining a music degree at Aberystwyth University, followed by a Masters degree for his writing on the history of religious music in Wales.

He was later head of music at Ysgol Gyfun Maes-yr-Haf in Cefneithin, a schools inspector, editor of cultural content at S4C, an accomplished solo organist and accompanist. He has conducted the National Cymanfa Ganu in Australia three times and established Cor Meibion Taf - twice winners of the National Eisteddfod.

He is now Director of Ty Cerdd, one of the major arts organisations housed in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, which has a membership of more than 400 music-performing societies throughout Wales, representing 22,000 artists. Ty Cerdd is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government, and PRS Music Foundation, and promotes Welsh music and composers.

POP IS FULL OF MIMING NOTORIETY * Elton John v Madonna: Elton sparked a long-running feud with the queen of pop by criticising the decision to award her Best Live Act at the Q music awards in 2004. He heckled: "Since when has lip-synching been live? Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay pounds 75 to see them should be shot."

Madonna hit back by saying she always sang live on tour, and criticised Elton for "trashing" other artists.

Elton re-ignited the controversy this year by advising Madonna to "lip-synch good" ahead of her performance at the Superbowl.

* Britney Spears: Britney put her onstage miming down to energetic dance routines that made it impossible to sing live too - but while that energy seems to have fallen by the wayside the miming hasn't.

During what was set to be her big comeback on The X Factor in 2008, Britney mimed her way through four minutes.

* Cheryl Cole: Another X Factor miming shocker! Cheryl Cole has often been accused of having a less than exceptional singing voice and show insiders had to deny she was miming on a live performance on the show in 2010.

* Audrey Hepburn: Hepburn's performance as Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 film of My Fair Lady is iconic. But it is not widely known that the performances of famous songs such as Wouldn't it be Loverly were actually dubbed, as Hepburn's voice was considered inadequate.

Instead, the studio turned to singer Marni Nixon, who also sang for The King and I and West Side Story.

* Nirvana: While other artists have landed themselves in hot water by insisting on miming their hits, Nirvana notoriously did the opposite. Prior to their performance on Top of the Pops in 1991, the band were told they had to lip-synch.

To register their displeasure, the band took this to the extreme by exaggeratedly pretending to play their instruments, with Kurt Cobian's fingers barely even touching his guitar. He did, however, sing with the microphone in his mouth - literally.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 6, 2012
Words:1053
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