You’ve heard of Little Tommy Tucker singing for his supper, and you know all about that stool-pigeon singing like a canary, don’t you? Now listen up as CHAPS Choir and their special guest Samantha Whates release the power of their tonsils for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). Their charity single Anyone Who Knows What Love Is is a one-off release in support of a charity dedicated to preventing suicide among young men.
CHAPS Choir began as one of those pub ideas where one of the lads says “Why don’t we start a choir”, and everyone says, “Gerrrawaaay!”, and then someone says, “Well why not?”. Before you know it, everyone wants to join in, and now you just can’t stop these boys from singing. The ensemble grew organically into a performing model for a crowdchoir that challenges perceptions of what a male voice group should be. Their repertoire is fun and quirky, but the singing is organized, disciplined and nicely balanced.
That was three years ago and since then they’ve played festivals across the UK, performed in the Natural History Museum, flashmobbed London tourists and sung with soul legend (it says here) Omar. On Anyone Who Knows What Love Is, they are joined by 1320Radio favourite Samantha Whates who is fast proving that she can sing just about anything, and sing it with an uncommon depth of feeling.
The tune, originally by Irma Thomas has been excavated from the archeological remains of doo-wop/ r’n’b crossover pop that launched the careers of many a female singerette, except Thomas herself. She received belated recognition for a career that saw her work with some of New Orleans finest, including Allen Toussaint and the wonderful Dr. John.
In this version, Samantha Whates’ aerodynamic lead vocal enters and hovers above a simple piano accompaniment before rising on the warm thermals of the massed male voices. Men aren’t exactly famous for delicacy but the CHAPS Choir are manfully gentle and acutely aware that Samantha Whates is a rare and gentle songbird with a great capacity to wring emotion from just a few lines. It’s important, given the subtext of human sadness and frailty, that the couplet “They can’t see you like I can, but anyone who knows what love is will understand” should be framed so beautifully.
Choirmaster, Dominic Stitchbury, speaking to 1302Radio said of the project, “We collaborated two years ago with Samantha at our 1st birthday gig at Shoredtich Church. Samantha played a stunning support set and we thought that having her backed by a group of singing men would be a great juxaposition. We sang backing vocals to one of her songs, Three Miles Left and thought we should come together on a song new to both of us. I had just heard Irma Thomas singing Anyone Who Knows What Love Is at the end of one of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror episodes and thought it would work well for Samantha and the chaps.