This primary assembly looks at the music and the problem with judging appearances, using Britains’s Got Talent‘s star Susan Boyle. It looks at the reasons why her TV appearance has moved so many people.

Susan Boyle has become a singing sensation, thanks to an appearance on the reality TV talent show Britain’s Got Talent, and over 80 million subsequent viewings of it on the internet video-sharing website YouTube. This assembly looks at the reasons why her TV appearance has moved so many people.

YouTube video of Susan’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent.

How many people here have been watching Britain’s Got Talent? [Encourage children and staff to raise their hands]

Yes, it’s been very exciting, hasn’t it? Some people enjoy watching it to see some of the eccentric people who enter the competition − some who have no talent at all but just want to be on the telly − but most of us watch it hoping to see something, or someone, extraordinary.

And we really have seen some extraordinarily talented people: there’s 12-year-old Shaheen Jafargholi, the boy from Wales with the big voice; 39 year old Julian Smith, the music teacher who wowed the audience when he played his soprano saxophone; there’s the amazingly talented and innovative dance group Flawless, a group of friends from north London; and then there’s Susan Boyle, the 47 year old woman from Scotland. And wow – what a talent she has.

[Show video clip in case some children haven’t seen it]

Susan has a very beautiful singing voice. She moved her audience, including the judge Amanda Holden, to tears with her version of the song I Dreamed a Dream from the musical Les Misérables.

She became an instant hit, and the video of her singing has been watched over 80 million times on YouTube, by people in countries all over the world. She’s been interviewed for local papers and on TV programmes in the UK and in America. It must all be rather overwhelming for a shy woman who shares her home with her cat, Pebbles!

Susan’s story
Susan was born and raised in the small collection of villages that is Blackburn in West Lothian, Scotland, a short drive from the city of Edinburgh.

When she was born, she suffered from a lack of oxygen and that has left her with some learning disabilities. Because of this, and because she was a quiet girl at school, she was bullied by some of the other children she went to school with.

’They did a bit, but they always do that with someone who is quiet and I tended to be quiet at school.’

‘I come from a musical family. It has always been there, from my father down. Singing is always something I have done. It has been in my blood since I was 12 and took part in school productions and shows.’

Susan worked for several different charities and enjoyed singing in local competitions and events but gave it up to look after her elderly mother when she became ill. She died two years ago at the age of 91, and since then Susan has lived quietly at the family home with her cat Pebbles.

She’d seen Britain’s Got Talent on TV and decided to have a go. She was inspired by the success of opera singer Paul Potts, who had sold mobile telephones before appearing on the programme. He now travels all over the world singing for a living.

So Susan decided to audition for Britain’s Got Talent. She put on a nice dress and walked on stage smiling, but, even though it was her dream was to sing in front of a large audience, she was very nervous. When the judges started asking her questions, she couldn’t remember the word that describes the place she lives – ‘village’. That’s one of the things that happens when you’re very nervous: simple questions can leave your brain completely empty of thoughts. You freeze and can’t think straight. Poor Susan must have felt like the whole audience was against her as she fumbled for that simple word.

Then she told the judges the song that she was going to sing: I Dreamed a Dream. It’s a beautiful and very sad song about looking back on your life and how fast it goes, and regretting the things that you didn’t get around to doing. Some of the lyrics go like this:

I dreamed a dream in time gone byWhen hope was high

And life worth living

(for further lyrics)

When she announced her song to the judges, they just said to her, ‘That’s a big song’ – which means it takes a powerful voice to sing it well. But, judging by their faces and those of the audience, everyone doubted that Susan was going to be able to sing it well.

Now, Susan isn’t a particularly confident person: as we have seen, she can get easily tongue-tied and doesn’t really like talking about herself – unlike many people on TV – but she does know that she has one gift, one thing that she can do better than most people, she can sing. Even if people don’t think it to look at her.

And sure enough, as soon as her first few perfect notes soared through the auditorium, both the judges and the audience knew that they were hearing something very special indeed. Susan’s voice climbed and fell and rose, and even moved people to tears it was so beautiful. By the end the whole audience was standing up to applaud her – it must have felt like a dream indeed.

But the dream hasn’t ended there – Susan’s appearance has become a hit on YouTube, as millions of people all around the world have watched a five minute clip of her on the programme.

But what is it about Susan and her performance that is so magical? There are plenty of professional singers in the world who can do what Susan does, and sing as she sings. Susan herself has said she doesn’t like to watch the clip because she sees all her mistakes!

The thing that people find magical is that Susan seems so quiet and ordinary and shy. She’s not very good at showing off and she doesn’t like talking about herself. But from all this comes the most extraordinary voice – singing about a time of hope gone by.

For Susan, hope isn’t in the past anymore, it’s very much in the future. Through her patient desire to sing, she has taught millions of people that it’s never too late to have hope and it’s never too late to try to achieve your dream. We wish her well on her exciting journey.

PrayerDear Father,

Thank you for the gift of music: for those who make it and for everyone who enjoys listening to music. Amen.

Only a few people are born with the talent to move people with their music, but many, many more of us are born with the ability to enjoy it. Thank goodness for music!

Further information
‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is sung by the character Fantine in the musical Les Misérables, which was composed in 1980 and based on a book of the same name by Victor Hugo, set in the Paris Uprising of 1832 (pre-revolution). The score for the musical was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and the lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil .

Information and quotes from Susan Boyle were taken from the following news articles, both accessed on 24-04-09:

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2009

About the author: Jane A. C. West