Singing Shepherdess lands BBC judging job

Sophie Armstrong
Sophie Armstrong

A Northumberland farmer’s wife whose astonishing voice led to her being dubbed The Singing Shepherdess has landed a job on a prime time TV talent show alongside former Spice Girl Geri Horner.

Sophie Armstrong, who lives near Wooler, has been hired as a judge on BBC One’s All Together Now, which starts this Saturday at 7.15pm.

Rob Beckett and Geri Horner.

Rob Beckett and Geri Horner.

It’s a huge break for mum-of -two Sophie, who spends her days helping her husband Tom tend their flock of 4,500 sheep and her nights performing in pubs and clubs across the North East.

“I have to pinch myself to think this is happening to me, I still can’t believe it,” said Sophie.

All Together Now is the BBC’s replacement for The Voice with Tom Jones and Olly Murs, which has switched to ITV.

The new show, which is hosted by Geri, who first found fame in her trademark Union Jack dresses as Ginger Spice, and comedian Rob Beckett, who made his name on TV programmes I’m A Celebrity and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, is a singing contest with a twist.

Contestants perform in front of 100 professional singers like Sophie who judge how good they are. If they like what they hear, the judges stand up and join in singing with the contestant.

Whoever gets the most judges – recruited from across the UK and including cruise ship performers, drag queens, West End stage and opera singers and former X Factor finalists – to stand up goes through to the grand final to be broadcast in March where the winner scoops a £50,000 cash prize.

Sophie, 46, normally performs as the voice of the hugely popular band Summerland, alongside Berwick-based guitarist Gary Shearer, and also stars in her own shows, singing her favourite jazz numbers.

But a pal spotted an advert on Facebook from a TV production company looking for talented singers keen to appear on a new show and thought Sophie would be perfect.

“They said they were asking for people with loud voices and strong opinions, which my husband Tom will tell you sort of fits with me, but I wasn’t really interested,” said Sophie.

“Anyway, I was persuaded to send off an email not expecting to hear anything back, but a week later I got a call from the people at Remarkable TV, the company that make shows like Pointless with Alexander Armstrong, asking me to go down to London for an audition.

“I’ve never been so terrified in my life. I had to sing three songs and afterwards had a 90-minute interview. They wanted to know all about my life on the farm and the sheep and being a shepherdess on top of what sort of music I was into.

“As I left to get the train back home I thought that’s the first and last TV audition I’ll ever have, but a few days later they rang and said I was hired as a judge. It was fantastic!”

Viewers will see Sophie sitting in the same row as Geri Horner in the wall of judges.

Sophie said: “We all had to learn more than 100 songs so we can join in with anything the contestants might sing. It was a brilliant experience rehearsing with 99 other pitch-perfect performers, it was like belonging to some sort of special family.

“When you spend your life going out at night after a hard day on the farm to ply your trade as a solo singer it can be tough, so it was a real thrill to be up there with so many other wonderful voices.”