Following the Choir

Gareth Malone is just the sort of person you want to put in your pocket; dedicated, determined, but with a quiet twinkly charm, and what looks like a genuine interest in people, and a passion for singing.

In a television world where the theatre of cruelty seems to hold sway, where deluded tone deaf people push themselves into the limelight to be ridiculed, the new series of The Choir is an unlikely, yet much more interesting, programme.  The premise is the same as always, Gareth is sent to an incongruous environment to encourage a community into learning to sing and to form a choir that will, in the final episode, perform triumphantly at a public event.

The underlying contention is that singing together does everyone good.

The structure of each season so far has been broadly the same: Gareth, a bit geeky in skinny jeans and tweed jacket, talks to people in the street or at a school assembly or local fete, and receives nothing but more or less polite disinterest in the idea of a choir.  Against all odds, however, some people do show up for the first rehearsal, and the process begins.  So far, so very reality television fake jeopardy.

What comes next though, is the charm of this particular strand of the genre.  Gareth seems to genuinely want everyone to be able to sing, and to do it with their heads held high, with confidence and emotion.  Once they’ve shown up for the first rehearsal, he doesn’t want to let them go.  So even the most timid and strangulated receive special attention and encouragement.  And the key of that recipe is the determined, but non threatening, Gareth.

As I watch another sequence of him walking up to someone’s front door, his electric piano under his arm, to give them a private lesson in singing and personal confidence, I wonder if they’d watched any of the earlier series and thought that they’d be the one singled out for this kind of attention.

I know it’s all been carefully edited, and there will have been lots of small stories, and many hours of rehearsals, filmed, that we don’t see, but there are always individual stories which carve a path through the series; always one painfully shy person who, at the outset can barely squeeze out a few squeaking notes, but who will flourish under the balm of Gareth’s attention and refusal to write someone off for timidity.

This time, it’s my guess that it is the young woman who can’t stop herself from apologising for her singing and then apologising for apologising, whose tattoos peek out from the neckline and sleeves of her vest top, belying her deep lack of self confidence.

The series is set in military base, where families are left behind by the servicemen serving in Afghanistan; the choir is to be formed from the wives and partners of those serving abroad.  As well as turning a spotlight on this group of people who have to  live with the terrible background stress of worrying about their loved ones, it has revealed a collection of women who live a deeply traditional life of keeping the home operating and raising their children, effectively on their own, and who, as a result seem to have lost much of their confidence and engagement with the world outside the army base.

I’ll be watching again next week, certain that Gareth is going to make them sing.

Leave a comment


  1. margaret nickels

     /  November 12, 2011

    I found it a very uplifting broadcast .

  2. Jill Goldberg

     /  November 13, 2011

    Sounds brilliant, wish I could watch it.

    • I wonder if it’s a bit too ‘local’ to export; but it is inspiring to see what one person’s enthusiasm and encouragement can bring to a disparate group of people.


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