In praise of … Gareth Malone | Editorial

The man at the helm of The Choir, the UK's answer to Venezuela's El Sistema, leading song that can liberate souls

Gareth Malone changes lives with music. He does it by persuading people who wouldn't have been seen dead in a choir that choral singing is one of the best things they have ever done. He did it in the first TV series of The Choir in 2007, when he chivvied and cajoled a recalcitrant group of school students to believe they were good (and cool) enough to take part in the choral Olympics. A year later he worked his magic on inhabitants of a tough estate outside Watford. Now Mr Malone has done it again. The latest series of The Choir, which began on BBC2 this week, uses the usual formula: Mr Malone arrives in an unpromising and resistant community, bravely entices enough recruits to give his choir a go, nurses them through their doubts and over their inhibitions, presents them with a daunting public performance challenge (in one series this involved singing at Glyndebourne) and, finally, presides over a cathartic moment as his singers discover something in themselves they never thought existed. The new series packs a special charge, as it allows a group of service wives, many of whose partners are deployed in Afghanistan, to find their inner voices and channel their emotions through song. The programmes depict a British choral parallel to Venezuela's orchestral El Sistema, in which music can liberate souls and transform lives. Mr Malone is a life-enhancing force. In these programmes he gives us a glimpse of what music can do to help people see life as it might be and sometimes, wonderfully, as it is.


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