Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Appointment Television – The Choir

If you're not already watching BBCAmerica's The Choir – well, why the heck aren't you? It's perfectly lovely, a wonderful, uplifting treat.

Here's the sitch: Choirmaster Gareth Malone believes that every student should be exposed to music. Oh forget this. I'll never summarize it well enough. Here's a snippet from the BBCAmerica Web site.

From schools with no tradition of music to blue collar neighborhoods in need of a community focus, Malone is a man on a mission. It's an emotional journey of shocks and surprises, challenges and rewards with heartwarming results. At BBC America's session at TCA in January, Gareth achieved the unthinkable by getting the journalists in attendance on stage to sing a rollicking rendition of "Barbara Ann." This was a testament to both Gareth's fearless passion to unite people in song and his ability to make it fun for everyone.

From hit TV singing contest shows, to musical based films and television series to millions of downloaded songs - singers are front and center. It could be said singing is everywhere, but where are the choirs? Classically trained Malone embarks on a groundbreaking journey to save the choir and prove it's cool to sing together. Malone dives deep into the community's culture discovering where classical music stopped and what will ignite these people to be inspired to unite and sing.

For more info, check out www.press.bbcamerica.com

Pretty cool, right?

I've had my share of choirmasters in my time, a handful of them quite spectacularly hitting all the high notes and not just vocally. I was terribly excited for this show from the moment I saw the advert and couldn't wait for last week's premiere. The show completely rewarded my anticipation; I was totally enchanted. Gareth is an absolute delight, an inexhaustible champion for these kids and (in later episodes) the adults who make up his choirs, but a strident task master too. He inspires and challenges them all and they simply light up around him (though this sometimes takes a little time). It doesn't hurt that he's immensely talented and bears a striking resemblance to a certain doctor. Who else could pull this off?

Don't let press comparisons to the zeitgeist show of the last season, Glee, turn you away from this gem. That's simply the pitch and the marketing. In fact, The Choir has little to do with that campy, polished show (and I am fond of Glee).

In the 13 weeks that the show runs this summer, Gareth will put together and transform three choirs. With Northholt High School, he aims to take a nascent choir all the way to China for the World Choir Olympics. Next he takes a year-long teaching position at the all boys Lancaster School, determined to build a 100 voice strong choir to perform at Royal Albert Hall at a school with no music department and where singing is practically a dirty word. Finally, Gareth goes to the town of South Oxhey where "a divided community struggles to shake off a poor reputation that stretches back decades." Can a community choir revive the people of South Oxhey?

Tune in and tune up to find out.

Edited 7/14/10 to add: It helps if I tell you where and when to find it, right? The Choir is on BBCAmerica on Wednesday nights at 10pm.

Disclaimer: I did not receive compensation for this gushing review and Gareth is not coming to my apartment to serenade me in thanks anytime soon. Though really, tout suite on that one, kiddo.

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