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I'm singing The Choir's praises
10:10am Friday 11th September 2009 in Sth Oxhey Choir
Of all the reality programmes that fill the television schedules, displacing drama from our screens, there is one that even I, an actor who might be expected to whinge about reality shows, cannot fault.
The Choir (Tuesdays at 9 on BBC 2) works on so many levels. Those of us that have seen the two previous series, in which the fresh-faced disciple of choral singing, conductor, Gareth Malone, has achieved miracles in two schools already, expect him to find nuggets of singing gold in the most unlikely places. The programme works partly because we, the viewers, are gently nudged to make the same mistake that society as a whole seems to make in writing off certain sections of society far too easily.
If you didn’t believe that we all have some musical ability, I would defy you to persist with that belief after watching the residents of South Oxhey sharing the discovery of their untapped musicality. South Oxhey is not a town I had previously been aware of, but it appears that it is one of those drab urban wildernesses with tumbleweed blowing through concrete shopping precincts, neatly summed up in the subtitle to the short series – Unsung Town. Residents of the surrounding areas in Hertfordshire regard it as quite simply somewhere to avoid – a place with no cultural activity at all. Fertile ground then for the wonderfully empowering and determined Mr Malone.
All those more glitzy, prime time talent shows like to tweak our emotional heartstrings with stories of individuals rising above personal tragedy and shining in the face of adversity.
The Choir doesn’t shy away from showing us how some of the members of the choir have triumphed over their sometimes desperate life situations – and nor should it. This programme clearly demonstrates what most of us know already, that many of society’s problems arising from disaffected communities could be swept away if there were more Gareth Malones who could offer the opportunity to people of all ages – but especially young people to discover one of the many ways in which they can interact with others creatively, through sport, the arts and a hundred different activities.
Yes the television cameras are obviously a motivating and enabling factor, but the premise remains the same – give people a way to do something they can be proud of and most of them will eventually take it.