Infectiously enthusiastic choirmaster Gareth Malone is back to get more employees singing from the same song sheet as he starts up five new workplace choirs in the second series of The Choir: Sing While You Work (BBC2, Monday). But what does he think of TV’s biggest singing competition, The X Factor?
TV & Satellite Week caught up with him to find out.
What do you make of the style of singing that’s popular on shows like The X Factor, featuring lots of vocal gymnastics?
“I’m not massively keen on it. When Whitney Houston did it, I didn’t have a problem. But when people come along and do a terrible impression of Whitney, it’s the worst thing in the world. Please just sing the tune. Sam Bailey does a lot of vocal gymnastics, but she’s pretty convincing.”
Do you get people auditioning for your choirs simply to be on television?
“There’s a lot of that, and you can smell it on people. I don’t want a choir of wannabes – that would be horrible. With the right people, you hear their voice and think: ‘You’re all about the music.’”
Have shows like The X Factor changed the way people think about peforming?
“I definitely felt one or two people were victims of a talent show mentality. They were coming in to sing for me as if they thought I was Sharon Osbourne and about to slam them, so they were terribly nervous. When they got through, they were jubilant, as if they’d landed a record contract, when in fact they were just going to sing with a workplace choir.”
Who’s the top Gareth – Malone, Bale or Gates?
“Years ago, people used to ask me: ‘Are you Gareth Gates?’ Then he disappeared off the radio, and for a while I was the No 1 Gareth. Now Gareth Bale’s come along, so I’m very irritated by that!”
What did you learn from the first series of The Choir: Sing While You Work?
“The biggest lesson was about competition and what it can do for a choir. I was nervous, because The Choir was always non-competitive. This series came off the back of my Military Wives choir, and I thought: ‘I can’t top that in terms of a community project’, so it felt right to do something different.”
Did series one inspire people to form their own workplace choirs?
“Yes, and I’ve been contacted by lots of people who are starting them. Also lots of people have been Tweeting, saying: ‘Oh no, someone’s coming to work to do a Gareth Malone – I’m going to run away.’”
Why do we sing?
“I think it’s born out of the desire to communicate. The sound we make, like a dog barking, is to tell other humans about our needs. But on top of that we can manipulate pitch and structure to create a thing called a song, and combine that with words to create a story. In terms of an art form, the song is the ultimate for me. We’re hungry for new songs that express what’s going on now, but fundamentally what we really want to hear is the human voice.”
Your newly formed Voices choir has a debut album coming out. What’s it like?
“It’s a real mix, with covers of songs by Erasure, Fleet Foxes and Alicia Keys. I have a little Alfred Hitchcock moment when I sing on the Fleet Foxes song.”
What bands were you in when you were younger?
“I was in one band called Little Nicola that was a bit rocky and wanted to be like U2 or The Beatles. And I was in a jazz funk band after university that was a bit like Jamiroquai.”