The Choir

Monday 18th November 2013

Dear reader, I have a problem. 

I want to love the new series of The Choir, but I can’t see beyond the formulaic editing of the programme. It frustrates me because as a choir director and arranger, I want to sing the praises of a show that highlights why singing in a choir matters, but instead I feel like a scathing critic knocking down my own craft...

When Gareth Malone first appeared on the BBC I was a number one fan and have remained a dedicated viewer throughout The Choir’s various manifestations, but this second ‘go’ at workplace choirs seems overdone as a TV format and all too predictable as a result. 

Thanks to near-identical editing from one series to the next, we know to expect a little about the singers, their lives, their sob stories (applicable only to TV regulations, not choir membership regulations), and the inevitable ‘Will they pull off the solo?’ nerves which come before a performance, but we know nothing of the ‘how to’ of a choir’s actual existence.

I want to see more of the local choir master putting in the hard graft to get the choirs up to scratch between Gareth’s visits - they’re the unsung heros of this show, along with Jon Cohen who arranges all the music and only gets a nod in the closing credits. Where are the dodgy sing-throughs, note-bashing hard slogs and magical moments when it first comes together as a piece of music?

Gareth Malone and the Sainsbury's choir. Source: bbc.co.uk

Singing in a good choir is no easy feat; it takes hour of dedication from the singers and their musical director working together - it’s this relationship that is lacking in the latest series, and as a result the programme has lost its heart.

Meanwhile, over on Channel 4 The Sound of Musicals aired for the first time last week. Here we have a more genuine, if rather fleeting, look at the ‘how to’ of musical theatre. I found it far more engaging as a result of its unpolished openness about the highs and lows of production, and feel some of that could be applied to The Choir.  

Sam Mendes’ relationship as a director (in The Sound of Musicals) with the young cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was far more engaging, enlightening and, dare I say it, convincing than Gareth Malone’s occasional visits to check in on his singers’ progress in The Choir. It’s this team effort that I want to see more of in the programme.

For me, the joy of a choir is singingtogether, working together and believing in each other. These three things contribute towards good blend, good performance and ultimately, a good choir and it’s that togetherness which seems to have been excluded from The Choir. I’m not saying these elements are absent from the actual singing and lives of those featured in the programme, but they’re absent from the show’s final edit and as a result, it’s rather missed the point and consequently lost me. 

Send help, readers. I want and need to believe in a show about the one thing I love more than anything else - group singing.

- Anna

Read Anna's blog post 'How Can I keep from Singing' based on last year's series of The Choir.