mon 09/12/2019

The Choir: Sing While You Work, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Choir: Sing While You Work, BBC Two

The Choir: Sing While You Work, BBC Two

Gareth Malone takes his utopian message of healing through harmony to the workplace

Charming bedside manner: Gareth Malone

Where next for Gareth Malone, who would ardently like to teach the entire planet to sing in perfect harmony? He began all those series ago with the ruffians and rapscallions who make up the average sixth form, most recently took his outreach work to tone-deaf soldiers’ spouses and for his next stop he’s boarding a plane to export The Choir Stateside. Other constituencies who could use a healing stint singing under Malone's pastoral wing would include politicians, football supporters and anyone to do with The X Factor. But for the moment, it’s back to the office for Gareth.

In ep one of The Choir: Sing While You Work (which is not a very good title) the elfin choirmaster wandered up and down the corridors of a massive hospital in Lewisham trying to recruit volunteers for his latest venture: a bid to get Britain’s busy workforce to open its throats and feel the utopian joy of ensemble singing. The problem was that hospitals are full of people who tend on the whole to be quite busy. People walked straight past him and his camera crew with their eyes on the floor. Didn’t they know who Gareth Malone was?

Anyway, once past the carefully crafted edit in which it all looked like a horlicks-in-waiting, the requisite number of volunteers were queuing at the appointed door to have their voices examined. All they had to do was sing that popular medical lyric, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...” and they were in. The requisite number couldn’t hold a tune for all the builder's brew in China, and the requisite number passed muster. Phew. They included a couple of surgeons, one of them wonderfully obstreperous, and some big-hearted workers toiling lower down the chain of command in speech therapy, the kitchens etc. A choir is a great leveller, preached Gareth at this point wearing man-of-the-people threads, and they all launched into a popular song.

You know where you are with these programmes. The dramatis personae may change, as do the tunes (just about), but the narrative is structurally as robust as a well-made pop song. You get verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle eight/chorus/key change/chorus. Roughly translated the plot goes like this.

Hi choir I’m Gareth

Hello Gareth aren’t you a funny one with your specs and faint air of spindliness.

OK choir let’s have a singsong.

But we aren’t very good at singing Gareth and as you will note we are profoundly lacking in confidence.

Choir let me see if we can't fix that by thinking outside the box about this lovely well-known and when you think about it really rather meaningful pop favourite.

Crikey that seems to work Gareth you really do believe in us I'm going to tell my spouse and 2.2 other family members all about this and the cameras can come along too.

Choir enough arsing about now let’s really take this to the max as surprise surprise there’s a performance at the top of the hour when you are going to have to be as good as you've ever been at anything.

We've never done anything like this in our lives but wow Gareth everyone’s burst into applause/tears and you’re a wizard in your dickie bow thanks for inspiring us to give of our very very best.

it works every time. Last night’s song was the medically appropriate if perilously saccharine “Everybody Hurts”, which turned the grumpy surgeon even grumpier – so grumpy that he even gave an interview in the Radio Times listing the reasons for his grumpiness. Gareth’s charming bedside manner didn’t quite smooth his furrowed brow but he turned up for his shift anyway and everyone else mucked in with beatific goodwill. We also got a couple of family back stories – one featuring the mother who took up speech therapy because of her child’s deafness.

Gareth’s choral conducting is more gospel than Harry Christophers as he leads his cohorts towards the promised land where the bluff highly paid consultant shall lay down with the shy minimum-wage cleaner and be equal in the face of the complex eight-part harmonic arrangement. In short, Sing While You Work has perfect pitch. There are three more workplaces to visit, and then there’s a sing-off. Sing along if you know how it goes.

Follow Jasper Rees on Twitter

A choir is a great leveller, advised Gareth at this point wearing man-of-the-people threads

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