There is an epic power shift underway in the politics of music in the UK. A battle between music as a force for good and music as a disposable commercial commodity. This Christmas we have the opportunity to decide whether music belongs to the people or is something that can be sold to them in a neatly packaged parcel. This is a long story but please stick with it as it has a very happy ending (Although you might need a box of tissues!)
Gareth Malone is a plucky young choirmaster who normally works with inner city schools developing self-confidence by encouraging them to sing. 5 years ago one of his projects was made into a TV documentary. The gentle tale of self discovery showed how music can be used to change lives. The series was a hit and earnt a couple of Bafta TV awards. Inevitably it was followed by a couple of series where Gareth developed choirs with a boys school and a community choir. The fourth series aired recently over 3 one-hour programmes and has slowly captivated the country.
Gareth goes to RMB Chivenor in Devon to create a choir from the wifes and girlfriends of the servicemen recently deployed to Afghanistan. None has any particular experience other than high-spirited karaoke sessions in the officers mess, and most would rather face the Taliban than perform a solo at their local town market.
It is reality TV that features real people. No one gets voted off, there are no celebrity judges or scripted tantrums. There is, however, real drama and plenty of tears as the choir develops and the Military Wives Choir finds its voice.
“It is not about being the best singer, about singing better than other people. It’s about using your voice to do something to mean something. To mean something to you and to mean something to other people.” Gareth Malone, Choirmaster
Gareth continuously pushes the choir beyond their limits and the women always out-perform whatever situation they are presented with. Ultimately this leads them to sing at the Festival Of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen and the Royal Family. They sing a specially written song, ‘Wherever You Are’, by Paul Mealor who based the lyrics on the love letters between the soldiers and their wives.“I’ve heard myself say ‘that’s the biggest thing that I’ve done’ so many times, but this IS the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This is absolutely huge because it’s of national importance and national significance. Nothing else I’ve done has felt like that. In terms of getting their message across and getting them understood it’s …. I can’t think of anything better” Gareth Malone, Choirmaster
The Military Wives Choir raptures the Royal Albert Hall and after the performance the momentum builds. It was replayed on the radio and championed enthusiastically by DJ, Chris Evans. He builds the campaign to release the song as a charity single aiming for the Christmas number one. A position that for the last 5 years has been held by the year’s X-Factor winner.
This video tells the story:
In recent Christmases there has been a growing backlash against the X-Factor’s manipulation of the Christmas charts. This year the X-Factor has slipped in the ratings as their most ardent fans have had enough of the artificial jeopardy. It’ll take about 800,000 sales to reach the number one position and this year the chart will be announced on Christmas Day. But as Chris Evans says: “It’s not about beating X-Factor, It’s much more important”
The Military Wives Choir is not the best choir in the land. They are not even particually great singers, but they have such emotion and they’ve achieved so much both personally & collectively. The power of music has revealed the power that they’ve held within as they face day-to-day life whilst their loved ones are away.
This video shows the build up and their performance at the Royal Albert Hall. It is the final segment in the series.
You can watch the entire series on this unofficial YouTube Channel. It is highly recommended as an affirming documentary about how the choir influences the lives of people who are facing the most difficult situation in their lives. And this is the official video for ‘Wherever You Are’.
.“It speaks love and it speaks care and it speaks magic and it speaks massive emotion of all the right things at the right times in a world where a lot of the wrong things are happening at the wrong time” Chris Evans, DJ . .