Military wives and girlfriends sing out for TV show
7 Nov 11
For the new series of his BAFTA-winning programme 'The Choir', musical maestro Gareth Malone has embarked on his most ambitious and emotional challenge to date - teaching wives and girlfriends of Armed Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan to sing. Interview by Lorraine McBride.
The three-part BBC2 series, which starts tonight, is called 'The Choir: Military Wives'. It sees Gareth working with the families of tri-Service personnel based at Royal Marines Base Chivenor in North Devon from just before the troops deploy on operations to their homecoming parades several months later. Gareth describes this period as 'an emotional roller coaster' for the women:
"I think a tour to Afghanistan is always difficult for military wives," says the presenter during a rare break from filming.
Over eight months, Gareth threw himself into life on base with the fearless and funny military wives:
"It was very interesting because we hear a lot about troops which is positive but we never hear about the women," explains Gareth. "To my mind, we only ever see military wives when something tragic happens. I wanted to show what they are doing and literally give them a voice."
Gareth describes choral singing as harder than people think and teaching novices is a challenge:
"It is vocally and emotionally demanding," he continues. "And at times, it's like doing a crossword, you have to really concentrate and use your brain."
But, he adds, it is also very rewarding to sing in a choir:
"There is something special about singing in harmony and being part of a pack. It gives great benefits to people."
Gareth, a born diplomat, describes the standard amongst his troupe as surprisingly high:
"There are some great singers, some not so great…"
And he debunks any ideas that all that military discipline somehow rubs off on the wives:
"Sometimes they were a bit shambolic and ambled in late, clutching their cappuccinos," he says, arching an eyebrow. "It is never going to be a military choir but it definitely has a flavour.
"Trying to teach these women and get them to work as a team like the military meant I had to break them down a bit. And at times I felt like a sergeant major whipping them into shape!" he chuckles....
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