Last night was the first part of the second series of The Choir – subtitled â€œBoys Don’t Singâ€?. The format was slightly different from the first series last year in that rather than coming in purely to lead the choir, this time Gareth Malone was actually joining the staff of the school. The school itself was somewhat different, being one of the largest single sex comprehensive schools in the country, The Lancaster School in Leicester.
The exact details of how he came to be invited to The Lancaster School are not explained – although he is met on arrival by the head of Music at the school, and the commentary does say that she has been trying and failing to get a choir off the ground before. What is interesting is to note that it wasn’t always like that in the school. A long standing member of staff shows Gareth some old pictures of various school choirs – and highlights that assemblies at the school used to include singing, but that was stopped sometime in the mid-eighties when the school grew and the music staff (who played the piano for the singing) became form tutors. That comment did actually get me thinking, and realising that when I was at school, and we sang a hymn in the lower school assembly we had a music teacher play – so perhaps Rickmansworth also didn’t allocate a form to the music teachers.
There were definitely some amusing moments, in particular the point where the music teacher shows Gareth some of the stuff that happens musically in the school – just watch his expression during some of those sequences. He also challenges the head of year nine and ten, very definitely an alpha male within the school community, prior to telling the whole staff that in order to achieve the goal of forming a choir, it needs backing from the teachers. Thinking again about my school, we always had a number of staff, including the headmaster in the choir, and indeed a number of them would participate in the school productions too.
Although he looked mightily nervous at times, Gareth did seem to fairly swiftly work out a plan of action, starting with the GCSE music class, and moving on from there. As before he seems very determined, and driven by the belief that being able to sing is an opportunity that all young people should have. Certainly a belief I share. As with the programme last year there were people who liked singing but were keeping it quiet, but who seemed to find the increased acceptability of singing in the school as an opportunity to come out of their shells somewhat. Equally there were other students who despite being talented, proved to be troublesome, and a source of headaches for Gareth.
Perhaps the biggest counterpoint to the testosterone fuelled attitude that seemed to be being portrayed, that singing was for girls, and that boys did sports, was towards the end of the programme, where Gareth took the step of launching the choir. The trailer only showed the very beginning of that sequence – Gareth sitting in an empty hall. What it didn’t show was that 170 students, about a tenth of the whole school population, turned up to sign up for the choir. Boys don’t sing? Maybe that’s the impression – but about ten percent of the population of that school do, or at least want to learn.
If you missed the programme, it can be found for the next few days on the BBC iPlayer.