Top of the charts – now choirmaster heads for US

Gareth Malone set to repeat success of The Choir in America's recession-hit 'rust belt'

The charismatic choirmaster behind this year's Christmas No 1 looks set to charm America in 2012 as he takes his uplifting television series to economically depressed communities hit hard by the recession.

Gareth Malone, revered for his genuine passion for introducing choral music to new communities, will next month film a pilot episode of The Choir in a small town in the "rust belt" of America's Midwest and north-east – a region home to hundreds of blue-collar communities.

The 36-year-old from Bournemouth has been tipped for big success in the US, where his charm, enthusiasm and can-do attitude are likely to fit right in. A full American series is on the cards if the pilot, commissioned by cable channel USA Network, is the success most critics predict.

The Christmas hit, "Wherever You Are", sung by military wives and girlfriends, is the fastest-selling record of 2011, topping off another incredibly successful year for the classically trained singer.

His first television series, The Choir, from 2006, has already proved popular with US audiences, who often fall for down-to-earth British stars. The programme saw Malone set up a community choir in Northolt High School, a comprehensive in west London, winning him a Bafta award. Subsequent follow-ups continued the theme by taking choral music to challenging situations. Boys Don't Sing in 2008, featuring pupils at a boys' school who were reluctant to sing, won another Bafta.

The US programme will draw heavily from the third series, entitled Unsung Town, which featured the formation of a community choir on the South Oxhey housing estate near Watford in Hertfordshire. Four US industrial towns are currently being considered.

Malone, who is father to one-year-old baby Esther, lives an unassuming life with his schoolteacher wife in north London. But the somewhat geeky and perhaps unlikely television star is fast becoming a household name, with appearances on both Children in Need and Comic Relief this year.

Tim Carter, chief executive of Twenty Twenty, the production company behind the original series, said: "Small-town America is hurting quite a lot. It [the town to be selected] will be a small provincial town that is struggling with the recession, where local businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water and where there is a real appetite for bringing a community together."

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