Gareth’s All-Star Choir, BBC1 - TV review: Will the celebrity choir make the grade? Of course they will - it's for charity


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The Independent Culture

Gareth Malone has done this countless times before: taken a group of tone-deaf amateurs and transformed them into a top-notch choir. He even had his own No 1 single with Military Wives singing “Wherever You Are” in 2011. Children in Need has also clocked up six No 1 charity singles by artists including Lou Reed, Girls Aloud and S Club 7. So scoring a No 1 for Children in Need, as he attempts to do in Gareth’s All-Star Choir, should be a doddle, right? Wrong.

It should be easy, but Gareth and his choir encountered many trials and tribulations en route to chart success. Just enough to fill two one-hour programmes, in fact, plus five minutes for an emotional final performance on Children in Need’s appeal night on 14 November. The main challenge of last night’s part-one programme was revealed to Gareth during an initial interview with the charity’s velvet-voiced ambassador, Sir Terry Wogan. Sir Terry would gladly provide the slebs, but there was a proviso: “Nobody said they can sing... maybe they think they can sing...”

So off Gareth went on a whistle-stop tour of BBC TV studios to meet and audition his choir. There was Mel Giedroyc from The Great British Bake-Off, stand-up comedian Jo Brand, Masood off EastEnders and footballer Fabrice Muamba. “I’m not here to judge,” said Gareth, “but I am here to find out what your potential is.” And also to judge. And also to make rude comments about poor pitch and song choice after they’ve left the room.

Such snark is required by the programme format, but it can still come back to bite you on the bum, as judge-turned-chorister Craig Revel Horwood discovered. He was cornered by Linda Robson from Birds of a Feather at the first rehearsal regarding some slight in a long-forgotten episode of Fame Academy. Luckily, Alison Steadman stepped in before it came to blows.

Gareth wisely roped in some actual children from the Blue Elephant youth project in south-east London for his choir. Not only to defuse the tension, but also because children’s singing voices have a mysterious tear-jerking effect on adult audiences. As if we weren’t already deeply moved by Malone’s visits to see first-hand the work done by staff at children’s  respite-care charity Shooting Star Chase.

When, finally, it was time for the choir’s first big test – a performance in front of friends and family – they did rather well, though Gareth would never admit it. “I’m on a bit of a high, actually,” said Masood off EastEnders. “It was strangely moving.” Strangely, Masood, it always is.