Sarah Sands: We could learn some lessons from 'The Choir'

Share
Related Topics

Once I stopped being a newspaper editor, I began to notice a discrepancy between the sorts of things journalists were interested in and what their readers liked. Journalists like crime and politics and sex. Readers care about gardening and, as it turns out, singing.

The BBC series The Choir won a Bafta and its sequel, Boys Don't Sing, which finished on Friday, has been one of the best things on television. There has been little fuss about it in the press, but at the school gates and in the garden centre it is very big news.

The premise is simple: a classically trained music teacher called Gareth Malone goes into a large boys' secondary school in the Midlands and forms a choir. The poignancy is exquisite. First he has to win over the male sports staff by enticing them into a staff choir. Their suspicion and fear of ridicule are apparent in their expressions, which then turn to surprise and, finally, mildly embarrassed joy.

More profoundly moving is the transformation of the boys from yawning, hostile creatures to enlightened ones. The political approach to education has been to shore up children's confidence by removing effort and competition. Music cannot be fudged. Malone is pushing a boulder and you feel his strain and disappointment. But he does not give up and eventually his choir makes it to the Albert Hall.

This is reality television, which means that it is not. The Lancaster choir is not heavenly. My brother was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral; those voices were divine gifts but the execution was human. The cathedral boys worked hours that would appal a human rights lawyer. The funny thing is that they did not mind because they were excited by high achievement.

Educationalists complain that children these days are under too much pressure, but it is the bureaucracy of pastoral care that wears them out. Last summer, I watched the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela perform at Lucerne under their genius conductor Gustavo Dudamel. They had practised relentlessly and looked scruffy and dehydrated. They were also ecstatic.

The Lancaster school choir featured on the BBC is not world class or even national class, but its members are better than they ever thought they could be. Gareth Malone has become a national hero. His MySpace site is crowded with comments from viewers across the world. One relished "the look of terror on the faces of the boys when confronted with other choirs and realising they needed to up their game and then giving their all and feeling great". Another thanked Malone for bringing passion back to teaching.

Scroll down and you find some shyer messages. "Hello Sir, I hope you are coming to visit us sometime soon. Lancaster is not as good and you should come and check on the choir." Finally, the cocky longing of another pupil. "Hey Gareth, Howz u doin the showz have been wikid like crazy ru cumin bak to lancaster?" Pretty much word for word what the von Trapp children wrote to Maria in The Sound of Music.

It is said that men think the worst of themselves for not being soldiers. I feel diminished because I am not a teacher. The Choir is sensational television because Gareth Malone is moulding young minds, forming young characters, before your very eyes. You see schools as they should be: a strong, respected headmaster, an ethos of inspiration. Above all, you see the wonderful spirit of children, the rebel who performed brilliantly at the Albert Hall, the son of immigrant parents from Vietnam who felt they had reached their journey's end, the boy with cancer who declared himself a fighter. Who would have thought a school choir would be a metaphor for an ideal society.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links