BBC 2's The Choir and the man who taught the world to sing
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Forget Derren Brown and his supposed prediction of the Lottery results; there's only one great magician on television today. Admittedly the magician in question knows no tricks. He doesn't saw people in half. He doesn't make people disappear. But, in his unshowy way, he can do something more impressive: he can transform people's lives. And he does it using nothing more complicated than music.
Gareth Malone is currently appearing in the third series of his BBC Two programme The Choir, which reaches its climax this Tuesday. If you haven't seen the three episodes to date of the latest series, catch up on the BBC's iPlayer now. Because what Malone does in The Choir is, in the least gooey sense of the word, inspirational.
In each series, he visits a stolidly unmusical community and cajoles it into forming a choir. In the first series, in 2006, it was a mixed secondary school in Middlesex that had never had a choir; in the second series, in 2008, it was a boys' comprehensive in Leicester. In both cases, the pattern was the same: at first, most of his charges were sullen, shy or uninterested; by the end, they were singing their hearts out.
His choir from the first school performed at the World Choir Games in China. His choir from the second performed at the Albert Hall. But the most important thing was not that Malone had given these children an unforgettable experience, but that he'd given them self-confidence and a sense of fellowship