UPDATE: USA Network has postponed It Takes a Choir until 2014.
“I think there’s a raw power when you hear a group of people singing as one,” says British choirmaster Gareth Malone. “And if you’re in the same room as them, then it’s absolutely thrilling.”
He should know.
A lifelong music devotee, Malone earned national fame in his homeland — and a much-deserved BAFTA award — for the BBC series The Choir, which chronicled the dapper director transforming downtrodden Brits through the power of communal song.
Now Malone has taken his mission stateside in USA Network’s uplifting new series It Takes a Choir, based on the U.K. original and featuring Malone uniting voices across America to help folks young and old rediscover their inner strength and sense of community.
“You turn up to a military base and you meet a couple of Army spouses and you talk to them about not just what their individual experience is but what all of their experiences are,” he explains of being contacted by a group of deployed soldiers seeking support for their partners back in Fort Riley, Kan. “Can I find a way for them to sing that represents all of those spouses, so they can then stand on that stage and the Army spouses watching can say, ‘That is me. That really sums it up!’?”
Malone cites working with senior living home residents in Hollywood as another highlight of his American experience. “They didn’t really care at first — ‘I’m 92 years old and I’ve never sung before, so why would I want to start now?’” he recalls. “Getting them to care about it was hard work. But there’s something so wonderful about seeing a 94-year-old woman getting up and singing a solo for the very first time! It’s a real lesson in how to live well.”
Though he admits to being an avid fan of The X Factor and says he’d love to trade a day with Simon Cowell, Malone believes there should be room center stage for a show like his.
“Music television has become either a competition or a performance by Rihanna,” he says. “There is so much more to music than that. Music is really an incredible human accomplishment, and there’s a great deal of value in having people sing with purpose — and not a purpose that is just about themselves. What I love about It Takes a Choir is you’re looking at people who are just, in their own small way, hoping to make life a little bit better.”
Which is what makes his job — and the series — so satisfying.
“You know when you look in the whites of people’s eyes what they need — and what I think they need is song.”
It Takes a Choir will premiere in 2014.
Photo ©2012 USA Network Media LLC credit: Matthew Gibbs