Last night I watched Gareth Malone (great Choir reunion: Episode 1.)
Now before opining on matters I know nothing about, as we keyboard warriors are apt to do, I thought I’d better see what I could find about Gareth Malone on t’internet.
Or as they say on agenda-driven documentaries these days “I wanted to find out (whatever it is)” when they really mean they wanted to ferret out confirmation of a pre-existing bias.
I was searching for evidence of hypocrisy, insincerity, lefty luvvyism and cynical manipulation by TV commissioning editors and producers to boost ratings through over sentimentalised emoting. (you know, featuring characters with the heartbreaking back-story, the overcoming of crippling shyness/ stammering / disability - i.e., triumphing over adversity.
There you have the pre-existing bias with which I approached Google.
One thing I will say about Gareth. Over the past ten years he has sported a wide and eccentric variety of images, outfits and hairstyles. The worst look, since you asked, was the beard, but I’m not a fan of beards. Luckily he was clean-shaven for the latest episode.
Despite the elephantine presence of all the factors I mentioned in my last but one paragraph, I enjoyed watching Gareth’s early programmes, though the shine has worn off recently. But I think, despite all those in-your-face, tricksy editing devices, there was a genuine message about the uplifting effect of the classical / pop choir. It did draw together people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and succeeded in uniting them in one collective objective. And it showed how any of us might actually achieve quite ambitious aspirations through effort and self discipline.
So, anyway, what did I find?
Well, he’s not gay. A little camp, but who isn’t? He’s got a wife and two kids with retro names and at one stage he wanted to be an actor. He was trained at the Royal Academy of Music and I know how hard classical musicians train.
Here’s a really mean article in the Independent from 2012, boldly and exclusively stating that bears shit in the woods.
A “dishonest” reality show? Whatever next?
But Mr Chaloner, 48, told Radio Times that, while he enjoyed singing, the filming was "a pain in the arse". He said: "The programme makers knew exactly how they were going to play this. They'd put different people in different stereotypes in order to display how we all come together in an example of wonderful musicianship.
"They would play on me being a surgeon, pretending that I'm some sort of Lancelot Spratt-type character [the fearsome chief surgeon from the 1954 film Doctor in the House]. I think it's dishonest, actually." Mr Chaloner added: "It will purport to show reality but it's not reality at all, I'm afraid.
Here’s where you push your tongue between your bottom teeth and your lower lip and go “egh” like kids do to indicate you’ve just made a superfluous statement of the bleedin’ obvious. (Perhaps kids do something else nowadays, but that move was very effective)
In other words, of course “reality” TV does this, as any fule kno, and you do have to take it into consideration when watching - but really, by pitching this piece in this way, the Indy was doing the exact same thing. Sensationalising / cherry-picking for the sake of it. In fact if you persevere with this article you’ll see that it ends up admitting that the programme did what it set out to do - brought people together and made them happy.
Anyway, I couldn’t find anything particularly interesting about Gareth in my research. He wasn’t a drug dealer, a member of StWC or a friend of Hamas, and his military wives thing indicates that he’s not institutionally pacifist.
But you know what? (I really hate that expression, so I threw it in for an experiment) There was something that really really disturbed me about that otherwise uplifting episode. In the original programme - about ten years ago - one of the featured schools (Lancaster School in Leicester) had a particularly difficult group of boys to win over. The beat box boys. Too cool to sing in choirs. However, Gareth won them round as you knew he would.
Imran (“I do my own thing” ) had a beautiful voice.(31:49) At 37:02 he sings, and at the Albert Hall at 39:39
Back to the present. Gareth tracks him down on YouTube. He’s a beat box singer. And...now he’s a devout Muslim. Still with a beautiful voice, but unfortunately he can’t join the reunion.
Personally, my baggage makes me think that is shocking. It’s appalling. But, should the fact that Imran (who’s decided to change his name to Khaled) has travelled in what I see as the wrong direction, be something that Gareth would find troubling in any way at all?
Here’s the conversation that took place on the phone.
Hi, it’s Gareth Malone.
I found your music really moving. Really wonderful What have you been up to? `
(Voice over) “Now 23 and a senior care officer, Imran has changed his name to Khaled, as a devout Muslim his faith has helped him leave his troubled schooldays behind him”
On film, still handsome but with straggly beard:
“I feel like I became a better person, so when I was 16 I wanted to give that better person a new name. I didn’t feel I was Imran any more, and to become Khaled, so in the really big transition I have been so caught up in, my ego as to where I feel like i’m at now, where I just kind of focus on spirituality and God and things like that.
Voice-over: “But Khaled has never forgotten his time with Gareth.”
Imran/Khaled, watching a clip of his younger self with Gareth:
“Here you can see that I was a teenager working out where I fitted in life, so his role that he played in me. embracing singing more, was definitely a vital one, and who knows if I’d still be singing today if it wasn’t for what he did.”
“Despite his enduring love of music, Khaled’s beliefs mean he doesn’t feel he can sing in the reunion choir.”
Khaled, (first on film, then cutting to Gareth’s conversation with him on the phone:)
“Choirs don’t come from Islam. They come from Christianity. Most choirs sing in churches. Not all of them but the majority of where it stems from. Unfortunately I don’t think I’d wanna be...”
Gareth, on the phone:
“That’s fine. That’s absolutely fine”
“Indecipherable.....I wish you the best that could possibly happen”.
“Alright, all the best, it’s so lovely to hear your voice. Bye bye Khaled, Bye.” Gareth hangs up, with a sad face, shaking his head.
“Wow” My goodness. That’s not the boy that I knew. That is the most dramatic change of everyone. I mean I know some of them have grown beards and cut their and got muscley ... but he has changed to the core. And you could see it there, and I’m so happy that he’s gone down - that he’s gone down a positive route. He’s found religion and it’s given him something that’s given him focus in his life.”
Oh dear. Gareth is so happy that Imran with the lovely voice has turned into Khaled the Muslim whose faith has prevented him from doing something he thinks is associated with Christianity, and in which he must not participate.
Well, I’m not happy about it, and I’m not really happy that Gareth is happy about it, and I don’t know if the happiness genuine on Gareth’s part, or if it’s that manipulative editing that the BBC producers use to promote political correctness, inclusivity, social cohesion and to assert that the divisive practices of devout Islam are an asset to a country formerly known as “Christian.”
On the positive side at least his religion hasn’t taught him that all music is unIslamic. What a waste of musical ability that notion is. I’d hope Gareth would agree.