Young People Learning Opera Makes Compelling Viewing? Strange, but True.


So there I was, remote in hand, at a complete loss as to what to watch on television. I don’t watch a great deal, but did feel the need to get lost in something that is in no way related to football or Big Brother, my two biggest television enemies of the moment, along with steady contenders Jermey Kyle and Jimmy Carr. And then I remembered that this is around the time of year that Gareth Malone waves his musical magic wand over disadvantaged areas and changes the lives of young people forever. I am in no way exaggerating the current series Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne. Year after year, Gareth has never falied to deliver in his promise of seeking out and then teaching a group of initially somewhat unenthusiastic teenagers to perform classical music and consequently gain a new found sense of confidence and self-belief.

In previous series, choir-master Gareth Malone has, on the surface, visited deprived parts of the UK and taught young-people to perform. Scratching away this surface-deep analysis of the programme’s formula, however, Gareth has in fact transformed lives by establishing long-lasting choirs that draw communities together. Young people whose opportunities were limited are given the chance to throw themselves into a challenge that not only brings tears of joy to their parents’ eyes, but also expands their horizons and gives them the opportunity to prove to themselves what they are capable of achieving.

In his current series, Gareth is in Sussex, uprooting the area’s undiscovered young talent (often undiscovered even by the young people themselves!) and training the cream of the crop to perform an opera based on the King Arthur legend. Challenges have already manifested themselves in all sorts of ways after only one episode, such as the task of keeping the team motivated and bringing their singing up to scratch. However, the real pressure is imposed by the daunting location of performance: the Glyndebounrne Opera House, one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

Despite the enormity of this prospect, Gareth takes things in his stride and always lets his good nature shine through. Whilst I have found myself sighing with despair after seeing a terrible audition, he instead remains optimistic and supportive at all times, proving to be the total opposite to Simon Cowell, yet no less entertaining. Despite looking and sounding in every way out of place in a group of teenagers, Gareth Malone always manages to befriend everyone he meets, his witty sense of humour lifting spirits when the prospect of performing to an audience with expectations so high seems too much.

It’s not ‘people on a sofa, sat watching people on a sofa’, as Big Brother has been described. It’s a touching journey that unfolds every Thursday at 9:00 on BBC2. See for yourself the recommended weekly dosage for anyone experiencing extreme symptoms from too much football on the television.


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