Assistant Musical Director: Michael Higgins
Reviewer: Bethaney Rimmer
The UK’s favourite choir master is renowned for rallying ordinary people and giving them the confidence to sing, showing them that the most important thing is the personal joy that it brings and the community it creates, rather than the technical ability or the need to show off. Examples of his notable achievements include his creation of the Military Wives Choir, who topped the charts with ‘Wherever You Are’, and the BAFTA-award winning The Choir, where he taught a group of school children to sing to the standard required for the World Choir Games, in just nine months.
Gareth Malone’s current Voices Tour sees him conduct a young group of highly qualified and very talented vocalists and musicians while they perform a variety of his favourite songs. He clearly has an eclectic taste as these tunes range from William Byrd’s ‘Justorum Animae’ to Lorde’s ‘Royals’, and while each song is slightly rearranged and layered with the various classical voices, the ones that are from more recent decades still keep their modern appeal, making the evening an incredibly enjoyable one for all ages.
The evening begins with a brief, colourful light show with some atmospheric dry ice, and when Gareth walks on stage the auditorium erupts with admiration and respect. Throughout the evening he is charming, entertaining and is determined for everyone both on stage and in the audience to have a really good time. While it is technically his tour and his creation that has brought everyone together, he is quite happy to do his job as conductor and stand back and allow the choir to be in the limelight, which is testimony to the fact that he really is there for the love of music and not the fame or the attention. He does sing a couple of solos and he has a very pleasant voice, which comes as no surprise when remembering that he has had a lifelong attachment to music. His voice being of a slightly lesser standard than those in the choir means that the audience is much more at ease when asked for their participation, and they gladly throw themselves into ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘Waterloo’ when asked to by the bow-tie-wearing virtuoso. Future audiences need not panic though; he does not set out to embarrass anyone.
Every single one of the singers is faultless and it is obvious that Gareth searched far and wide to find the best of the best. One particular performer deserves a mention for a voice you could listen to endlessly: Eloise Irving, while not having a solo per se, has an angelic soprano voice that filled the symphony hall with its celestial quality, adding something really special to each song and garnering nudges and pointing from couples who were telling their other halves to “listen to her voice”.
A special guest appearance from the Birmingham City Council Choir proves that you don’t need to have training at a prestigious music school to make a beautiful sound or to enjoy the brilliant feeling that singing as a choir can give to both performers and audience.
Performing live clearly suits Gareth and he serves as a much needed reminder that singing is something to be enjoyed universally by all kinds of people. Don’t let his slight build and fresh bespectacled face fool you- behind the cheerful character is a determined choir master who is a musical force to be reckoned with; he won’t stop until everyone who wants to sing has the confidence to do so, and good for him!
Reviewed on 25 May; tour continues until 10th June