Gareth Malone chats to Yours
Set for a new tour, choirmaster extraordinaire Gareth Malone tells Yours about the value of friendship, good manners and the importance of family ties
I’ve always been the type of person who says yes to a new opportunity. I will give it a try. In 2008, I was working for the LSO (the London Symphony Orchestra) when I got a call from a production company asking if I would be interested in being on television. In that second, I had a flash forward and was on the red carpet! I’d done a drama degree and was interested in presenting and performing but it was still a big leap of faith and I could have easily fallen flat on my face. But thankfully not. The programme, The Choir, won two BAFTAs.
I work in an industry where it is easy to get your head turned and I like to make new friends but my old friends have kept me grounded. Some have known me since I was at primary school in Bournemouth. I try to carve out time for them. I have even written a new song, a duet, about friendship called Weather the Storm. I met my wife (teacher Becky) before I started on television, too. When I hear people describing me as the ‘celebrity choirmaster’, the idea is so bizarre to me. I just don’t feel famous.
Fatherhood is life-changing
Having my two children, Esther and Gilbert (now aged seven and four-anda-half ) made me grow up and realise that there was more to life than crotchets. I just had my daughter when I pulled together the first Military Wives choir and for the first time, felt like I was like an adult walking into that rehearsal room. Until then I felt that everyone else was an adult and I was just playing at it. My children are now of an age when I can introduce them to music which is exciting. Ours was always going to be a singing household!
I like to be courteous with everyone I work with. I try to be firm but fair. I was brought up like that. My mum was always very clear and consistent and I had definite boundaries. With pets, children and choirs, you need exactly the same thing. Always expect the best, and hopefully you won’t be let down. If you expect people to fail, then they’ll fail.
Singing is good for you
It’s joyful and definitely been proven that your heart rate slows down and goes in time with the people around you when you’re singing in a choir. It’s also very good for mental health; that feeling of oneness that you have with other people. It’s in your head and in your body; that actual physical reaction to singing is very positive.
Family ties are the most important
I’m an only child and very close to my parents (Jamie and Sian). They always come to every night of my concert tours and have been so proud of my career. I’m very lucky. I’m always grateful that my parents dragged me to piano lessons every week during my teen years when I was a little more reluctant. If I’m tired or over-wrought, I just go to the piano. It’s a stress release for me and a privilege. I don’t ever wake up and feel: Oh no, I’ve got to do some music today.
Gareth with his wife, Becky