Get your British "gleek" on. If you're in Glee withdrawal, check out the real deal: BBC America's The Choir, an enthralling 13-part docu-series that puts the tuneful spotlight on an adorably boyish choirmaster, Gareth Malone. On a mission to introduce classical music to worlds where R&B and rap reign supreme, the infectiously upbeat Malone targets the most unlikely of students, instilling the values of shaping up and singing out.
"You really bond in a way that is extraordinary," says Malone of the emotionally overwhelming experience of singing in team harmony. His challenge in the first arc of episodes is to form a competitive choir of girls and (more difficult to recruit) boys in a working-class public school that has no formal musical tradition. (Future arcs take Malone into an all-boys' school and then to an entire community where he builds an adult and children's choir.)
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In his initial project, starting from scratch at Northolt High is easier said than sung. First hurdle: recording a CD after only four weeks of arduous rehearsal. The goal is to qualify for the World Choir Games—in exotic China. Malone sees all kinds of untapped potential in these untrained, and sometimes still-breaking, voices. Talent is less the issue than confidence, and the boys are particularly lacking. "Bloody hell, what have I taken on?" Malone mutters early on.
The transformative results aren't quite as supernaturally slick as on Glee, but what these kids lack in vocal adrenaline they more than compensate for in heart and pluck. Malone chokes up as he delivers The Choir's ultimate message: "What really matters is that you do something well and you care about what you do and you do it to the best of your ability."
Music to our ears.
The Choir premieres Wednesday, 10/9c, on BBC America