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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The thing that Gareth really has to fight against in "The Choir"

I watched most of The Choir last night. I've never seen the beginning of this programme but I've seen the end of it lots of times, so successfully does it sink its hooks into me. The current series is about Gareth's efforts to encourage the locals to sing in South Oxhey, an unpromising overspill estate near Watford. He has some success, thanks as ever to some middle-aged women who are among nature's joiners, a few kids who are genuinely keen on music (and being on TV), a smattering of people using the choir as a way to ward off personal crises and a few charismatic locals who have been frogmarched to rehearsals so that the producers can depict their "personal journey".

The refuseniks refuse on the grounds that people like them (i.e. working class people) don't turn up and sing in choirs. This is patently untrue. In the north of England and in Wales and probably in other parts of Britain there's a long tradition of working class people doing precisely that. But thanks to some combination of social atomisation and the dictatorship of cool the people of South Oxhey have come to believe that these things are not for them, that their role in life is to work, raise kids and watch TV. In each programme Gareth's biggest obstacle is not their lack of musical aptitude or interest. It's their crippling English self-consciousness.