Gareth Malone is a fully paid-up fan of Christmas. “I love it,” he beams. “I love the whole business – the holly, the ivy and the Dickensian aspect – so this Radio Times photo is perfect.”
Music will be at the heart of Christmas for Malone, his wife, Becky, and their two small children. “Singing at Christmas is a fantastic way of expressing joy.” But how can we summon up our inner voice? Here’s Gareth’s guide...
1. PICK THE RIGHT CAROL
“I’m asked every year what my favourite carol is, and the answer never changes. It’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I love the descant to that carol. It’s in my muscle memory. My body knows how to sing it. The tune is by Mendelssohn and it’s a very neat, foursquare carol. It’s a bloody good song for a choir – it builds nicely. When you sing it, you think, ‘Let’s use the last dregs of our voice and just go for it!’”
2. GO EASY ON THE MULLED WINE
“Don’t eat and drink too much beforehand. It’s especially important to go easy on the booze. Drinking aids the raucousness of your singing, but it dries out your voice. It also makes you think you’re singing much better than you are!”
3. WARM UP WITH A JOG
“Don’t come into a church cold and try to belt out a carol. Warm up beforehand with a gentle jog around the car park. You might get a few looks, but it’s worth it. Otherwise you’re trying to sing when your pulse is slow and your breathing is shallow. You’re expected to make a good sound in totally the wrong circumstances.
"Some choirs have no concept of how much energy it takes to sing, but it’s a very physical activity – a four-minute song is like a work-out. When I finish a song, I’m completely out of breath. You wouldn’t expect to run a 100m race without a warm-up, and you shouldn’t expect to sing a song without a warm-up either.”
4. IT'S NOT LOVE ACTUALLY
“Try to grab hold of the carol and sing it like you mean it. Don’t pussyfoot around – it’s about expressing passion and telling a story. You can’t do that unless you go for it. But there is a balance between projecting and sticking out from the crowd. You don’t want to sound like a caricature of a carol singer from a Richard Curtis movie.”
5. AND FINALLY, NOIZE ANNOYZ
“I’m not a fan of the Christmas pop single. I don’t like those songs by Slade and Wizzard. I’m glad it’s not Christmas every day when they’re singing. Those songs kill me. I can’t bear the ubiquity of them. They have a flavour of ghastly commercial tawdriness.”
The Choir: Sing While You Work Final is on Sunday 22 December at 9:00pm on BBC2