Meet Gareth Malone’s Children in Need celebrity choir

TV choirmaster Gareth Malone wants his Children in Need single to be his third chart topper – but what does he think of his celebrity singers?

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Gareth Malone admits that 90 per cent of his celebrity choral charges wouldn’t have made it through a typical auditioning process. That said, he’s still hoping that the Children in Need single he’s coaching them to sing gives him his third chart number one.

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“It’s not a vanity project for anyone; we’re all doing this because we are passionate about the charity. I hope that will come across on the record: that we all believe in it.”

Malone has spent the last six weeks being trailed by TV cameras as he chivvies his celebrity choir into shape… that’s when they turn up to practice. “That’s nightmare number one. They are giving up a huge amount of time, for which I am very grateful, but they are busy, busy people.”

Has he put his foot down? Or worse: resorted to that thin-lipped sigh that has sent many a sloppy singer sneaking into the back row?

“There have been moments of banging my head against the wall. I would hate to be mean because they’ve all worked so hard. Yes, if I were auditioning, most of them would not be the first choice for any choirmaster – but that’s the point.

“We are putting this out as a record and we want people to buy it so it can’t sound dreadful. It’s been a lot of work to get them listening to each other and making a decent sound.”

The newly released single is a cover of Wake Me Up, which was a hit for Swedish DJ Avicii last summer. Gareth’s version is a four-part harmony, so every voice counts. “I think choirs do uplifting, redemptive songs really well. Wake Me Up is about youth and hope and not holding people back so it’s appropriate for Children in Need.” 

Craig Revel Horwood – Strictly Judge

“Craig’s done a bit of West End singing, which is much more of a big vibrato, twangy, belting sound – very different from what we’re doing here. I have to say, I couldn’t help but enjoy seeing the boot on the other foot: the scary Strictly judge quivering and quaking as he auditioned for a solo.”

Maggie Alphonsi – Rugby Player

“In the world of rugby she’s an absolute Trojan but she’s actually got a soft, gentle, soprano voice, which is a huge asset.”

Mel Giedroyc – Presenter and comedian

“Mel veers between being teacher’s pet and a jester with her partner-in-comedy Jo Brand. To her horror, I put her in with the sopranos – she’d  always thought of herself as an alto. Mel was shy about performing at first but she’s starting to find her feet – and her notes.”

Jo Brand – Comedian

“Jo is the class clown. I’ve had to have words! She was really struggling with the high notes to the point where she was rebelling – and the last thing any choirmaster needs is a reluctant Jo Brand. I’m pleased because she’s really come on and I think that – despite herself – she’s enjoying it.”

Alison Steadman – Actress

“Alison had been wanting to join a choir for a long time. Despite being a theatre veteran and an incredibly confident performer, she hadn’t really done any singing. She’s one of my most conscientious pupils.”

Linda Robson – Actress

“Although she sang the theme tune for Birds of a Feather, Linda’s been a bag of nerves. She has a nice voice but she’s terrified of harmony, which of course in a choir is really important.”

Alice Levine – Radio 1 DJ

“I don’t think Alice volunteered for this; she had to have her arm twisted slightly! She was on my watchlist at the beginning. She has a really nice voice but shied away from the top notes. She’s come on in leaps and bounds.”

John Craven – Journalist and presenter

“I’m waking up in the night, worrying about John, which nobody needs! Poor John was very, very nervous about singing. He also tends to be one beat behind: “Where are we going from again?” he’s been heard to say!”

Fabrice Muamba – Former footballer

“Fabrice’s only experience to date is singing around the house but he has a lovely voice: a nice, soft tenor. He and Margaret have not been hammering it as I feared – these two have been producing something quite sensitive.”

Radzi Chinyanganya – Blue Peter presenter

“Radzi is the class motivator. As a Blue Peter presenter he has to be super-confident. Send him up a mountain or throw him out of a plane and I’m sure he’d be fine, but singing seems to have unnerved him.”

Larry Lamb – Actor

“Larry has a nice, warm voice and is a confident, self-possessed singer. He’s also a bit of a crooner. I’ve had to ask him to tone it down: unless you’re doing a solo, you don’t want to stick out too much.”

Nitin Ganatra – Actor

“Nitin hadn’t really sung before. For last year’s Children in Need, he leapt around Albert Square performing Brazilian martial art capoeira as part of an EastEnders medley. I suspect this time round has been more of a challenge…”

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Gareth’s All Star Choir is on BBC1 tonight (3rd November) at 9:00pm