Choirmaster Gareth Malone on Honey G and his idea of a new show to replace Bake Off

A ten-week show about cheese, anyone?


Not long ago you told RT you didn’t want to do any more choir programmes, yet you’re back with another one.

I was talking about starting choirs from scratch, and that’s not what this is. I’ve spent 17 years working with people who have not had
 any experience of music before, and I just wanted to work with people who are already singing. It’s really important as a musician to keep challenging yourself. And I wanted to offer new advice so I’m not saying the same thing every single time.

What’s your TV viewing set-up?

Do you literally want me to describe my television? Well,
 I have a TV set that’s larger than my wife was expecting – put it that way. It dominates the space it’s in. It took some adjustment to get used to it.

Are you snacking
 with your feet up?

There’s normally a post-dinner drink. A whisky, perhaps. Definitely feet up on the table.

What can’t you miss?

We’re now on the recent season of Veep – one of the best things I’ve ever seen. It’s side-splittingly good. And we just watched Line of Duty. I like big dramas. If I want to relax, I can’t watch anything that feels like work: someone going off to meet people and doing things with them is kind of a no for me.

Do you watch other music shows?

There aren’t many, really. There’s me, there’s Jools Holland, who I love, The Voice and X Factor. That’s it. I quite often watch BBC Alba [the Scottish, Gaelic language channel] which has amazing folk music programmes. And sometimes Sky Arts or BBC4 have music documentaries. But you have to ferret around to find them.

What would you change about British TV?

It’s a boring, nerdy answer: less audio compression, which is when they make the softer bits loud, so that everything is loud. X Factor is a prime example. It’s so shiny. You can turn it right down, and still hear absolutely everything.

Doesn’t sound like you’re much of an The X Factor fan.

Not really, because I prefer to watch professional singers. I work with amateur musicians myself, so those shows feel a bit like a busman’s holiday to me. I did catch that rapper, though.

Honey G?

H to the O to N to the… brilliant.

Are you serious?

No. I’m not a huge fan.
 I don’t have a great basis of comparison, to be fair. Look, I was an avid watcher of X Factor in 2005. It’s just been going on for a little while. And that’s fine, if that’s what you like.

Sometimes things shouldn’t change too much. Nobody wants a massive overhaul of BBC Breakfast, do they? When 
I watch Countryfile, 
I know what I’m going to get.

John Craven in wellies…

With a fantastic jumper. There’s a lot to be said for shows maintaining what people like about them.

Does that mean you’re disappointed about Bake Off moving to Channel 4?

Not really. I love Mel and Sue and Mary Berry, but I can’t watch Bake Off. I think I’m the only person in the country who doesn’t care about cake. I don’t have a sweet tooth.

I know this is absolute televisual heresy. If it was called The Great British Cheese Off, I’d be right there.

Can you stretch out a show about cheese over ten weeks?

Of course you can. I’m actually making a pitch here and now. It’s quite niche, but I think a few people would like it.

The Choir: Gareth’s Best in Britain starts tonight at 9pm on BBC2