And in the ginger corner… Despite much scoffing at his newly acquired facial growth, choirmaster Gareth Malone has emerged as a surprise favourite in the 2013 Beard of the Year competition.
Though Newsnight heavyweight Jeremy Paxman took the early rounds, after surprising viewers with his holiday beard in August, Malone believes he has since crept in front in the scoring.
“I’m currently very far ahead in the poll,” he laughed when cornered by RadioTimes.com recently. “I’ve got 48 per cent of the vote. I’m thrashing Jeremy Paxman and Tony Benn.”
He’s received support – at least that’s what we think it is – from his choir Voices who sprung this colourful surprise on him at an event promoting the new album.
“The photo is very, very funny. I walked round the corner, and there they all were wearing those fake orange beards.”
Malone, whose BBC2 series Sing While You Work is currently attracting audiences of more than two million, claims the redness of his new beard is exaggerated by the TV cameras.
“It’s actually not that red. The problem is that red hair picks up the light and looks much more orange onscreen. It looks like I’ve got fire coming out of my face.”
But he’s no intention of shaving it off, at least not, you’d have thought, until the Beard of the Year poll closes on December 28.
“I’m becoming quite attached to it. I trimmed it when I was in LA in October as it was so hot, but I really missed it. I felt forlorn without it. I’m getting so many comments about it, that I am now digging in my heels and becoming a beards rights activist. Quite a lot of people are trying to discern the meaning of my beard – wherefore the beard? But it’s just a beard.
“It’s very odd that a red beard should elicit so many comments. I just think it did all right for pirates. That’s clearly my next career move – from choir master to pirate!”
The Choir: Sing while You Work is on Mondays at 9pm on BBC2