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Choirmaster Gareth Malone hits a positive note with a virtual singalong

PUBLISHED: 17:27 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 19 March 2020

Gareth Malone  pictured here with members of the Hornsey Girls' School Steel Pans Band is setting up a virtual choir to connect people during the Coronovirus outbreak

Gareth Malone pictured here with members of the Hornsey Girls' School Steel Pans Band is setting up a virtual choir to connect people during the Coronovirus outbreak

Archant

The north Londoner is signing up amateur and professional performers for the Great British Home Chorus to help combat social isolation

In these troubled times, who better to rally the nation in a chorus of song than national treasure Gareth Malone?

The TV choirmaster is massing a virtual assembly of amateur and professional performers to cheer up the nation as part of his Great British Home Chorus.

Aiming to give everyone the chance to “contribute their voice or their instruments to an ambitious digital music project,” more than 15,000 have already signed up and will soon be sent music to learn.

“There are a lot of young families with nothing to do and elderly people who are bored,” said the north Londoner.

“It’s unprecedented to have such social isolation and it feels like the right time to be doing this - to give people the resources and instruction on how to download and record a song with your family - and make that part of something bigger. We have to keep our spirits up.”

The idea came the day after the 44-year-old returned early from a cancelled filming trip to Berlin and decided not to return to his wife and three children in “the foothills” of Hampstead and Highgate.

Speaking from self-isolation, he told the Ham&High: “I have no symptoms but I was on a plane home and thought ‘hang on, do I want to risk taking anything I may have got to my family?’ It’s precautionary, but I am staying in the country with a friend who was with me.”

By coincidence, Hampstead-based champion of the elderly, Esther Rantzen had called on This Morning for Malone start a virtual choir to rally community spirit.

“I thought of it before I saw that clip of the Italians singing on their balconies,” he says. “Trust the Italians to get there first with song.

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“Then I woke on Monday to find messages from lots of musicians saying ‘Esther Rantzen is talking about you’.

“My daughter is called Esther so she’s my second favourite Esther. She is passionate about the older generation being isolated and I share that concern - my dad is in his late 70s, stuck at home for months not doing anything or seeing his grandchildren.

“It will be hard.”

Malone, who has often demonstrated the power of singing to transform lives, is also concerned that professional musicians will have no work for months.

“They are self employed, they don’t have reserves or get paid up front, and everyone’s really worried about their livelihood. I’d like to do something for them too.”

Malone says his fledgling idea is “deliberately vague”.

“I don’t know what we want it to be quite yet, but there is a real demand for it, a groundswell of desire to do something positive.

“Even for myself to be back in my studio in a week or two, with a recording coming in from a farflung part of the country, to do something to it that will make them feel better is a nice thought. Music will prevail!”

Malone is set to shape these “little recordings” into something that may in future stand as a testament to a strange and worrying time when reached out virtually to connect with strangers through music.

“It’s not going to make anyone well, but it’s the mental implications of what we are living through,” he says.

“I keep hearing from people who can’t bear to hear bad news all the time. It’s really clear there is a job to be done, and like not other time before, we have the technology to connect with each other.”

Sign up to the Great British Home Chorus at decca.com/greatbritishhomechorus

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