Unsung Town Revisited The Choir


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Unsung Town Revisited

In 2009 choirmaster Gareth Malone went on a mission to lift the spirits of a marginalised and divided community. Now Gareth returns to South Oxhey to catch up with the choirs.


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Transcript


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In 2009, an overlooked working-class estate on the outskirts of London achieved something truly remarkable.

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It's the biggest nine months of my life.

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In a town where singing together was confined to Saturday night karaoke...

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No one round here sings.

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..the people of South Oxhey created Britain's biggest community choir.

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# I'm walking on sunshine... #

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-With the help of choirmaster Gareth Malone...

-People want this to work. South Oxhey wants this to work.

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..in just nine months they went from pop songs to singing Latin hymns at St Albans cathedral.

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Thank you for putting us on the map.

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It's the best experience of my life.

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I can't believe it. It's so emotional.

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Two years ago, Gareth Malone travelled to South Oxhey, a housing estate 10 miles north of London.

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Surrounded by more affluent suburbs, the estate had a certain reputation.

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-Do you know a place called South Oxhey?

-Yeah.

-What do you know of it?

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-I dunno. It's sort of yobs that live round there.

-Sort of yobs?

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I wouldn't go there late at night!

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Its reputation is rough, chavvy...

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Drugs, drink, single mums.

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South Oxhey this way.

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Gareth's idea was to create a self-sustaining choir to bring the community together

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and live on after he left.

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The dream is to have a choir that people in South Oxhey can look at

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and feel truly represents them, whether they're a plumber, builder or policeman. All different ages.

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Children as well.

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With such a huge task ahead of him, Gareth decided to focus on creating an adult choir first.

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But how would the locals react to an outsider with alien ideas?

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Hi, there. My name's Gareth. I'm in the local area. I'm starting a community choir.

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-Would you be interested?

-No.

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-Can I interest any of you in singing at all?

-No.

-No?

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No? No.

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-Can't persuade you?

-No.

-..Hi. You got two minutes?

-No.

-Not interested.

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-No, I don't think so.

-You sure?

-Yep.

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-You look interested.

-No! Not me!

-Yes!

-No!

-Are you sure?

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-Not at all? You hate singing?

-Yeah.

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This is quite depressing.

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Anyone interested in singing?

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Anyone at all from South Oxhey interested in singing? Even one person would be brilliant.

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Undeterred in his bid to seek out new members, Gareth decided to change his game plan.

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Brilliant.

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Very nice to see you. I'm starting a community choir.

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-Are you interested in being in the choir?

-No, I don't sing.

-Not ever?

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I'm definitely not going in the shower.

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Still with no takers, his search took him to the local boxing club.

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-How you doing?

-Yeah, all right.

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-I've just arrived in South Oxhey.

-Welcome.

-Thanks very much. So far, so good.

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I'm starting up a community choir for anyone, whether or not they think they can sing.

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And you've come to the boxing club?

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I thought he was an escaped lunatic. We've never had anything like that.

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Former champion Matty Leonard is the club's most successful son.

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Matty's just one of those people that as soon as you meet him, you love him or hate him.

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He's so respected in that community. Really well known, well liked.

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You know, "If I can get you onside, I'll have no problems here."

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-Gareth struck a deal with Matty. In return for him coming to the first rehearsal...

-Get changed.

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-This'll be good.

-..Gareth would meet him in the ring.

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The things I do for music.

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This is what it's about. I've got to get into this community and that means getting my hands dirty.

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I'm ready.

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Let's go, singer man.

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I don't think I've hit anyone in about 30 years.

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Did you not see that coming?

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Come on!

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'I knew immediately that I can't really hit him too hard.'

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A strong gust of wind would have knocked him over, bless him.

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-Time!

-Time!

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Well done, Gareth.

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Although coming from different sides of the track, Gareth found that he and Matty had similar aspirations.

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Start bringing people together, giving them something to believe in.

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-And less violent.

-Slightly less violent, yeah!

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Matty promised he would be at the choir's first rehearsal and, buoyed by his success,

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Gareth approached another section of the community to join him.

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Anyone going to do an audition now?

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Gareth went to the police station to try to get them to sing. And they all said no. Good.

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No!

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Still searching for recruits, there was one club where members sounded happy to break into song.

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# Happy birthday to you! #

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I heard singing, so I came in.

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South Oxhey sings. The idea is to bring the community together and give you the boost that you need.

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-Do you need a boost?

-Yes.

-Good! Anyone interested in being in it?

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-Are you a singer?

-Well, I make a noise. Let's put it that way!

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What sort of a noise?!

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Fred can sing? Fred, you have a fine voice these ladies are telling me.

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Go on, Fred.

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Go on.

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# When no one else can understand me

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# When everything I do is wrong

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# You give me hope and consolation

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# You give me strength to carry on

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# And you're always there

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# To lend a hand

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# In everything I do

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# That's the wonder

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# The wonder of you. #

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For Fred, a retired engineering manager, Gareth's idea for a community choir came along

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at just the right time.

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Betty, his wife of 20 years, had died just four weeks earlier and he was in need of distractions.

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Everything reminds me of Betty. Everything.

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I've got pictures of her everywhere.

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But I suppose... In time, I suppose that will all go.

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It is difficult. You talk to yourself a lot.

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I talk to Betty, actually.

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If I hadn't had the choir,

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I'd have probably turned out to be a loner. I don't know what I'd do.

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The choir filled a big void.

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It was fantastic to meet Fred. Fred was the first person I met here who could really sing.

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That's why I do it and love going into communities like this

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where people don't even know they can do it. Then you hear them sing.

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After 10 days pounding the streets, Gareth still didn't know if anybody would turn up for his rehearsal.

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That should be OK for now. I cannot imagine we're going to get more than a hundred.

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That looks good.

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A family. And we have some outside.

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-Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to the choir.

-Thank you.

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Hi, thanks for coming. Go on in. Hi, how are you? Good to see you.

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Hi, there. Welcome to the choir. Thanks for coming.

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-Good evening, sir.

-Good to see you! Hi, welcome to the choir. Excellent.

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Hello. Hello. Welcome to the choir.

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Beyond all expectations,

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the first rehearsal of the South Oxhey Community Choir attracted 250 people.

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Hi!

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Good evening. Don't...

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Hi!

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We're going to need a bigger boat!

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I really hope that you're going to love what we do here,

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love being part of the South Oxhey Community Choir,

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and that we go to amazing places.

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'I did have a kind of'

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shiver up the spine, thinking, "This could be amazing, just with the sheer number of people singing."

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With Tuesday night becoming choir night in South Oxhey,

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Gareth pulled out all the stops to make sure the numbers kept coming.

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-I think we need to go a bit more American twang.

-#

-Your love keeps lifting me

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-#

-Lifting me higher and higher

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-#

-Higher and higher and...

-#

-I'm serious.

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-Because otherwise it's like...

-MUMBLES THE LYRICS

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We've got to get into that slightly gospel feel to it. Ready? Two, three and...

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# Your love keeps lifting me... #

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After just four weeks, he decided he needed to give his new choir members their first big challenge.

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So I propose that on the 22nd of November we do our first performance.

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Yeah!

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SMATTERING OF APPLAUSE

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Yeah!

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The plan was in just two weeks the choir would perform in the South Oxhey Shopping Precinct.

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But first, for one of the songs he'd chosen, Gareth needed to find a soloist.

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I wonder, is there a lady who could do that verse...

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-#

-Now once I was downhearted...

-#

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Do I have a lady? An appropriate lady!

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Ahh.

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GARETH CHEERS

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-#

-Now once I was down...

-#

-One, two, three and...

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-#

-Now once...

-I was downhearted

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# Disappointment was my closest friend

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# Then you came and it soon departed

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-# And it never...

-Showed its face again.

-#

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Thank you. Anyone else? Shall we take a five-minute break?

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Struggling to find the sound he was looking for, Gareth heard one new member had been in a gospel choir,

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but was reluctant to come forward.

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'I could see people going up'

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and singing and I could feel his eyes on me!

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I tried not to give him eye contact!

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-Want to have a go at it?

-I'll have a go.

-After the break?

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-OK.

-Will I show you the bit?

-Show me how high it is!

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It's kind of the last chance corral for this solo.

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I've tried a few people. It's about getting someone who fits it right. Do you want a go?

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Ladies and gentlemen, Dee!

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I think I was more nervous of just singing in front of...

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There was, like, 200 people there, none of whom I knew.

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-#

-Your love keeps lifting me Love keeps lifting me

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-#

-Lifting me higher and higher

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# Now once I was downhearted

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# Disappointment was my closest friend

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# But then you came and it soon departed

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-# And it never, never...

-Showed its face again!

-#

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APPLAUSE

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-Are we in consensus, that feels like the solo?

-ALL: Yes.

-Very good.

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For Dee, joining the choir was a big step.

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Since moving into her council house two years earlier, events had left her feeling isolated.

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I didn't know racism actually occurred until I lived here.

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The first year was just a nightmare. It was more the teenagers at the back.

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Congregating at the back of my house, throwing stones at my window.

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I'm not saying everyone is like that. It's a small minority, mainly teenagers.

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Everyone wants to be liked, don't they? So...

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On the day of their first performance, South Oxhey had a choir, but how would they go down?

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It's going to be very, very acoustically difficult. There will be angry teenagers

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with klaxon horns, OK?

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Whatever happens, we keep going. Even if somebody tries to take me out, OK?

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We have got to show these people that we love this.

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Right. Let's do this. How are you feeling?

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Nervous? It's going to be fine.

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I was nervous of the reception I was going to get from the South Oxhey people.

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What if they shout stuff at me or...

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That's going to be really hard for me to take and tolerate. All that was going through my head.

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As the choir took their places for their debut concert,

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over 500 curious people gathered in the usually-deserted precinct.

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-#

-Your love is lifting me higher

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-#

-Than I've ever been lifted before

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-#

-So keep it up, quench my desire

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-#

-And I'll be at your side forever more

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-# You know your love

-Your love keeps lifting me

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-# Higher and higher

-And higher

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-#

-Your love keeps lifting me

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-#

-Love keeps lifting me

-Higher and higher and higher

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-# Now once I was downhearted

-Ooo-oo-ooh

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# Disappointment was my closest friend

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# But then you came and it soon departed

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-# And he never

-Showed his face again

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-#

-Your love keeps lifting me Love keeps lifting me

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-#

-High-er

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-#

-Your love keeps lifting me!

-#

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Yes! Well done!

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Very good.

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Looking in people's faces and they've got welcoming faces,

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smiles, and there was no atmosphere. It was really nice. It was nice.

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South Oxhey has got a community. This is probably the longest time I've spent in this precinct!

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-Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

-It was very good.

-Very, very good.

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Never seen so many people round South Oxhey.

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I couldn't believe it. My hair stood up at the back.

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I'm lost for words - that's unusual!

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Thoroughly enjoyed it. If my Betty had been here, she'd be proud of us.

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It was really important to perform on their own patch and be accepted by their community,

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so the precinct was right for their first performance.

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They needed support and the rubber stamp. "You are the South Oxhey choir!" I needed that. We got it.

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The adult choir's first performance had been a success,

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but Gareth's dream was to get all parts of the community singing.

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So in a bid to create a children's choir, he visited all six primary schools in the area.

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CHILDREN: Good morning, Gareth!

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Good morning. It's very exciting to be here!

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Including Colnbrook, a special needs school.

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-Hi, I'm Richard.

-Nice to see you.

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The children have a range of learning difficulties, from speech and language problems to autism.

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Hello. We're picking up people. Hi, how are you?

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# I'd like to be

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# Under the sea

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# In an octopus's garden In the shade... #

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Gareth was introduced to some of the school's keenest singers.

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# ..In an octopus's garden In the shade

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# I'd ask my friends To come and see-ee... #

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-Sibel, well done. Can you do it on your own? Let's have a listen.

-OK.

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Yeah? Ready? Here we go. Let's go together. And...

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-# I'd ask my friends to come and see-ee... #

-Well done!

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Gareth was impressed by the confidence of one particular pupil.

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'I was surprised that he wanted to talk to me. We was eating in the dining hall,

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-'talking about my future.'

-So how old are you?

-10.

-What do you find difficult?

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-A little bit of speech and language problems.

-Really? You don't sound like it.

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-No, but my mum says... You know I don't understand nothing?

-Long sentences?

-Yeah.

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-But you understand me asking you questions.

-Yeah.

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-But if I start telling you something very complicated and difficult...

-Like that!

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-What happens in your brain?

-I get mixed up!

-What would you like to do?

-Be a doctor.

-Would you?

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-That's a hard job.

-I know.

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My mum said when you go to college, only the brainy children can go there, if they're really brainy.

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Yeah? You know there's a choir that I started? Is that something you'd be interested in?

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-Mm-hm.

-Why?

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-Eh?

-Why?

-Because I like to sing!

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-I'll speak to you soon.

-Yeah, I'll speak to you soon.

-Bye, Sibel.

-Bye.

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'He was really friendly and nice.'

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Nice hairstyle, funny, talented.

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Very entertaining.

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For 70 children from South Oxhey's six primary schools,

0:19:550:20:00

the first rehearsal of the kids' section of the choir was a big day.

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For Sibel and her school friends, it was particularly special.

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They've talked about it all day.

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"Is it time for us to go now?" Sibel's been telling everybody.

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Harriet's been as bubbly as can be and Faisa's been all excited.

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-Do you know how many children will be there?

-A thousand. Two thousand.

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- 106. What is wrong with you?!

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Loads of children are coming.

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And, um, we're going to sing

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and we're going to be... really good. We'll try our best.

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THEY SING

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Welcome! From now on, it doesn't matter that you're from one school,

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St Joseph's and Greenfields and Oxhey Wood.

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Now we are a team. This is the first time there's been a choir like this in this area.

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-Excited?

-ALL: Yes.

-You should be. It'll be fantastic.

0:21:040:21:08

-Do you know Consider Yourself?

-Yes!

0:21:080:21:13

The trick is to keep it light at the beginning so it's not...

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-DEEP, THEN HIGH: #

-Consider yourself...at home!

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-#

-Consider yourself at home...

-#

-Try that.

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-# Consider yourself at home... #

-Yeah, that's a little under.

-#

-At home!

-#

-Try it again.

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-# Consider yourself our mate...

-That's it! Perfect!

0:21:310:21:35

# We don't want to have no fuss... #

0:21:350:21:38

The children's first rehearsal went well,

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but some of Gareth's new members only turned up out of curiosity.

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We are the bad boys of the choir. No one will take over our throne.

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Gareth makes it fun. He doesn't make it boring.

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-And his hair.

-His hair's wicked! Quite like girl's hair, actually.

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It really made me laugh to hear that Louie and Sidney and Joe all joined the choir to meet girls there.

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We got a tip - go to the choir for about a week, then ask a fit girl for chewing gum.

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-Always works. Classic.

-And then after a couple of weeks

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when you feel down, you get a hug.

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I think the choir is, strangely, a great way to meet girls.

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If I'm honest, that's why I got into choirs in the first place.

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Over the next few weeks, the kids from different schools got to know Gareth and each other.

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# Shake, shake your mama

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# Gareth, he touched the ground Gareth, he turned around Gareth, he wiggles his hips

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# And he parties

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# Shake your mama Shake, shake your mama Shake your mama... #

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This is what it's about. Really fantastic. They've got so much spirit and so much enjoyment.

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They're really starting to bond. You've got to have that as a choir. You can't survive as a dry activity.

0:22:570:23:04

It's about people, about passion and, you know, making a bit of a fool of yourself.

0:23:040:23:11

# Sibel, she touched the ground Sibel, she turns around Sibel, she wiggles her hips... #

0:23:110:23:17

Ultimately, Gareth's aim was for the children's choir to sing side by side with the adults,

0:23:170:23:24

but first he wanted them to experience performing.

0:23:240:23:27

I have a very important announcement. We are going to do...a concert.

0:23:270:23:34

'I remember that there was a great buzz before that first performance in St Joseph's.

0:23:340:23:39

'A great sense of excitement.'

0:23:390:23:42

They'd not performed before.

0:23:420:23:45

And go...

0:23:450:23:47

For their chosen song, Tears In Heaven, Gareth needed to find a soloist.

0:23:480:23:54

Two, three and off.

0:23:540:23:57

You may sit down. Who'd like to have a go at it?

0:23:570:24:01

Lucy? Yeah, come on, Lucy.

0:24:010:24:04

Off you go.

0:24:070:24:09

-This?

-Yeah.

0:24:090:24:11

It's actually the third verse, but they're the same. And...

0:24:110:24:16

# Would you know my name

0:24:160:24:20

-# If I saw you in heaven... #

-Sing it right over there.

0:24:220:24:27

# Would it be the same

0:24:270:24:31

# If I saw you in heaven... #

0:24:320:24:36

-That's it.

-'The way I sing,'

0:24:370:24:41

it makes me feel relaxed and confident

0:24:410:24:44

and very joyful, happy

0:24:440:24:47

and, um...amazing.

0:24:470:24:51

Gareth had always been impressed by Sibel, but he was still unsure if she could pull off the solo.

0:24:510:24:57

-Do you mind singing in front of lots of other people? Or do you not get nervous?

-I sometimes get nervous.

0:24:570:25:03

-What makes you nervous?

-Sometimes I'm a little bit scared.

0:25:030:25:07

-If you get scared, do you do it anyway or do you...?

-I'll still do it.

-That's very impressive.

0:25:070:25:13

-Excellent. Thank you, Sibel. You can go back to your class. Do you need to be taken?

-No, no, no.

0:25:130:25:19

-OK.

-See you.

0:25:190:25:21

In the end, Gareth decided to give Sibel the job.

0:25:210:25:26

I just can't believe it. Out of 70 kids, I was chosen to sing a solo,

0:25:260:25:31

which is really amazing.

0:25:310:25:33

I know she's been chosen. For her, I think,

0:25:330:25:37

-it's like she's won the Euromillions.

-Yeah!

0:25:370:25:40

"I've been chosen."

0:25:400:25:42

She's ecstatic.

0:25:420:25:44

I'm going to be brave, I'm going to sing out there,

0:25:440:25:48

-not cry, not scared and everybody will cheer you.

-That's true.

0:25:480:25:53

-God bless you.

-God bless you, too.

0:25:530:25:55

After three weeks of rehearsal, their performance at St Joseph's Church in front of 250 people

0:25:590:26:06

will be the first time most parents had heard their children sing in public.

0:26:060:26:11

A little bit nervous, but I think I'll be all right.

0:26:110:26:15

It's easy saying that now. We're all hyped up. Then you'll see your parents there.

0:26:150:26:22

There's at least about 300 people. You're all confident in here, then you'll be nervous.

0:26:220:26:27

I'm very nervous for her. She's not. She's quite calm.

0:26:270:26:31

I'm like that. I'll be in the audience, biting my nails.

0:26:310:26:35

I'll probably start crying as well.

0:26:350:26:38

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please welcome on stage...

0:26:380:26:43

South Oxhey Children's Choir!

0:26:430:26:47

# Would you know my name

0:26:590:27:04

# If I saw you in heaven?

0:27:040:27:10

# Would it be the same

0:27:100:27:14

# If I saw you in heaven?

0:27:160:27:21

# I must be strong

0:27:210:27:26

# And carry on

0:27:260:27:30

# Cos I know I don't belong

0:27:300:27:34

# Here in heaven

0:27:360:27:39

-#

-Time can bring you down

0:27:450:27:48

-#

-Time can bend your knees

0:27:480:27:52

-#

-Time can break your heart

0:27:550:27:58

-#

-Have you begging please

0:27:580:28:02

-#

-Begging please

0:28:020:28:06

-#

-Here in heaven.

-#

0:28:060:28:10

'People were amazed that I could sing a solo very nicely. And very sadly.'

0:28:230:28:30

Just like my mum.

0:28:300:28:33

I thought, "That's my baby onstage." For someone with learning difficulties, she sang perfectly.

0:28:330:28:40

I'm proud of you. You know that, don't you?

0:28:400:28:43

Cos it's your child at the end of the day and...

0:28:430:28:48

I'm just happy.

0:28:520:28:54

-# Even though it all went wrong... #

-From then on, both choirs went from strength to strength,

0:28:560:29:02

even performing at the Watford Colosseum.

0:29:020:29:05

# Hallelujah

0:29:050:29:08

# Hallelujah

0:29:080:29:11

# Hallelujah... #

0:29:110:29:15

But since Gareth arrived in South Oxhey, getting young males singing had always been difficult

0:29:150:29:21

and he saw ex-boxer Matty as crucial in his fight to reach that part of the community.

0:29:210:29:26

What about a men's voice choir that happened maybe just outside the main choir, just to start with,

0:29:260:29:34

just doing some simple songs?

0:29:340:29:36

The people you want to get to sing are the people that would never drea of singing

0:29:360:29:41

-and would look like idiots if they were caught singing.

-It's a tough job.

-It is hard.

0:29:410:29:47

To be honest, Matty, I feel like you are the only person that I've met

0:29:470:29:51

that can get me closer to that...

0:29:510:29:54

Well, I'll do my best. Let me sound my pals out.

0:29:540:29:57

They probably won't like it, but I'll ask them to do me a favour and we'll go from there.

0:29:570:30:03

Matty was crucial in giving people permission to join the choir,

0:30:030:30:07

for the men who thought it was just ridiculous.

0:30:070:30:10

There was a lot of embarrassment about singing in South Oxhey.

0:30:100:30:14

Fine if you're doing karaoke and you're six pints down,

0:30:140:30:17

but very different to take it seriously at a choir rehearsal and Matty made that OK.

0:30:170:30:22

With Matty's help, Gareth rallied together the young guns of South Oxhey

0:30:220:30:27

for the first rehearsal of his new male voice choir.

0:30:270:30:31

Gents, thank you very much for coming. Do you want to down pints for the moment?

0:30:310:30:37

-You mean put them on the floor, not down them?

-That's right.

0:30:370:30:40

Tonight's just about having a bit of a laugh, exploring things, seeing how it goes.

0:30:400:30:46

If this goes well, we can do it next week, the week after. There's all sorts of possibilities.

0:30:460:30:51

Let's try it. You might want to stand up. Two, three and...

0:30:510:30:56

# Slip inside the eye of your mind... #

0:30:560:31:00

It's a bit higher than that. # Slip... # Can you get up there?

0:31:000:31:04

# Slip inside the eye of your mind... #

0:31:040:31:08

# Slip... #

0:31:080:31:09

I can take it down. And...

0:31:090:31:12

# Slip inside the eye of your mind

0:31:120:31:16

# Don't you know you might find

0:31:160:31:19

# A better place to play...

0:31:190:31:23

# Her soul slides away... #

0:31:240:31:28

The idea with Matty was to form a kind of male voice choir, but to do it on their turf,

0:31:280:31:34

so to go into the pubs, the environment they were comfortable in, and just sing there,

0:31:340:31:39

pint in one hand, music score in the other.

0:31:390:31:42

-Tenor.

-Very talented.

-Very good.

0:31:420:31:45

Patrick, definitely a tenor. You were fine there. Really good.

0:31:450:31:49

I personally am really, really chuffed that they've turned up.

0:31:490:31:55

It's really nice to meet people of that age group, my age group, in South Oxhey.

0:31:550:32:00

They're the one group that have stayed away.

0:32:000:32:03

A male voice choir from South Oxhey could be fantastic because it has such a great energy.

0:32:030:32:08

It's the one thing people do not expect to happen. They don't expect men to sing.

0:32:080:32:13

Matty and his men started attending rehearsals every week.

0:32:130:32:18

The male voice choir gradually began to mean something to them

0:32:180:32:22

and Gareth decided they should showcase what they had learned in the pubs of South Oxhey.

0:32:220:32:27

That's good!

0:32:280:32:30

The last thing I would ever have pictured myself doing,

0:32:300:32:34

and I don't think they'd picture themselves doing it, but it's coming together

0:32:340:32:39

and the fact that we're excited about it and wanting to do it is quite surreal.

0:32:390:32:43

The singing tour was to take place on a South Oxhey Friday night.

0:32:460:32:50

Here's the hats. Do you want to work out which hat's yours?

0:32:520:32:56

-I'm trying to work my way down here.

-Half Windsor knot...

0:32:580:33:01

So you'll have to come round mine later and take it off?

0:33:010:33:05

Let's do a good one, boys.

0:33:080:33:10

I think we're going to do each other proud tonight.

0:33:100:33:14

I just imagine everyone looking at us, thinking,

0:33:140:33:17

"These boys ain't got one good syllable in 'em."

0:33:170:33:20

-"Bunch of wankers," they'll say!

-But once they hear our voices, we'll tur a few heads, hopefully a few women.

0:33:200:33:27

It seemed like a good idea a couple of weeks ago. Now I'm not so sure.

0:33:270:33:31

They all need Dutch courage, but they're having so much, I'm not sure they'll be able to sing.

0:33:310:33:37

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Matty's Men!

0:33:370:33:40

CHEERING

0:33:400:33:42

# Slip inside the eye of your mind

0:33:420:33:47

# Don't you know you might find

0:33:470:33:50

# A better place to stay... #

0:33:500:33:53

We'll do Night Boat To Cairo at the next gaff!

0:33:530:33:56

After going down a storm in four of South Oxhey's five pubs,

0:33:560:34:00

the final venue was The Grapevine where Friday nights are legendary.

0:34:000:34:04

The fear was a men's singing group would be laughed off stage.

0:34:040:34:09

Are we going to do it in here? Pat, you'll do it if we all do it?

0:34:090:34:13

-I want to do it.

-We'll do it.

-Just do it.

-Let's do it.

0:34:130:34:17

When we got to The Grapevine, it all went outrageous.

0:34:170:34:21

I'd rather have been getting in the ring.

0:34:210:34:24

# Every time I go for the mailbox

0:34:280:34:31

# Gotta hold myself down

0:34:310:34:35

# Cos I just can't wait till you write me

0:34:360:34:39

# You're coming around... #

0:34:390:34:41

What are we walking on?

0:34:410:34:43

# We're walking on sunshine Whoa-oa!

0:34:430:34:48

# We're walking on sunshine Whoa-oa!

0:34:480:34:52

# We're walking on sunshine Whoa-oa... #

0:34:520:34:56

Gareth was so getting into it and the smile on his face...

0:34:560:34:59

He had all these girls behind him dancing and roughing up his hair.

0:34:590:35:03

Join the choir and you get the girls. It works!

0:35:030:35:07

# Don't it feel go-o-o-od? #

0:35:070:35:11

CHEERING

0:35:130:35:15

WHISTLING

0:35:150:35:17

-ALL: Hooray!

-Let's get out of here.

0:35:190:35:22

-Well done tonight.

-Well done, you.

0:35:220:35:24

-Reece, I'll be in touch.

-Thank you for one of the greatest nights of my life.

-Oh, mate!

0:35:240:35:30

What I found really moving was looking down the line and seeing these guys singing quite tenderly,

0:35:300:35:36

really enjoying singing with other men.

0:35:360:35:39

It's a really good thing to do. When you harness that power, it's amazing.

0:35:390:35:44

When we went in there, what a buzz, what a buzz!

0:35:440:35:47

This is it. We'll be in the O2 Arena soon!

0:35:470:35:50

Yeah, let's call it a day.

0:35:500:35:53

With the halfway point of his time in South Oxhey drawing near, Gareth now had three choirs.

0:36:000:36:06

They could all sing pop, but Gareth wanted his main choir to tackle something much more difficult.

0:36:060:36:11

I want them to have an experience of singing something classical

0:36:110:36:15

that gives you that feeling of something spiritual and beautiful.

0:36:150:36:19

OK, good evening, everyone. Ssh, ssh!

0:36:190:36:23

I was absolutely delighted with what we achieved last time. It was absolutely phenomenal.

0:36:230:36:29

But the songs that we sang were quite easy, quite simple.

0:36:290:36:33

No-one had to do any homework. There was...

0:36:330:36:37

LAUGHTER

0:36:370:36:39

I'm giving you a little hint of where we're headed because I firmly believe

0:36:390:36:44

that if we go somewhere and we sing a piece of music that really impresses,

0:36:440:36:50

the feeling that you had at the end of the Colosseum, you will have times a hundred.

0:36:500:36:57

-Don't we want to reach for the stars?

-Yes.

-Good. Thank goodness you said that!

0:36:570:37:03

LAUGHTER

0:37:030:37:05

Because in all seriousness, the piece that I propose that we sing,

0:37:050:37:09

it's big, it's emotional, it's beautiful, it's going to be a challenge,

0:37:090:37:14

but I absolutely believe that we can do it. I'm going to play it to you, so just have a little listen.

0:37:140:37:20

Gareth wanted the choir to learn and perform a notoriously difficult piece of choral music

0:37:200:37:25

by 20th century American composer, Samuel Barber.

0:37:250:37:29

CHORAL MUSIC PLAYS

0:37:290:37:31

Agnus Dei is a six-minute piece in eight vocal parts.

0:37:340:37:38

In eight weeks' time, we're going to perform this in St Albans Cathedral.

0:37:460:37:52

EXCITED SHOUTS AND GASPS

0:37:520:37:55

-Can we do it?

-Yes!

-Good.

0:37:550:37:58

OK... Try it for me!

0:37:580:38:01

# Qui... # One, and...

0:38:010:38:04

# Qui...

0:38:040:38:07

# To-o-olli-i-is

0:38:070:38:15

# Pe-e-eccata... #

0:38:150:38:18

-We've hit our first brick wall!

-LAUGHTER

0:38:180:38:22

Please trust that I know what I'm doing. We'll get there. Let's give ourselves a warm round of applause.

0:38:220:38:29

APPLAUSE

0:38:290:38:31

I've really struggled with this choice because this is incredibly risky.

0:38:310:38:36

And there are lots of pieces of music that would be much more singable, much easier.

0:38:360:38:42

But somehow I don't think they would have the effect that this piece has.

0:38:420:38:47

This piece has an effect. It grabs people by the guts. I don't know what it is.

0:38:470:38:53

It's so mournful and so beautiful.

0:38:530:38:56

That's what's called out to me as the right choice.

0:38:570:39:01

It's what this choir needs. It needs a soul, it needs a heart.

0:39:010:39:05

88-year-old Kitty Lee has lived in South Oxhey for nearly 50 years.

0:39:110:39:15

She had been in Gareth's choir from the start,

0:39:150:39:18

but her first attempts to learn Agnus Dei had been a struggle.

0:39:180:39:23

It is very, very difficult, but, um...

0:39:230:39:27

You know, not only me, but my friends that I go with.

0:39:280:39:32

Because they're my ages and they're finding it difficult as well.

0:39:320:39:37

Not having it up the top, you see. We're losing it.

0:39:370:39:42

With the St Albans concert less than two weeks away, the choir's progress was worryingly slow.

0:39:440:39:50

Three, four, one...

0:39:500:39:52

-SINGING IN HARMONY

-We're going faster than the CD.

0:39:520:39:56

# Tollis... #

0:39:560:39:59

SOME VOICES JOIN IN SINGING

0:39:590:40:01

Do you know what? About a moment of that sounded like the Barber. Well done.

0:40:060:40:13

It's going to be fine. I can see terror.

0:40:130:40:16

I feel a little terror, if I'm honest, but it's going to be fine.

0:40:160:40:20

Thank you. We'll see you next week.

0:40:200:40:23

Talking to people,

0:40:230:40:26

they were saying, "We just can't do it,"

0:40:260:40:29

laughing as though it's ridiculous,

0:40:290:40:31

just give up on the whole idea.

0:40:310:40:33

A piece of music like that should sound beautiful,

0:40:330:40:37

not like a load of old cats strangling it.

0:40:370:40:40

HE SIGHS

0:40:430:40:45

That was a nightmare.

0:40:450:40:47

I just felt utterly ineffectual

0:40:470:40:50

because I was just battling, you know, on so many fronts.

0:40:500:40:54

You know, there were no...

0:40:540:40:56

There was no sense of breath support, good sound.

0:40:560:41:00

There was no harmony, there was no melody.

0:41:000:41:04

There was nothing. It was just grunting.

0:41:040:41:07

I feel like they're still with me, just.

0:41:070:41:10

They just about...

0:41:100:41:12

They just about believe me,

0:41:130:41:16

that it's going to be OK, but I feel like that trust is hanging by a thread.

0:41:160:41:21

Determined to make his choice of hymn work, Gareth resorted

0:41:250:41:28

to teaching the piece note by note to any choir member who could spare the time.

0:41:280:41:34

-This task what you've given us is very, very hard.

-You're struggling?

0:41:340:41:38

Really. I can't get past the first line.

0:41:380:41:41

-Did you do Latin at school?

-No. We didn't do those things at school.

0:41:410:41:45

I'm a Cockney girl, ain't I?

0:41:450:41:47

So I didn't imagine myself singing Latin!

0:41:470:41:50

-Agnus Dei...

-Qui tollis...

0:41:500:41:53

-Qui tollis...

-Peccata mundi...

0:41:530:41:55

-Peccata mondi...

-That's it. It's "mundi".

0:41:550:41:58

Mundi. Why can't you do that in English, so that I'd know...?

0:41:580:42:03

In a way, you don't really need to know.

0:42:030:42:06

-I'll get there, Gareth.

-I like your spirit. You're doing well.

-I'm determined to get there.

0:42:060:42:11

With the choir members forming themselves into groups...

0:42:120:42:16

Honestly, how are you getting on?

0:42:170:42:20

Honestly, I think, um... we're getting there.

0:42:200:42:24

Gareth's tuition started to pay off.

0:42:260:42:28

SINGS HIGH NOTE That one.

0:42:280:42:30

That was the best singing I've heard today.

0:42:300:42:33

Four of his tenor singers were getting further than anyone else.

0:42:340:42:39

# Qui tol... #

0:42:390:42:46

My goodness! You're brilliant. That's up to page nine. Only a page and a half to go.

0:42:460:42:51

And even Kitty was improving.

0:42:510:42:54

THEY SING LONG NOTE

0:42:540:42:57

-You're fine with that one, aren't you?

-Yeah.

0:42:590:43:02

-# Qui...

-Qui...

0:43:030:43:06

-# Tol...

-Tol... #

0:43:060:43:08

Yeah, that's it.

0:43:080:43:10

It's fine, isn't it? You can hear it really well.

0:43:100:43:14

With people of that generation in the choir, there's a heart to the thing. It has a real community feel.

0:43:140:43:20

The time came for Gareth's main choir to perform at St Albans Cathedral.

0:43:260:43:31

Six months ago, few of Gareth's singers had ever sung in a choir before.

0:43:330:43:39

This was very, very hard, but I mastered it, I mastered it.

0:43:390:43:45

And here I am singing in Latin!

0:43:460:43:49

Even fewer had sung classical music,

0:43:490:43:52

let alone a vocally complex piece like Barber's Agnus Dei.

0:43:520:43:56

-Everybody ready?

-Yeah.

0:43:580:44:01

-Oh, yeah. Are we going to smash it?

-I hope so, yeah. I'm a bit nervous.

0:44:010:44:06

-Are you scared?

-Yeah.

-Why?

-I'm just a little bit nervous.

-It'll be fine.

0:44:060:44:10

I thought, "God, this is good. We're going to sing in here."

0:44:130:44:18

It was a bit eerie, you know, because it's cold in those places.

0:44:180:44:23

It's very echoey. You walk in and it's like, "Wow!"

0:44:260:44:29

Then you hear your "wow" go round about five times.

0:44:290:44:32

You have to trust all the weeks and weeks of rehearsal.

0:44:320:44:37

You have to trust all the preparation you've done at home,

0:44:370:44:41

that that's enough and that's going to make it happen for you.

0:44:410:44:45

Best of luck. It's going to be a great show!

0:44:450:44:48

HARMONISED SINGING: "Agnus Dei"

0:44:540:44:57

SINGING REACHES CRESCENDO

0:45:250:45:28

SOFTLY: # Dona nobis

0:45:400:45:49

# Pacem... #

0:45:490:45:54

APPLAUSE

0:45:590:46:02

The process of getting to know that piece and having all those rehearsals

0:46:040:46:09

and having to do this incredibly scary thing

0:46:090:46:12

of singing in St Albans Cathedral brought us all together. We became a choir.

0:46:120:46:17

-It was absolutely amazing.

-If I never sing another song, this will have made it worthwhile.

0:46:170:46:23

Brilliant!

0:46:230:46:24

-Lovely.

-Well done, well done.

-Thanks for giving us that chance.

0:46:240:46:29

-Thanks for your hard work.

-Did it feel good?

-Really good.

0:46:290:46:32

That was the point that it really felt to us like, "Wow, this is it, we're a choir!"

0:46:320:46:38

You look at Gareth and think, "Thanks, mate."

0:46:380:46:41

Gareth came to South Oxhey to create a community choir,

0:46:420:46:46

but with an adults', a children's and a male voice choir, he had created three

0:46:460:46:51

and it was now time to realise his dreams and bring them all together into a single entity.

0:46:510:46:57

-Good evening.

-ALL: Good evening.

0:46:580:47:01

This is a really, really exciting rehearsal because this is the rehearsal

0:47:010:47:06

where my ludicrous plan all comes together.

0:47:060:47:09

Next, can I have the tenors in the choir, tenors?

0:47:100:47:13

Not in a blue seat... That way.

0:47:130:47:16

Children's choir, follow me.

0:47:160:47:19

Last but by no means least, Matty's Men. On you come.

0:47:210:47:25

The entire membership of Gareth's choirs now stood at 256, the biggest community choir in Britain.

0:47:250:47:32

This is my South Oxhey Choir. This is the dream.

0:47:320:47:36

This is the vision - to bring as much of this community together as we can through singing.

0:47:360:47:42

We are now the choir that has to go and entertain South Oxhey.

0:47:420:47:46

Having drawn together different strands of South Oxhey,

0:47:470:47:51

Gareth wanted to give something back to the community in the form of one big last performance.

0:47:510:47:57

Wow!

0:47:570:47:58

An absolutely enormous space.

0:47:590:48:01

Two streets away from the town centre, he found the South Oxhey playing fields.

0:48:010:48:06

It'd be a really fantastic place to have a big festival. It's really making me think.

0:48:060:48:12

Get one of those huge stages like they have at Glastonbury

0:48:140:48:18

and lots of guys in yellow jackets pointing the way and the wrist bands...

0:48:180:48:24

We could have all the toilets here,

0:48:240:48:26

kebab stall there...

0:48:260:48:28

I'd just love to see this whole space full of people all cheering the South Oxhey Choir.

0:48:300:48:36

I think it's the ideal venue, better than a concert hall.

0:48:360:48:40

You could be a bit anarchic which would suit South Oxhey quite well.

0:48:400:48:45

But Gareth's idea of a free festival brought with it

0:48:480:48:52

something the choir believed threatened their very existence.

0:48:520:48:56

-I'd like to come up and say something.

-You can, yes.

-Thank you.

-Approach the chair.

0:48:560:49:02

APPLAUSE

0:49:020:49:04

-Can I get up there?

-Do I have to get off?

-Yes, please, if you don't mind.

0:49:040:49:08

-Have you got a speech?

-I have, actually.

0:49:080:49:11

Gareth, I know I speak on behalf of everyone here tonight when I say, with the choir you see before you,

0:49:110:49:17

because of the time and dedication you've invested and your belief in us from the very beginning,

0:49:170:49:23

you've not only given us wonderful opportunities to perform, but also the gift of self-confidence

0:49:230:49:29

It's with this in mind that I'd like to ask you, on behalf of the South Oxhey Community Choir,

0:49:290:49:35

to stay and continue to be our choirmaster.

0:49:350:49:37

-APPLAUSE

-Oh, God...

0:49:370:49:40

And...

0:49:400:49:41

This has given me a huge amount and it's given me... Sorry.

0:49:430:49:49

It's given me huge pleasure to see you grow into the choir you've become.

0:49:490:49:54

I can't say "yes" tonight and I can't say "no" tonight

0:49:540:49:58

because, as you can see, my heart is saying, "Absolutely, stay, and it'll be great."

0:49:580:50:04

I have other projects that I've already committed to, so I just simply don't know.

0:50:040:50:10

The future of the choir may have been in the balance,

0:50:100:50:14

but the festival was less than a week away and with everyone mucking in,

0:50:140:50:19

preparations went into overdrive.

0:50:190:50:21

Bridlington. That's down by the shops.

0:50:220:50:26

In a co-ordinated effort, the choir made sure everyone in South Oxhey knew about the big day.

0:50:260:50:33

One, two, three, four, five people on Oxhey Drive.

0:50:330:50:37

There's going to be a festival in South Oxhey on May Bank Holiday.

0:50:380:50:42

And on the eve of the festival, it looked like everything was coming together.

0:50:430:50:49

Oh! Oh, my goodness!

0:50:490:50:51

Wow, that's brilliant!

0:50:510:50:53

It's amazing. It's absolutely amazing. I can't believe the transformation. It's great, great!

0:50:540:51:01

It's the stuff that dreams are made of. It's why I got into music. I love a performance.

0:51:020:51:07

And that was a performance on a huge scale.

0:51:070:51:10

But when the festival day arrived, there was one element Gareth and the choir couldn't have planned for.

0:51:100:51:17

It's raining!

0:51:170:51:19

People are going to be deciding right now whether they're going to come and it's pouring with rain.

0:51:230:51:29

I'm wondering if I'd go?

0:51:300:51:33

But despite the damp atmosphere, the crowds started to come.

0:51:350:51:39

Just what we wanted to see.

0:51:390:51:41

It'll be great. Looking forward to it. There's a few over there.

0:51:410:51:45

-That's going to be packed out.

-Packed out, filled up.

0:51:450:51:49

That is going to be enough just for us.

0:51:490:51:52

Oh, we're singing!

0:51:520:51:54

By early afternoon, 6,000 people had gathered to see Gareth's community choir.

0:51:550:52:01

There's a great atmosphere out there. People want this to work. South Oxhey wants this to work.

0:52:010:52:07

If they didn't, they wouldn't have turned up. They're all out there.

0:52:070:52:11

The field was absolutely filled -

0:52:110:52:14

people with umbrellas, people with blankets, little children.

0:52:140:52:19

The crowd was behind us, cheering, singing.

0:52:190:52:22

It was like it was a hot, sunny day. It didn't affect any of them.

0:52:220:52:26

The grand finale brought each part of Gareth's choir to the stage

0:52:270:52:31

for a performance they hoped would bring the house down.

0:52:310:52:35

-CHEERING

-Let's do it!

0:52:350:52:37

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:52:430:52:45

Ladies and gentlemen, the South Oxhey Community Choir!

0:52:480:52:52

INTRO TO: "Walking On Sunshine"

0:52:580:53:01

# I used to think maybe you loved me Now I know that it's true

0:53:070:53:12

# Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo

0:53:120:53:16

# I don't want to spend my whole lif just a-waiting for you

0:53:160:53:20

# To knock on my door, knock on my door

0:53:200:53:24

# I don't want you back for the weekend, not back for a day

0:53:240:53:29

# All right now

0:53:290:53:31

# I said, baby, I just want you back and I want you to stay

0:53:310:53:37

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:53:400:53:44

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:53:440:53:48

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:53:480:53:52

# And don't it feel good?

0:53:520:53:55

# All right now

0:53:550:53:57

# And don't it feel goo-oo-ood?

0:53:570:54:01

# And don't it feel goo-oo-oo-ood...? #

0:54:010:54:07

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:54:080:54:11

OK, South Oxhey, put your hands in the air!

0:54:150:54:18

Every single one of you!

0:54:190:54:22

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:54:260:54:30

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:54:300:54:34

# I'm walking on sunshine Whoa-oa

0:54:340:54:39

# And don't it feel goo-oo-oo-oo-ood? #

0:54:390:54:47

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:54:470:54:49

To the pub immediately!

0:54:530:54:55

This really, really, really has been one nine months!

0:54:550:54:59

The biggest nine months of my life.

0:54:590:55:02

It's filled a massive void in my life, meeting new people.

0:55:020:55:06

Everything that's happened about today, the build-up to today has bee so wonderful. I can't believe it.

0:55:060:55:12

So emotional.

0:55:120:55:14

As the successful festival drew to a close,

0:55:140:55:17

there was one last question that Gareth needed to resolve.

0:55:170:55:22

We didn't know whether Gareth would stay with us right until the end.

0:55:220:55:27

When he said, "I've made my mind up, I've had a chat with my wife

0:55:270:55:31

"and it's a logistical nightmare, the travelling," everyone's shoulder dropped.

0:55:310:55:37

It was just very sad to kind of feel like he was going to go off

0:55:370:55:41

and leave us behind, sort of thing.

0:55:410:55:44

Then he hit us with... "But I've decided to stay."

0:55:440:55:48

Thank you so much!

0:55:480:55:50

You don't know what you've done for me.

0:55:510:55:53

-Thank you.

-You've made me so happy.

0:55:550:55:59

We need music in our communities, we need music in our lives

0:55:590:56:03

because you need these moments of being together.

0:56:030:56:06

The whole point of human society is that we get together

0:56:060:56:10

and we enjoy each other, we enjoy each other's company

0:56:100:56:14

and choirs are a culmination of that,

0:56:140:56:17

an expression of something that is deeply personal and deeply human

0:56:170:56:21

and I saw that in the choir tonight, that sort of sense that they just loved singing.

0:56:210:56:26

They absolutely loved it.

0:56:260:56:29

And so did I. And so did South Oxhey.

0:56:290:56:32

Who'd have bloody thought it? South Oxhey loves singing. It's amazing.

0:56:320:56:36

-See you later!

-Thanks. Bye-bye!

-This is South Oxhey!

0:56:360:56:40

Gareth stayed on as South Oxhey's Community Choirmaster for another 18 months.

0:56:400:56:45

The choir continued to evolve,

0:56:450:56:48

performing major concerts at Westminster Central Hall and the Watford Colosseum.

0:56:480:56:53

Gareth's dream of a self-sustaining choir had become a reality.

0:56:540:56:59

And nine months ago, he handed over his choral duties

0:56:590:57:03

to professional choirmaster Simon Wookey.

0:57:030:57:06

CHOIR SINGS

0:57:070:57:09

Today, the South Oxhey Choir is still going strong.

0:57:110:57:16

Gareth has come to the Roundhouse Theatre in London to catch up with members past and present.

0:57:160:57:22

-How are you?

-I'm good.

-Nice to see you.

-Nice to see you.

-You're taller!

0:57:220:57:27

-I'd like to introduce you to Carol.

-Hello, Carol.

-Hello.

0:57:270:57:30

-We're going to be married.

-You're going to be married?

0:57:300:57:34

-Congratulations.

-In September.

-It's real.

-It is.

0:57:340:57:37

-Very real.

-That's fantastic news.

0:57:380:57:41

The transformation in Fred, it's unbelievable... Hello!

0:57:410:57:45

-Matty!

-How are you, mate? All right?

-Very good. Nice to see you.

0:57:450:57:49

-When are you coming up for a spar?

-I'm getting a bit flabby, I think.

0:57:490:57:54

-You're a bit out of shape.

-A bit.

0:57:540:57:56

I've left, but it genuinely lives on. It has a life of its own.

0:57:560:58:00

It has a new musical director. I'm the patron. It's a proper choir in a proper community.

0:58:000:58:06

That's really, really exciting.

0:58:060:58:08

-And you.

-I'll see you again.

0:58:080:58:10

Lovely meeting you.

0:58:100:58:13

HARMONISED SINGING

0:58:140:58:16

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011

0:58:430:58:48

Email [email protected]

0:58:480:58:50

In 2009, choirmaster Gareth Malone went on a mission to lift the spirits of a marginalised and divided community, the town of South Oxhey in Hertfordshire. He worked with all sections of the local community, including primary and secondary schools, churches, parents and clubs.

Gareth immersed himself in the community to create adult and children's choirs who went on to perform in the ambitious Festival of Song in the summer of 2009. Thus, he succeeded in putting this forgotten community on the map.

Now Gareth returns to South Oxhey to catch up with the choir members, past and present, in order to see if the community is continuing to be united through song.