How choir guru Gareth Malone nearly missed his Castle date with Queen

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“I woke up that morning not feeling well. I had some sort of stomach bug,” he explains. “I called up Ben Winston, Sir Robert’s son, who was producing the celebrations, saying I didn’t think I could make it.”

“But he pleaded with me and, in the end, I crawled out of bed, got dressed in the dark – grey jacket, brown cords – and drove myself to Windsor.

“Once there, a royal lackey got me a peppermint tea and we were ushered, not into some anonymous state room, but the Queen’s private drawing room overlooking Windsor Great Park. Gary had a boombox on which to play the track and that’s when the adrenalin took over.

“It was a sort of pinch-me moment. Her Majesty, unlike the more outspoken Prince Philip might have been, was so practised at not reacting to any performance, a past mistress at being subtle and kind. And yet, she did appear to enjoy it.”

Gareth had met the Queen once before when the Military

Wives – formed and managed by the broadcaster for a 2011 TV show – sang at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2011.

He might have met her again in 2012 when he was appointed OBE, but he was working in America, so it was Princess Anne who performed the investiture.

“She was as delightful and well-informed as you would expect. But my lasting memory of that day is being worried about my wife, Becky, who was very heavily pregnant with our son, Gilbert,” he recalls.

“The investiture is quite a long ceremony – they get through everyone at one sitting – so she had to be carefully positioned by a handy exit in case she was taken short.”

The couple have two other children. Esther is now 12 and Dvora, a Hebrew form of Deborah, is just three.

The musical gene appears to have passed through the family.

He said: “We all sing all the time. My top tip for making a child musical: encourage them to sing from an early age.”

His father worked in a bank and his mother was a civil serv- ant. Yet as far back as he can remember Gareth wanted to do something out of the ordinary.

At secondary school, he grew increasingly enamoured of performing: in plays, orchestras, jazz bands and pop groups.

“I wasn’t quite sure where any of it would lead. I did a drama degree, but when I came back from university I realised music was missing from my life.

“My epiphany came in a concert. I sang a note which seemed to reverberate off the rafters and, on the walk home, I made up my mind I was going to be a professional musician.”

At the London Symphony Orchestra, he ran a number of educational workshops.

When someone said they were starting a community choir, and would he like to run it, he did not need to be asked twice.

“In the end, I ran two choirs: one for adults, one for children.”

And that’s how he came to the attention of the BBC – and Gareth Malone, the choirmaster, was born.

Subsequently, having helped propel the Military Wives to the top of the charts, and got many of us taking part in the Home Chorus singalong in the pandemic, Gareth, 46, is about to embark on a tour of the UK.

Together with a band, four singers and a choir local to each venue, Sing-Along-A-Gareth! kicks off this month in Salford.

“I like the fact it’s got Gaga in the middle,” he smiles.

“I’ve been involved in choirs for years now, then along came the performance stuff on TV. On previous tours there was always audience participation, but I’d never quite married the two.”

He has created a songlist, available online, for the show.

“I’m adding to it all the time but it’s guaranteed to include arrangements for some of those numbers people will be familiar with from Home Chorus.”



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