Military Wives Get the tissues out as the left-behind ladies discover their voices.

Label:    Acorn Media
Time:      175 Minutes in 3 episodes
Rated:     Exempt from classification
Format:     Region 2; PAL; Aspect ratio 16:9

“Choirmaster Gareth Malone believes that singing can change the toughest of lives,” says the narrator at the start of this latest of the BBC’s The Choir series.

He’s had plenty of practice, starting a few years ago with a group of reluctant London teenagers at an under-performing school. He is an impressive motivator, used to convincing unlikely people to get together to sing. This time he trains up some military wives, who have virtually nothing to do, except for waiting and worrying, while their husbands and boyfriends are away in Afghanistan.  

When he starts his appeal for choir volunteers at a barracks in Devon, there is no response. “Tumbleweed,” he mutters. But with persistence and some one-to-one canvassing, he gets a group of 41 at his first practice.

The bow-tie-and-jeans-wearing choirmaster says to camera, “It’s all about boosting morale; it’s about finding pride in yourselves,” and one particular wife shows that brilliantly. She does not even have the confidence to sing to the others, let alone take a solo in performance, yet what Malone builds in her is spectacular.

By the end of the first episode, he has got them singing “Sweet Child of Mine” in the local market and by the end of the second they are performing at the prestigious Sandhurst passing out celebrations. The climax comes when he gets a combined wives choir to perform in front of the Royal family for the annual televised Remembrance Day celebrations at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Is it about singing? Not really. It’s about the people that Malone works with. It’s about creating community, building confidence and then watching what happens when ordinary people respond. In this case they achieved 2011’s number one Christmas single “Wherever You Are,” created from their husbands’ letters. It’s inspiring stuff.


Derek Walker