TV choir master Gareth Malone admits he enjoys a good party when he visits Lancashire.
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The 42-year-old, who lives in London, has been frequenting the county ever since he was the age of eight, seeing various family members.
So he is looking forward to returning to perform at Preston Charter Theatre on June 6 with musical ensemble The Swingles.
He says: “My mum’s cousin, Adele Clokey lives in Lancaster and one of my cousins used to live in the Lakes, so I spent a large part of my school holidays in that part of the world.
“I would say that ever since the age of eight I go to Lancaster every two years for some sort of party, weddings, Christenings and sadly funerals.
“It is totally different to London, where I live, as it is a lot calmer.
“I have been to Lancaster castle and I found that beautiful.”
Gareth credits his love of music to his family, who are very “musical.”
He says: “I am from a musical family - even washing up was an occasion for singing.
“Growing up, I was very lucky to have opportunities at school.
“There was a jazz band, pop singing, a full orchestra and a choir. I had some really great music teachers that inspired me to want to sing more.
“By the time I was 13 I was making my own music several times a week. I was really into it.
“It is not secret that I didn’t always have a good time at school, with bullies.
“If anyone is having a hard time at school, I would say stick at it. If you have the passion for it, you should just go for it. It is very easy to be put off and then a few years go by and you are no longer doing what you love, which is a great shame. I am very lucky that I always kept going.
“By the time I got to sixth form, I started to find my feet.
“I was running bands and competitions and took any opportunity to make music and perform. I made a big statement that this was what I wanted to do.
“I have always enjoyed it. A career out of it came much later. I knew I wanted to do something creative, but I was not sure what.
“Now, I haven’t earned money from anything other than music. Music has been my chief income for more than 20 years.”
Gareth was working for the London Symphony Orchestra in 2007 when a colleague thought there was an even better opportunity out there for him, which saw him launch onto TV screens through reality series The Choir.
He says: “I was doing some music workshops at the London Symphony Orchestra and someone I worked for - Amy Armstrong - recommended me to 20/20, a production company which wanted to make a series about singing in schools.
“I got a phone call, asking if I wanted to be on TV and I did a taster tape which was pitched to broadcasters and BBC really liked the idea.
“It all came about from that one phone call recommendation. It could easily have been someone else but I have a lot to thank Amy for. I made sure I had tickets secured for her for the London Palladium as a way of showing my gratitude.
“Although I never aimed to be on TV, I had always had an interest in presenting and so when I was asked, I said yes.”
The Choir, broadcast on BBC Two, focused on teaching choral singing to teenagers with no experience, the first programme being set in Northolt High School, a comprehensive school in the west London suburbs.
The show was such a big hit, it was extended to form Boys Don’t Sing a year later, which featured an all-boys school in Leicester and the third series, entitled Unsung Town, featured the formation of a community choir in South Oxhey.
Always thinking of new ways to encourage singing, Gareth conducted the first New Year’s Eve Twitter Community Choir performance of Auld Lang Syne in 2009. He asked his followers on Twitter and Facebook, to join in with the event.
He adds: “It was when Twitter was in its infancy and I posted pictures of myself conducting Auld Lang Syne with a wooden spoon. It was a joke really, but someone edited my Wikipedia entry and it has now become an achievement.”
Gareth’s more serious works have included presenting a children’s programme for CBBC, The Big Performance, in 2010, in which ten young singers took the opportunity to overcome their fears.
A year later Gareth saw his first chart success, following the BBC Two programme The Choir: Military Wives, where he worked with wives and partners of personnel deployed to Afghanistan at Chivenor Barracks in Devon.
Their song Wherever You Are, a love poem compiled from letters written between the women and their absent husbands and partners and set to music by composer Paul Mealor, became the 2011 Christmas number one in the UK Singles Chart.
That year also saw him win an International Emmy Award in the Best Arts Programme category for his show Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne.
He also reached the number one slot with a host of celebrities he mentored, for the Children In Need charity single Wake Me Up in 2014.
Following on from his work with the Military Wives, Gareth formed a choir of wounded ex-armed services personnel to perform at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.
He adds: “The Invictus Choir was the most emotional thing I had done. It was very significant, on a national note and they were a great bunch of people.”
He has also been a judge on BBC One’s Pitch Battle and appeared on panel game shows Would I Lie to You? and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
His work has even earned him an OBE from the Queen, but perhaps Gareth’s proudest moment was performing for her Majesty’s Jubilee in 2012.
He adds: “I got a Tweet from Gary Barlow saying he would love to have a cup of tea and ask me something.
“Then I found myself on stage in front of 250,000 people, in front of Buckingham Palace with the Royal family.
“I had Andrew Lloyd Webber on one side of me and Gary Barlow on the other and my parents were in the audience.
“It was amazing. There will never be a concert like that for me again.
“It was such a huge honour.”
Gareth is to embark on a tour with The Swingles in May and will delight audiences at Charter Theatre, Preston Guild Hall, on Wednesday June 6.
Gareth will be joined on the tour by some guest choirs and singers along the way.
He’ll be showcasing new songs written specially for this tour, alongside well-known classics such as Fields of Gold, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Superstition.
He says: “I’m delighted to be coming to Preston with The Swingles, which is a world leading vocal ensemble. Making music with these astonishing vocalists is a joy because they have such a range of skills. There will be songs I have written and I will play the piano.
“There will be many chances to join in, and we’ll be writing a new, original song with the audience at every venue.
“This is a chance for audiences to be creative and write a song about Preston and Lancashire. It is part entertainment, part variety. I can’t wait.”
Tickets for the show at the Charter Theatre, Preston Guild Hall, are: Band A £39 and Band B £29. To book, contact the Box Office on 01772 80 44 44 or www.prestonguildhall.co.uk