Gareth Malone on busking in Bournemouth and why he wishes he could have performed at the Winter Gardens (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Gareth Malone on busking in Bournemouth and why he wishes he could have performed at the Winter Gardens
Warbling through some chronic self-penned song lamenting his latest heartbreak, the spotty teenage busker by the side of the road with delusions of talent is someone we have all ignored at one time or another.
I would never suggest that Gareth Malone was anything other than a superb entertainer. He was though, all the same, somebody who would pitch up on the street in central Bournemouth and begin crooning to passers-by.
Later he would do gigs at Mr Smiths, O’Neil’s and Yates’. He was a regular performing face in the area in the late 1980s and early ’90s and it soon became clear he possessed more than just a little ability.
The choirmaster’s success can be traced back to this time in the town and, in particular, his time at Bournemouth School.
“It was an incredible period of my life,” he declares excitedly.
Gareth praises the teachers, the supportive environment and speaks fondly of persuading the headmaster to add drama lessons to the A-level curriculum so he could mix with students at the neighbouring girls’ school.
However, we can travel even further back in time to find those formative moments that lit his path to success.
The pivotal one was winning a part on a touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, aged 11, which saw him feature in 16 shows.
“Seeing the way the mechanics of it worked was wonderful and I completely fell in love with the atmosphere of it all,” he beams.
“I was drawn like a moth to a flame. I loved the excitement of the shows – it was just incredible.”
He then recounts assisting with the lighting for a performance of Bugsy Malone and becoming immersed in theatre and music.
He sang with the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus as a teenager too.
“There weren’t many people of my age and they really took care of me,” he adds.
All these years later Gareth is a man in demand. Since breaking into television with hit series The Choir in 2007, he has inspired a succession of unlikely singers to perform and worked with music royalty including Lloyd Webber himself and Gary Barlow.
Now he is in the midst of a 14-date UK tour, joined by his choir Gareth Malone’s Voices, which was assembled following a nationwide search for accomplished young singers last year.
When he talks about the show and in particular when it comes to returning to his beloved Bournemouth, the passion in his voice never wanes.
“It is very exciting to be coming back,” he enthuses.
“I have performed at the Pavilion, at the end of the pier and the Lighthouse – but never the BIC.”
“There will be lots of singing and there will be an opportunity for the audience to join in too.
“Bournemouth is one of the later shows so by the time we get there it should be really polished.
“There will be a big range of music – pop songs as well as choral, new songs and others people want to hear.”
He interrupts himself from his flow, reminding me this is not the formulaic interview given by many a celeb when promoting their latest set of gigs. He is a local lad, his parents still reside in Queen’s Park and he cares about what happens here.
It may have been a long time now, but Gareth still laments the loss of the Winter Gardens, branding it a “great shame” it is now merely a car park.
“Coming back to Bournemouth, the Winter Gardens is a place where I would have wanted to perform. It was such a great venue,” he mourns.
Still more than happy to be performing at the BIC it is heart-warming to hear he cares and remains so engaged with the place he grew up. Indeed it is the nature of his vocation to care and to nurture.
He may have achieved great success and made huge strides in his career, but this is still very much that boy in Bournemouth busking.
Perhaps next time you hear that warbling teenager, listen for a moment longer. He might just be the next Gareth Malone, or, failing that, he might just be that diamond Gareth can develop into something magnificent.
That is what he has done with so many others before, and more evidence of that will be at the BIC again tonight.
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