The Choir Sing While You Work Episode Two: Gareth Malone travels to Royal Mail Bristol and repeats what he did last week

by Matt D

In my review of the first episode of The Choir – Sing While You Work I commented on how the series may face a problem that every episode would follow a very similar format so we may get bored by the end. Those fears were somewhat warranted as Gareth Malone travelled to Bristol to sort their Royal Mail workers into a choir and once again he wanted a cross-section of the workplace from the management to the postmen on the streets by way of those who worked in the mail centre. To drum up business Gareth took to the mail centre brandishing a megaphone however was fairly despondent when several people told him that they didn’t really want to be part of a choir with their workmates as they didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Again like last week he got about 120 workers to turn up and auditioned them by hearing them work their way through a couple of bars of ‘Postman Pat’ before again he whittled them down to a choir of 30.

As the first rehearsal came about it seemed clear that this week’s story would be how a lot of the Royal Mail workers are disillusioned with their work and as there’s been a lot of changes to the company the people at the bottom are feeling neglected as they don’t feel management are really listening to them. This is seen by the suggestions of songs which included ‘I Want to Ride My Bicycle’, ‘Changes’ and perhaps most telling of all ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ however in the end the choir decide to sing the much more upbeat ‘Return to Sender’. As always we get to know some of the characters primarily postman Sam Fry who takes Gareth on one of his rounds to meet some of the old ladies who he pops in on and briefly keeps company. In contrast we also meet one of the members of the management team in Tim who has worked for Royal Mail for 30 years starting as a postman and working his way up to the position of regional director. It is Gareth’s mission to bridge the gap between management and those out on the streets so they can understand what the other is going through while same time having them sing side by side. At the end of the first half hour of the programme we saw them singing ‘Return to Sender’ to a rather unimpressed looking crowd in Bristol’s Mall Shopping Centre.

For the second half of the show Gareth wanted to select a song that represented the frustration about the lack of communication between the management and the regular workers so he picked The Beatles classic ‘We Can Work it Out’. Again like last week we saw choir members sing this as they went about their daily working lives while we also got the audition for the soloist with Sam being the successful candidate however I felt he wasn’t the strongest singer and he’d only been given the part due to him being one of the biggest characters in this episode. Sam being the soloist at least gave him a reason to be able to sing it to one of the pensioners he visited on a regular basis with her finding particularly enthralling. Gareth also wanted to use the choir as a way of communicating the message of the workforce to management and somehow cajoled Tim into hosting a PowerPoint presentation about the benefits of the choir and why it shouldn’t stop after Gareth leaves. Tim got help here form sorting office man Pete, who to me was one of the most endearing members in this week’s episode, who told about his years with the Royal Mail and how recently he’d felt that he wasn’t being treated fairly any more. Though the board members may not have been particularly convinced that singing could stop the Royal Mail being privatised at least they all turned up for the final performance.

Yes again the episode ends with a performance for all of the choirs’ colleagues and family members while we also saw another of the judges of the final contest appearing surreptitiously in the crowd having said that former Head of Music at Eton Ralph Allwood wasn’t exactly that conspicuous as he was the only member of the audience that was making notes. To me the Royal Mail Bristol choir had a lot of spirit but weren’t as technically perfect as last week’s group from NHS Lewisham were. Ralph went through this in his notes praising their passion, and oddly he also thought Sam’s solo was great, however he felt that the song could’ve received far more impact while at the same time they’re still displaying a nervousness in their eyes as they seemed to be looking to Gareth for encouragement every two seconds.

Talking of Gareth this week I found him a little bit more harsh complaining that they weren’t pronouncing their ‘t’ sounds correctly and also there was a whole scene in which he broke down how to sing the ‘a lover’s spat’ line from ‘Return to Sender’. After staying out of the operating theatre this week we also saw him muck in a lot more collecting the post alongside one choir member before travelling to meet Sam’s aforementioned pensioner friends. As you can see I’ve compared this week’s edition with last week’s as the layout, pacing and format of the episode was exactly the same down to the fact that there was that secret judge in the audience again. The story about the constant changes in rules and regulations at the Royal Mail was an intriguing one and once again Gareth’s music had a deeper meaning to it that being that he wanted to make all sides of the story see the other’s point-of-view. I really don’t want to repeat what I said last week however Malone has that likeability quality and is truly passionate once again here also seeming genuinely interested in all the lives of those he meets at Royal Mail Bristol. Now I’ve watched two episodes of Sing While You Work I have to say that I know the format exactly but I’ve come to the conclusion that that doesn’t matter too much when the characters and stories are as engaging as they are here.

Did you enjoy this episode of Sing While You Work? Are you glad Malone is still making people sing? Leave Your Comments Below.


  1. Gerry on September 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Are the rehearsals on their own time or are they being given time off work to sing? Not that I mind either way, would just like to know.

  2. Janet on September 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    As a family member, I can confirm they did the majority of the rehearsals in their own time. They lived and breathed ‘The Choir’ for a few months over the summer!

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