It didn’t take long — only three episodes, to be precise — for BBC America’s Gleek-baiting reality series, The Choir, to hook us, and last night saw the end of the first “arc” of the show, in which youthful choir director Gareth Malone brings the joy of singing to the working-class British town of Northolt. It was an hour full of tears, hugs, more tears, high ropes courses, more hugs, and many, many performances of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” as the kids of Northolt and Gareth trudged through the last months of preparation leading to their climactic performance at the World Choir Olympics in China.
It’s a testament to the kids’ believably slow musical progress that the fast pace didn’t leave us noticing big narrative gaps…though it’s also possible our memories have been blurred by the euphoric state that the unrelentingly charming Choir tends to put us in. Last night brimmed with more heart-warming moments than we could endure: Tiny Enoch (of the adorable Kenyan family) is admitted to the final China group! Spunky Rhonda gives a rousing pre-performance speech, and Gareth cries! And gawky, secretly-really-talented Gerry cries too! (See all the moments in the video below.)
But then (spoiler alert!), just when we were prepared to see them emerge victors — isn’t that the way underdog stories are supposed to end on TV? — they didn’t advance past the first round in China. On Glee, when the New Directions crew failed, we kind of rejoiced, because it felt like the right plot move. But seeing this real group of kids have their hopes dashed was painful, and yet it only made their return to England more moving. A show as uplifting as The Choir starkly makes clear that Gareth’s presence is fleeting: the kids remain in Northolt, while he moves on to the next BBC-approved project. Will Gareth’s lessons stick? Was the choir just a brief period in these kids’ lives, to be forgotten next semester? Or is choir really the transformative experience Gareth says it is? After a recap episode next week, Gareth moves on to attempt to start a boys’ choir (we can only imagine the sulking possibilities!) — but for now, enjoy these awww-inducing moments from last night.