Gareth Malone and his Military Wives' Choir were named the clear winners in the race to reach the 2011 Official Christmas Number 1, beating X Factor winners Little Mix, TOWIE, Stacey Solomon and Alex Day to the most esteemed singles chart of the year. Their song 'Wherever You Are' - a moving song composed by Royal Wedding composer Paul Mealor and consisting of lines from the wives' love letters to their serving husbands in Afghanistan - has caught the hearts of the nation in recent weeks.
‘Wherever You Are’ sold 556,000, not only outselling Little Mix by almost 5 times this week alone, but also outselling it overall in Little Mix’s two weeks on sale and raising significant funds for their two military charities SSAFA Forces Help and The Royal British Legion. This also means that even had the single gone directly head-to-head with the X Factor winners, the Military Wives would still have won. Furthermore, the landslide victory saw the choir sell as many records as the rest of the top 12 chart put together. The single has had the biggest-selling first week since Alexandra Burke’s ‘Hallelujah’ in 2008 and the 7th biggest since electronic records began in 1994.
This win for the amateur choir, which formed as part of Gareth Malone’s BBC ‘The Choir’ series, marks several firsts in the UK Official Charts – it is the first ever classical piece to make pop No.1 and also the first No.1 for Decca Records in 45 years, since Tom Jones in 1966 with ‘Green Green Grass of Home’. Gareth Malone and the Military Wives Choir are now the first recipients of the Official Singles Chart Number 1 Award, launched by the Official Chart Company to mark the 60th anniversary of the UK’s Official Singles Chart in 2012. Unusually, the Christmas chart was announced at 3pm on the Top of the Pops revival rather than the usual Radio 1 Official Chart Show.
The Military Wives choir were already the only artists to overtake the X Factor winner as the bookies’ favourites for Christmas No.1 since the ITV show began in 2004. ‘Wherever You Are’ has become the fastest-selling song in 6 years, beating sales of Rage Against the Machine’s famous X Factor defeat which racked up 502,672 sales. In fact, in a millennium that has so far been dominated by TV talent competitions, this is the fastest-selling single not to have emerged from that TV format.
The choir’s rise to the top has seen an extraordinary month for the 100-strong choir from Devon (formed from Chivenor and Plymouth) who have performed to royalty, dignitaries and celebrities, including singing their single 'Wherever You Are' at No.10 Downing Street, the Sun Military Awards, at HMV Oxford Street and on several TV shows. With all the choir members’ husbands now safely home they can celebrate their Christmas success together.
“This is so surreal. Who would have guessed in those first rehearsals that we could take Christmas No.1? It’s testament to the Military Wives’ hard work and the nation’s support of them as well as the power of choral singing. It’s a winning combination – a Christmas No.1 winning combination! Thank you to the British public for supporting The Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help by buying this single. Chris Evans and Radio 2 have helped us to showcase the talent and strength of these amazing women. The support of the British military for the choir has been fantastic. I’m delighted that they have found their voice. We did it!”
Gareth Malone, Military Wives choirmaster
“This is truly unbelievable! Never, when I sat down to compose this song, did I imagine it could get Christmas No 1 and touch so many people's hearts. The support we have all received has been overwhelming. The Military Wives now have a voice that no one, for evermore, will ever underestimate! Blessings to Gareth, The Wives and all our supporters, wherever you are!”
Paul Mealor, composer
“This is a fairytale success which has inspired the nation – the Military Wives, Gareth Malone and Paul Mealor should all be incredibly proud.”
Dickon Stainer, President of Decca Records
“Everyone at SSAFA Forces Help is absolutely thrilled that the Military Wives Choir is this year’s Christmas No.1. ‘Wherever You Are’ is a truly inspirational song and Gareth Malone and the Choir have done an amazing job. Their support will make a very real difference, enabling SSAFA to provide even more practical help and assistance to military families, young and old alike. The Military Wives Choir typifies all that is good about the Armed Forces community. The bravery, dedication and resilience that they have displayed when their loved ones are serving overseas, have been a shining example to us all.”
Athol Hendry, SSAFA Forces Help
"The Military Wives and their families are very much to the fore in the work that the Legion is doing today in support of the "Afghan Generation " of the armed forces. We are absolutely delighted that they have achieved the Christmas No.1 and will continue to support them in the future"
Russell Thompson OBE, Director of National Events and Fundraising, The Royal British Legion
"Certain things in life you have to do. When The Military Wives landed on our doorstep it was almost like a calling. We had to do whatever we could to help. And so that's what we did. It was a complete joy to be involved in from the start to finish. Big up The Wives, Gareth Malone and Paul Mealor for Knighthoods. (Please)."
Chris Evans, Radio 2 DJ and choir supporter