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Gospel Choir Experience

Saturday 28 October 2023, Bodmin.

The atmosphere in the afternoon workshop is energetic, positive and powerful. Attendees soak up the singing techniques shared by Callington Community Gospel Choir’s training team and rapidly get to grips with gospel songs.

Several attendees are members of local choirs, Liskeard Community Choir, Wadebridge’s More Harmony, St Teath’s Church, and one singer represents three choirs, Bodmin’s Belt it Out, Lostwithiel’s Lost in Song and St Austell’s Keayside Singers, along with host Bodmin Way Community Choir. The training team is delighted to support, strengthen and work with so many experienced singers as well as others who don’t sing formally.

To help break down inhibitions, the life-affirming warm up song involves actions to: “I’m alive, awake, alert and feeling fantastic! Everyone joins in.

Song lyrics share a strong message. The team teaches three gospel songs.

“Come and sing unto the Lord. Sing it like it matters. God will hear.”

“I’m trading my sorrows/shame. I’m trading my sickness/pain. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord. Though sorrow may last for the night joy comes with the morning.”

Steve Dawe, founder and musical director of Callington Community Gospel Choir said: “Joy is an entitlement and I’m taking my share. Gospel singing encourages others to do the same.”

Gospel singing is an oral tradition so there’s no paper in sight. When singing gospel, you are communicating to those you’re singing to and this requires engaging with the audience without song sheets getting in the way.

“It’s really liberating to put your copies of music down and just sing.” said Francoise Currie, a workshop attendee.

Surprising to some, a Coldplay number ‘Fix you’, is sung, perfectly complementing John Henry Newman’s ‘Amazing Grace’.

One way gospel singing is taken to another level is through key changes. Singers know one is coming when the conductor points upwards with their index finger. Conductors use many symbols to communicate effectively at speed. A tap on the head means the song starts again and a thumb going backwards indicates the song is coming to an end. These are fun to learn, as is discovering everyone has several singing voices!

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour workshop in St. Petroc's Parish Centre, Bodmin, Jan Winter said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s so relaxed without song sheets.”

Most workshop attendees are back before 7pm for the Gospel Choir concert in St. Petroc’s Church, Bodmin, where lights, music and song fill the air.

The audience sway, clap, stand and sing along with the enthusiastic and highly polished Gospel Choir.

Just before the end of the first half, Steve invites workshop attendees to join the choir at the front to sing songs from the workshop!

Audience member Debbie Kirby said: "It’s great to have so much energy and enthusiasm filling the church."

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