Last week, I met up with the Treasurer Dominic Fenton who explained what the Harmony Gospel Choir is all about. They also kindly invited me to sit in on their rehearsal from 4pm to 6pm upstairs in Jabez Clegg (every Wednesday), and after ten minutes I couldn’t resist getting involved. They have a lot planned this year and in December they have their annual concert and this summer they have just won the University Gospel Choir of the year award.
Surely you have to be quite good at singing to join the choir?
No, absolutely not. Even if you’ve never sung before you’re still more than welcome. You don’t even have to think you’re good at singing because you will eventually realise that you are, and our job is to help teach you. There is no audition, and no fee so all you have to do is drop in on our Wednesday session. Usually there are 50 people in the choir but this year is it a bit bigger, and we have about 70 to 80 people. Our conductor Tosin is fantastic at getting the best out of us, and we have Dave on the piano who has just completed his PhD at the RNCM.
Gospel music is heavily linked with Christian ideologies. Do you structure your society around Christianity and can non-believers and people of other faiths get involved?
You’re right that Gospel music is associated with Christianity and this is something we all recognise and respect. Nearly all of the music we sing is focused on Christianity and half way through each rehearsal we stop for a short prayer. However, our main aim is to include everyone. Personally I am not religious at all, but I respect that the music I love derives from a religious background. As a committee we try to strike a balance between incorporating religion without people feeling alienated or intimidated by it. One can respectfully ignore the prayer at half time, but understand that it’s there for the people who do practise Christianity within the group. We are concerned with the inclusion of Christianity but not the doctrine of Christianity. What’s great about our society is that you can take away from the religious words and put them in a wider context, we sing about inclusion, hope, peace and love. And these are important to everyone no matter what your religion is.
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