It was a real pleasure to participate in the service of thanksgiving for ‘Festival 200’ an extensive calendar of creative arts, music and cultural events that began in April and concluded on 23 October 2022. Hosted by St Mary’s Banbury and organised by The Reverend Sarah Bourne, Chaplain for the Arts and Director, Festival 200 at St Mary’s. Sarah writes in her Welcome to the Festival:
“The Festival celebrates 200 years since Banbury’s Grade I listed church was pronounced complete in its re-built Classical style on 25 October 1822”. Sarah adds: “Our awareness of community underpins everything which we do at St Mary’s and we hope that this Festival will build on our church’s shared ethos of inclusivity, as well as giving us the opportunity to develop artistic creative and to enjoy each other’s company in 2022.”
The service was a celebration of beauty and creativity with an address by the Right Reverend Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, readings and prayers led by The Reverend Serena Tajima, Vicar of St Mary’s, Sarah and The Right Honourable Sir Tony Baldry, Patron of the Festival among others, with music provided by Gospel Bell. Thank you Sarah and Serena for your warm welcome and hospitality and for organising such a special event.
We have been playing authentic American Gospel blues and country songs at the Bell since October 2014 and when Andy and Nicola recently took over the pub, Nicola had the excellent idea that we should play when there are more people around to hear us! Arising from this, we played our first Sunday afternoon session at the Bell on 9 October, complete with a PA system assembled around Richard’s bass speaker cabinets, mics provided by Donald and Toni’s small (but still quite large!) peddle board. We played our first set as a quartet with Troy on Cajon, Toni on electric slide guitar, Donald playing Sean’s old guitar ‘Martin’ and mandolin and singing and Richard on bass. For much of the second set, Nicola joined us with fantastic vocals, tambourine playing and a few dance moves that encouraged others to dance too! Nicola’s dog, ‘Patch’ also seemed to like our music and especially Troy’s cajon playing.
Thank you Nicola and Andy for hosting us, providing refreshments and for your enthusiasm – we are already looking forward to the next session.
On Wednesday evening 21 September, Gospel Bell featuring Donald and Richard were delighted to play at the iconic Kitchen Garden Café (KGC) venue in Birmingham at a commemorative event for the life of Alun Gunter. Alun was a lifelong activist for equality, diversity and social justice and so Donald decided to organise the event so that it coincided with United Nations World Peace Day 2022.
The Kitchen Garden Café is a vibrant music venue that hosts many leading UK and international folk music performers, jazz and other musicians and DJ events. It has been a music venue for a long time and legendary artists like the Incredible String Band have gone before this evening’s Gospel Bell duo! We also felt rather spoilt by the professional level PA gear assembled especially for us and our own sound and lighting engineer.
We would like to thank Brett, Andy and Paul from KGC for looking after us so well, El and Milo for their lovely musical support, the UNISON Birmingham Branch for their generous event funding and promotion and all of Alun’s friends and family who came along and contributed to such a memorable evening.
The Reverend Sue Burchill was the vicar of St Leonard’s, Grimsbury, Banbury from 2014 until August 2021. Sue died following a short illness on 25 August 2021 just after she’d retired, aged 68. Around 50 people seated in a circle gathered to celebrate Sue’s life and ministry at 3pm on 20 August. Sue had been active in Banbury Christians Together and regularly met with the leaders of other Faith groups in the Grimsbury area. Further, Sue was committed to working with agencies working with those on the margins of society, including people caught-up in trafficking. Sue was also a governor of St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School and the current chair of governors spoke about her long-standing service and commitment to the children and the school’s work. Sue was an active Bell-ringer (with her husband Joe) and Choral Society member.
Gospel Bell loved playing at St Leonard’s – we played at a service on 30 July 2017 and at three fund-raising events for a new kitchen and toilet at the back of the church on 20 January and 19 May 2018 and then on 31 August 2019. At these three events, the St Leonard’s church family raised around £500 and really enjoyed dancing, singing with us and eating together. At the centre of it all was Sue who loved to see everyone enjoying themselves. We should like to thank Sheila James, Sue Ayliff and the other event organisers for happy memories of St Leonard’s party nights and for inviting us to play during the thanksgiving service and afterwards, during the serving of afternoon tea.
The last time we were able to play at a Cropredy Festival fringe event was on Thursday 9th August 2018. There were ten of us then and as ever, we missed Sean’s presence with us as we (Donald and Richard) played two sets, beginning at 12 noon. The church was packed with Festival-goers – no doubt looking for a cool place to chill, yet they sang with us and got themselves in the mood for the main event in the field!
Our particular thanks to Revd Hilary Campbell, Vicar, the Shires Edge Benefice, who is retiring in August. As we opened the St Mary’s fringe event, we invited Hilary to pray for the Festival and we gave her a ‘thank you’ card from all at Gospel Bell. Thank you Hilary for inviting us to play at your beautiful churches – we wish you and your family much happiness in the future. Our huge thanks also to Church Warden Verna Wass for inviting us back to play at St Mary’s and also to her organising team. It was a really special day!
Hilary loved the photo (taken by Caroline) and said: Thank you Donald McCombie and Richard Teare! Fab Gospel Bell music as always, (and I got to look like I can play the mandolin!!)
Following an invitation from Revd. Richard Becher, Minister of the United Reformed Church (URC) in Lymington, Dorset, a Gospel Bell quartet (Donald, Richard, Jackie and Rachel) played outside the church for the Saturday morning High Street market and in the lovely settings of the URC back garden on Saturday evening. We then led Sunday morning worship at 10.30am on Sun 17 July.
What a joyful weekend – we were blessed with fantastic weather and a really warm and appreciative welcome from the church family and visitors. The church is celebrating its 175th year on its current site in Lymington and a history in the town that stretches back for 350 years. We would like to thank Richard and Virginia Becher and all of the church family for a joyful weekend together and we’ll look forward to the next time. Thank you!
Chris and Sandra Shallis have been hosting Gospel Bell at the Bell Inn, Adderbury since October 2014 and in fact, ‘the Bell’ features in our band name for this reason! On behalf of all those who have played with Gospel Bell during the past 8 years (about 15 of us!) either in the Music room or in our more recent spot just inside the front door, we’d like to thank you Chris and Sandra and we wish you a very happy and peaceful retirement.
Chris and Sandra end their tenure on 2nd July and after that we’ll hope that the new landlords will continue hosting us from September onwards. Meanwhile, we’ve been invited to play on the Cropredy Festival fringe (in Cropredy church) on 11th August and we will be contributing to a Thanksgiving service in memory of the Revd. Sue Burchill at St Leonard’s, Banbury on 20th August. We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the numerous churches that invite us to play for them and we’re looking forward to some exciting new events in the Autumn, including: the final Festival 200 event at St Mary’s Banbury on 23 October and a fund-raiser for Holy Trinity church Sibford on 25 November.
Gospel Bell were delighted to make a return visit to St Mary’s Steeple Barton to play at a celebratory outdoor event to mark the retirement of several parochial church council members after many years of service. In addition to songs from our repertoire played and sung by Donald, Toni, Fran and John, Donald shared an appropriate story – which he is always able to do! Our thanks to Stephen Findlay-Saunders, Churchwarden and to the Revd Jane Wright, Rector, the Barton Benefice for inviting us to play.
Gospel Bell takes it’s name from the authentic American Gospel music that we play and our host pub since October 2014, the Bell, Adderbury. We were delighted to play during the Jubilee afternoon of music and by the time we played at 4pm, the sun was shining and the pub was full of happy people. It always encourages us to see people dancing to our music and singing along with us and yesterday’s band – Donald, John, Troy, Toni and Richard were according to our hosts Chris and Sandra, enthusiastically received by the crowds of people inside and outside the pub – Sandra said there was much toe-tapping going on! We’d like to thanks Chris and Sandra for hosting us throughout their tenure of the Bell and we wish them a happy and relaxing retirement.
At last, Ceilidh dancing is back and Silver Bough were delighted to be playing at an overdue 70th birthday party – with a 1970s theme – at the Fentham Hall, Hampton in Arden, Solihull on Saturday afternoon 28 May.
The weather was so pleasant that the 70 plus people attending Sheila’s Covid-deferred 70th birthday party didn’t want to stray far from the outdoor pig roast and refreshing drinks and so the band morphed into Gospel Bell and played outside until the pig had all been eaten! Suitably nourished, a very happy audience of people in amazing 70s outfits came to listen to our warm-up tunes and happily danced as Jackie guided them through the steps, Donald, Ben and Richard played and Rachel and Jackie demonstrated the dances.
It was fun to watch this happy group of people dancing from our position on the stage – clearly ABBA style 70s platform shoes and high boots are not the best footwear for dancing but they did it! Our thanks to Sheila for inviting us to play for her delayed 70th and for a warm welcome, generous hospitality and great dancing!