Gracewell Care Home, Adderbury, Oxfordshire, 9 February 20

Gracewell of Adderbury recently invited us to play an afternoon concert and though conditions outside were still rather wild in the aftermath of storm Ciara, the residents were in the mood for a good sing-song! We played an hour-long set from 2.30pm and as usual, Donald and Sean led our singing and helped everyone to learn our song choruses. This is an important aspect of our music – rather than performing to audiences, we like them to sing with us so that collectively we focus on the message of the songs and create music together.

As we were singing ‘I saw the light’ the sun began to shine outside and we had our usual ‘feel good’ experience as we smiled at the audience and they smiled back and sang with us! We greatly appreciate the opportunity to take our uplifting set of American Gospel blues and country songs to places where they help to bring joy and perhaps some relief from routine and we’d like to thank the staff and residents of Gracewell of Adderbury for their warm welcome, hospitality and for singing with us.

St John the Evangelist, Hempton, Oxfordshire, 26 January 20

We enjoyed our first outing at St John’s, Hempton, Oxfordshire on Sunday afternoon 26 January – a lovely space with beautiful acoustics. We don’t often play at events geared for small children but hopefully we’ll do more of these in the future as the children seemed to like the music and some jigged along to the beat. When not playing, we helped the children draw around their shoes – we did this too – although some of us had trouble fitting our feet onto the A4 sheet. Then in the spirit of journeying through 2020, we thought about what we’d like to accomplish and added words or a drawing inside our foot outline drawing.

Gospel Bell at the ‘Eat, Pray, Live’ event at St John the Evangelist, Hempton

John’s Melodeon was a real hit with the smallest children, several of whom wanted to play it as the same time as John. As he has finely tuned grand-parenting skills he deftly managed this!

Annie the vicar had asked us all to think about the year ahead – a helpful all-age exercise and Paula the curate read a passage from the book of Revelation that proved to be the perfect introduction to our closing song. As we were packing up at the end, David noticed some broken church furniture which he kindly took away to fix. I think that sums us up – we love playing in churches and at any other event where we can spread some Gospel blues and country cheer – not only that, David can fix the furniture! Our thanks to Annie and Paula for inviting us to play and to all the families who gave us a warm welcome.

A Gospel Bell Christmas, Kineton, Warwickshire, 16 December 19

Gospel Bell played at Kineton Sports & Social Club on Monday 16 December, dedicating the evening to the tireless work of the late Steve Cadd who did so much to sustain local music in Kineton. The evening was a concert-style event and just about every seat in the main bar area was taken. As with all our work, the band played free of charge with donations in support of the Air Ambulance service.

A Gospel Bell Christmas! Left to right: Richard, Sean, Troy, Donald, David

The band played a 90 minute set, opening with Sean’s composition: ‘A new star in heaven’ a song inspired by the friendship that he, Donald and many others shared with Steve Cadd. Some of the audience wanted to hear the song again and so Sean obliged at the end of the evening while those listening made recordings on their phones. Our music was interspersed with some inimitable story-telling from Donald, including a powerful seasonal story based on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19 verses 23-26. We should have recorded this too!

Donald in story-telling and banjo-playing mode!

Gospel Bell would like to thank the event organisers for inviting us to play and for a memorable evening with a large, appreciative audience of people who sang with us.

A memorable evening with a big group of people ready to sing!

As we look back on 2019, there have been numerous other highlights and so a heartfelt thanks to all the organisations, audiences and congregations – for great singing with us and for the generous donations made to charitable causes. Roll-on 2020!

Richard Teare and Donald McCombie

For Gospel Bell

Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival, 6-8 December 19

Gospel Bell were delighted to play and sing again on Sunday 8 December at the annual Christmas tree festival and fund-raiser organised by St Mary’s, Adderbury.

Left to right: David, Sean, Donald, Troy and Richard

Reflecting on the event, their website comment is as follows: What a wonderful weekend of community spirit, sparkling trees shining out their messages of love, hope and joy and live music and dance, the sixth Adderbury Christmas Tree Festival turned out to be.  The trees were spectacular and so much thought and care had gone into the decorating meaning that each one was a winner in its own right.  Amazingly during the weekend over 640 votes in total were cast for the best decorated trees by members of the public.

Thank you St Mary’s!

Our thanks to Hannah for her lovely photos and to Emily Reed, Clare Lester, Liz Simpson and their team for inviting us and as always, making us feel so welcome. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!

The six best female guitarists of all time?

We were delighted to receive an email on 23rd October 2019 from Jennifer Miller in New Zealand representing Beginner Guitar HQ at: www.beginnerguitarhq.com In a recent article, Beginner Guitar HQ has ranked Sister Rosetta Tharpe (one of our favourite song writers and who features prominently in our repertoire) as the second best female guitarist of all time!

In a fascinating article that includes a video clip link to Rosetta in action, the article observes: Mixing gospel with the electric guitar, she created a distinct sound which transcended boundaries. No matter what venue, Rosetta Tharpe would play her religiously inspired music. She played in both nightclubs and large concert halls bringing her sound to a mainstream audience.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

We feel privileged to keep Rosetta’s music alive at a wide variety of venues – though without the heavy, distorted electric guitar that characterized her Gospel sound – that wouldn’t go down so well at rural churches where we often play and where the audience is typically 80+ in age!

Our thanks to Jennifer for sharing her magazine’s article with us – it is free to access from: https://beginnerguitarhq.com/best-female-guitarists/ Do please visit Beginner Guitar HQ via the link and read the article.

PS – Jennifer says that Beginner Guitar HQ‘s many thousands of readers might well head to the Gospel Bell website and who knows, we might end up playing well beyond our usual Oxfordshire and Warwickshire base!

St Anne’s Church, Epwell, 18 October 19

Bach, Vivaldi, a string quartet, a choir, close harmony female singers and Gospel Bell – what a night! Thank you to Chris, event organiser, Ronald, Rector and the people of Epwell, Sibford and surrounding villages for turning out last night for a joyful, fund-raising evening of spiritual music in the ancient church of St Anne’s Epwell, Oxfordshire.

The Gospel Bell big band – with string quartet! Left to right, Richard, Troy, David, Donald and David. Behind us – amazing string players! 

During the entire second half, our Gospel Bell blues band (playing American Gospel blues and country Gospel traditions) was backed by a string quartet and female singers – all improvised but you would never have guessed it – and everyone sang along – from around 8 to 80 + years of age. Fantastic!

Donald (foreground), Troy, David and David enjoying the incredible improvised Gospel chorus singing of a female singing group – thanks for fantastic harmonies! 

Chris Hurst, the event organiser wrote to say:

Thank you Gospel Bell, it was a memorable evening – a great atmosphere, wonderful music-making and something for everyone.  Like you, we just enjoy singing and playing together and love it when the rapport with the audience is so good!  We shall certainly discuss future events and invite you back. The evening raised £462 clear profit, which increases this year’s income by a very welcome 5%

Hook Norton Baptist Church, 6 September 19

Our first outing at Hook Norton Baptist Church (HNBC) on Friday evening 6 September was truly memorable! The HNBC organizing team had sold more than 70 tickets for our concert (raising £517) – every seat was taken and everyone sang along with us!

Left to right: John, Dave, Sue, Sean (front centre), Jackie, Jay, Richard and Donald (front right)

Our thanks to Peter and Kim Brookes, Nigel, Lee, the organizing committee and the refreshment team for making us feel so welcome – we don’t often have a sound system and engineer, lighting and a stage with the words to our choruses projected behind us!

Gospel Bell in action – as viewed from the balcony!

St Leonard’s Banbury, 31 August 19

Gospel Bell love playing at St Leonard’s – they are such a joyful crowd!
On Saturday 31st August, we enjoyed an evening of music and dance with great food and company. Our thanks to Sheila, Sue and the team for their kindness and hospitality. Here is the feedback from Sheila James, the organizer:

Thank you for another great night of music and dancing. All the people who were there enjoyed themselves. I think the balance of singing and dancing works…and you do it very well. Very uplifting! It was a successful fundraiser too…at the last count I understood it to be at around £180. One lady who joined us literally came in off the street as she heard music. It turns out that she is working as a carer and is a musician! She will join us on a Sunday when she can she said. There were others present who don’t normally attend Sunday worship so I think it is a good way to reach out to people.  
Thank you again, Sheila on behalf of St Leonard’s. 

We closed by singing ‘Amen’ together – a welcome break from all the dancing …

Festival of Friendship & Learning, UNISON Birmingham, 31 Aug 19

On Saturday 31st August Gospel Bell performed at the Birmingham UNISON festival of Friendship and Learning in the lovely Martineau Community Gardens, Edgbaston. 

An  entirely free event was supported by musicians,  poets and a Tai Chi exponent.  The spirit of friendship was great , amid a beautiful green space unknown to many. Friendship festivals,  community gardens and UNISON learning activities are good companions for the Gospel Bell.  The Gospel Bell was augmented by Omar Caseman on harmonica and Mike Powell from Blue Smoke Union on guitar. Thanks both. 

The Blue Smoke Union band –

The event ended with everyone joining together in singing Pete Seegar songs in the late sunshine. Thanks to everyone concerned. ………..and yes ‘we shall overcome ‘. In friendship. 

Village Green, Broadway, Worcestershire, 09 June 19

Gospel Bell were delighted to support the Pentecost Sunday afternoon event organized by Richard Becher and colleagues at the United Reform Church and the Churches together in Broadway. On cue, the sun shone and thanks to the meticulous preparation, kindness and sound balancing of Tom Prater from Broadmark Services, everything that was said, sung and played could be heard clearly across the Green and beyond, to the pubs and cafes where locals and visitors were enjoying the sunshine. Not only that, we provided musical respite to the brave souls completing a 52 mile walk – The Heineken ‘Race to the Tower’ is described as a Cotswold Way Ultra Marathon and all the participants – some looking much the worse for wear – were walking past. We enjoyed the dramatic reminder of the events of Pentecost, the song by Indian pastor Israel and his wife and the vibrant singing of Juliet Mukisa from Uganda – Juliet joined us for our second set.

Backstage on Broadway! Jackie (front centre) is holding Riley, our 11th band member today!

It is encouraging to read feedback from today: A lady called Phoebe posted the following comment on our Facebook page: ‘I happened to be visiting Broadway this afternoon and heard you guys playing on the village green. You made my day! I’m from the US, Kentucky and Virginia, and grew up listening to what you were playing. Loved it! ‘ Thank you Phoebe!

Our grateful thanks to the organizing team, the audience young and old – some clapping and dancing, some singing and others doing cartwheels and to the churches in Broadway for hosting the event. If we can assist next year, we’ll look forward to coming back!