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: 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: 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!

All Saints, Mollington, 02 June 19

Eastertide is the period of 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday and Gospel Bell were delighted to participate in a Sunday afternoon Eastertide Celebration service at All Saints, Mollington – our second visit to this lovely old church. The vicar, Hilary Campbell led the service that included two GB sets, with warm appreciation from the stalwarts in the congregation who came to our last event. The closing responses included: ‘Christ has come to turn the world upside down – to over throw the present order with a revolution of love’. Our old Gospel songs mirror this statement and we would like to thank Hilary, the service participants and the team that provided a plentiful afternoon tea for their welcome and hospitality.

Left to right: Sean, Richard, David, Toni and Donald with Revd Hilary Campbell and one of the service participants (centre), All Saints, Mollington

On Sunday Pentecost Sunday 9th June, Gospel Bell will be performing on the village green in Broadway (2-4pm) at a community event organized by the United Reform Church and others in Broadway.

Somerton 17 May; Banbury & Deddington 19 May 19

Somerton Village Hall, 17 May 19

Gospel Bell had a busy week, beginning with a return to play in Somerton Village Hall at the regular social evening for locals. We played a 70 minute set and about 40 minutes in, the socializing turned to dancing and singing. Thank you to Naomi and team for a warm welcome, we always enjoy our trips to Somerton.

Our ‘ready to play the blues’ pose, Somerton Village Hall

Banbury Friendship Festival (BFF), 19 May 19

For the third year running, GB was asked to play at this delightful, cross-cultural event. This year, the venue was the Bridge Street Community Garden and the theme was ‘sustainability’. In previous years we were asked to play for 20-30 minutes but were delighted to have been asked to play for a full 60 minutes over the busy luncheon period from 1-2pm. The weather was fine, though we played under a gazebo (just in case!) and with the use of BFF’s PA system. This coupled with a good turnout – Donald, Jackie, Sean, Susie, John, Troy, David, Toni, David, Richard and Jay meant that we attracted a lot of attraction and immediate participation by the many young children who danced at the front, some accompanied by their parents. As ever, it was a joy to play at and support this event and several organizations came over after we’d finished playing to ask us to play at their events! Our grateful thanks to Sue, Judith and the entire BFF team for organizing this unique festival and making us feel so welcome.

At the Banbury Friendship Festival the band was big – too many of us to fit in one photo – apologies to Jay (saxes and flute) missing from stage left and Troy (Cajon) obscured by the dancers! (Thank you Hannah for your beautiful festival photos!)

Deddington Church, 19 May 19

Every year – immediately after our Banbury Friendship Festival slot, we head over to Deddington to play at the annual ‘teas in church’ event. This is the only regular afternoon tea gig that we play and the atmosphere and acoustics in the church ensure that it is a special event. Our thanks to all who drank their tea and ate cake slowly so that they could join in and to the vicar Annie for hosting us and Heather and her team for making us feel so welcome – thanks too for the delicious tea and cake!

Relaxing after our hour-long set with Revd Annie and her music-loving dog. Thank you Judy and Fiona for taking photos

Fund-raising concert at St James the Great, Claydon 26 April 19

Claydon, meaning clayey hill, is the most northerly parish in Oxfordshire, and the small ironstone church stands at its highest point. It consists of chancel, nave, North aisle and North chapel, and a low West tower with a saddleback roof. The original church had a 12th Century nave and North aisle and most of the changes took place in the 13th Century.

Claydon was originally a chapelry of nearby Cropredy, where the Bishop of Lincoln held a large manor recorded in the Domesday Book. In 1851, Claydon joined the chapelry of Mollington and formed a separate benefice. In 1996 these parishes joined with Cropredy, Great Bourton and Wardington to form the Shires Edge Benefice, and we are grateful to the Benefice Vicar, Hilary Campbell for inviting us to play.

This beautiful old church was full to capacity for the fund-raising concert in aid of the church and the event raised nearly $400 for this purpose.

Our thanks to Hilary and the warm and appreciative audience for making us feel so welcome. We’ll look forward to coming back!

Burns night weekend! 25-26 January 2019 in Warwickshire and Oxfordshire

Once again, the Silver Bough Ceilidh Band led by Donald and Jackie provided the poetry, music and dancing for Burns Night at historic Talton House, Warwickshire on Friday evening, 25 January 2019. It was pleasure to work with Piper and Orator Alistair Wilson again and we began the evening outside, welcoming guests with bagpipe, drums and flag-waving. Most enjoyed our loud serenade – just a few looked a little intimidated by our efforts! As in previous years, a full-house of guests enjoyed a lovely meal and afterwards, danced until late. We would like to thank the staff at Talton House for their hospitality and the guests for dancing to exhaustion point!

Burns night at Talton House, 25 Jan 19

Our Burns celebration weekend continued on Saturday 26 January when together with Alistair, we provided the entertainment, poetry and music for a fund-raiser at Bloxham School, Oxfordshire. The Great Hall looked fantastic and the event was beautifully organised and run by the School’s BTEC catering students. The large group of guests were clearly in the mood to enjoy themselves and danced with much enthusiasm until the caretaker arrived to lock-up! The band would like to thank the organisers, staff, catering team and students at Bloxham School for looking after us so well.

The Great hall, Bloxham School, Oxfordshire, 26 Jan 19

In the slightly amended words of the old Wizzard song, ‘We wish it could be Burns night every day’!