Music in a Field Festival, Belle Isle Farm, Hook Norton, Saturday 22 July 2023

Megan, Adrian and Megan’s family have been hosting their lovely ‘Music in a Field Festival’ – completely free of charge for seven years and this is the first time it has rained on Festival day. Given the persistent rain, Donald and I arrived early to double-check that the event was still happening and yes it was – everyone was busy doing all they could to make this a joyful, family event – rain or not! The other bands, duos and solo artists playing on two trailer stages were all excellent as were our friends, ‘Sharp and Blunt’ one of the three Adderbury Morris dancing sides.

As several of the bands scheduled to play had pulled out due to the weather, we were given an hour-long slot and from our vantage point on the trailer stage it was lovely to see children and adults dancing along as we played – it even stopped raining!! We also had an amazing view of the surrounding countryside and we couldn’t help noticing that the nearest herd of cows weren’t dancing – they were wisely keeping their dry spot dry.

Gospel Bell: Left to right: Thabo, Richard, Julie, Toni and Donald

Our grateful thanks to Megan and Adrian for the invitation to play and for making us feel so welcome. We’ll look forward to coming back when the sun is shining!

Richard Teare

Shipston Proms at The White Hart, Newbold on Stour, Saturday 17 June 2023

The annual Shipston Proms (17 June–1 July) is organised by volunteers and this year, features more than 40 acts ranging from ska to opera. We were really pleased to have been invited by lead organiser Charlotte Haines, to play on the opening night of this festival of music billed as ‘from Classical to Heavy Rock’. The volunteer representing the Shipston Proms arrived early at our event and stayed until the end – singing along with everyone else in the main bar of the White Horse. This lady told us that the organisers had said she need only pop in for a short visit but she stayed on and later wrote on the Shipston Proms Facebook page: The Gospel Bell Blues Band sounded brilliant at The White Hart in Newbold this evening! Thanks so much for the feedback and to everyone who came and sang with us – it was a lovely event.

Left to right: Richard, Donald, John (Landlord) and Toni

We’d also like to thank our friend, landlord John Harkin for hosting us and David Hucker who took at least one of the photos on our Facebook page.

Silver Bough at Talton House, Newbold on Stour, Warwickshire Friday 16 June 2023

We always enjoy playing Ceilidhs at Talton House and last night, we played outside with joyful dancing on the lawn! There have been dwellings at Talton House since before the Middle Ages. At the time of the Domesday book, Talton belonged to the church; there are traces of a medieval building (in the larder), and a Tudor farmhouse (in the attic). The main body of the House was built in 1714, the same year the false acacia tree was planted on the lawn. This tree is on the register of ancient trees. The Hall and first floor of the Wing are Victorian, and it was at this time that the park landscaping was carried out (ie. Many of the lime and chestnuts planted, and the water in front of the House made ornamental).

Music in the garden with (left to right) Julie, Jackie, Donald, Toni and Richard

Our thanks to the residential group who booked us to play and danced with much enthusiasm and to all the team at Talton, led by Olivia and Barney Hatch.

St John the Baptist, Bodicote, Friday 12 May 2023

The Parish Church of St John the Baptist has been a key part of Bodicote for over 800 years, supporting the community and enabling and encouraging people to worship God through prayer and services. The church serves a parish with a greatly increasing population that includes the original centre of Bodicote, together with much of Cherwell Heights and the new housing on Longford Park.

On Friday 12 May, we returned to play a fund-raising concert and as with last year, the Vicar, The Revd Sarah Sharp, Curate Revd Nick Fielden and ticket sales supremo Helen Hall made us feel very welcome. It was a joyful evening of singing together and the event raised £549.50 to help sustain the ministry of the church. Our thanks to Sarah, Nick, Helen and the whole team for a super evening, we’ll look forward to coming back again in 2024!

Photo left to right: Donald, Sarah, Toni, Nick, Thabo and Richard, Bodicote, Friday 12 May 2023

31 March, 2023: Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, Birmingham

On Friday 31st March, Donald, Toni and Richard played a community concert at Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, Birmingham. Revd. Neil Roberts and team had done a fantastic promotional job and the auditorium was full of people who sang with us.

Neil Roberts, our genial host behind the bar

Neil also doubled as bar tender in chief. The feedback was really encouraging: Neil wrote to say that everyone had enjoyed the event which had drawn a wide audience from the church and wider community centre groups. Neil went on to say: For us the important part of the evening is getting people together. Building and growing community is part of our mission here and your music and approach helps us to do that by offering great music, well performed, with a sensitive and interesting presentation. Having said that, we also ‘accidentally’ raised £200, which is very helpful! We’ll look forward to the next time!

A happy evening – Richard, Donald and Toni

Civic Service of Thanksgiving for Festival 200, 23 October 22

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.

Left to right: Sarah, Toni, Rachel, Richard, Steven, Serena, Donald, Kylie and Catriona

Sunday afternoon at the Bell, 9 October 2022

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.

Richard, Nicola, Toni and Donald – sadly we are missing Troy who’d left by the time we remembered to take a photo!

Thank you Nicola and Andy for hosting us, providing refreshments and for your enthusiasm – we are already looking forward to the next session.

Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham, 21 September 2022

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.

Donald pictured outside Fletcher’s in Birmingham, a bar and café complex that incorporates the Kitchen Garden Café live music venue

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.

Donald and Richard pictured with Paul our sound and lighting engineer for the evening. Paul is holding an Apple iPad with a Mobile PA mixing program. We don’t normally have these luxuries – let along personal PA monitors and Paul to make everything sound good!

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.