Last time at the Bell with Chris, Adderbury 14 June 22

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.

Wishing you a relaxing Summer,

Richard, Donald and all at Gospel Bell

At the end of our joyful farewell evening to Chris and Sandra on Tue 14 June. Left to right: Richard, Toni, Chris, Troy, John and Donald (seated)

Steeple Barton outdoor celebration, Sunday 12 June 22

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.

Left to right: Donald, Fran, John and Toni enjoying the late afternoon sunshine at St Mary’s outdoor event

Jubilee Music at the Bell, Adderbury, 4 June 22

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.

Left to right: John, Toni, Troy, Richard and front and centre, Donald

Silver Bough in the 1970s! 28 May 22

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!

Left to right: Jackie, Sheila (in her ABBA outfit!) Donald, Richard and Ben

Somerton Village Hall, 12 May 22

The village of Somerton is home to Gospel Bell regulars Dave and Toni and we always enjoy playing for the Somerton Social Club members in their beautiful village hall. Fran and John had brought with them their guest from Ukraine and she listened attentively, said that she’d really enjoyed our music and joined us for our usual group photo:

Left to right: Richard, John, Fran and their Ukrainian guest, John, Toni, Donald and Troy

We shall miss Dave, our amazing harmonica player and raconteur when he and Chris move to Wales a little later in the year but thankfully he played and sang with us for part of the evening. Our thanks to Debs and Emma and the Somerton Social Club committee for inviting us to play. Whenever you’d like us to come back, just ask!

Centre stage: the inimitable David Reed, our friend, harmonica player and story-teller.

Bodicote St John the Baptist Parish Church, 6 May 2022

The ‘History’ section of Bodicote St John the Baptist Parish Church website which serves the communities of Bodicote, Cherwell Heights, Cotefield and Longford Park near Banbury, Oxfordshire says:

It’s impossible to say how long there has been a church in Bodicote. The name of the village itself, probably derives from ‘the settlement of Boda’ – a family name and has a Saxon ring, although being on the edge of Salt Way, a very ancient road older even than the Roman occupation of Britain, the settlement could be older still. If there ever was a Saxon Church on this site, there is no sign of it, but we can be sure that people have worshipped here on the same spot for at least eight centuries.

After a recommendation from an audience member at a fund-raising event we played at prior to the pandemic, event organiser Helen Hall invited us to play a fund-raising concert at St John’s on Friday evening 6 May 2022. Helen and her team were hoping to raise a few hundred pounds for the work of the church but the evening exceeded all expectations, raising around £600! Our thanks to Helen and her team for meticulous planning, organising and leaflet campaigning in the streets close to the church, to the Vicar Revd. Sarah Sharp for her warm welcome (and for personally delivering the fastest ever interval drinks order!) and to the Curate Revd. Nick Fielden for his encouragement. Above all, we’d like to thank everyone that came along, sang with us and generously supported the event – they thought they were coming to a concert but our audiences have to sing with us and they did! Afterwards an audience member asked us if we would play a Ceilidh for Ukraine and so we hope to be back in Bodicote again soon.  Thank you Bodicote for a really enjoyable evening.

Left to right: John, Richard, Donald, Nick, Susie, Troy, Helen, Toni and Sarah

Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, Birmingham, 25 March 22

We were delighted to play a fundraiser for Christian Aid’s Ukrainian Appeal at the Three Trees Community Centre in Birmingham on Friday evening 25 March. Formerly known as the Baptist Church, the centre is a vibrant place of worship and has been an integral part of community life since 1970 when it began providing facilities for local residents, including a nursery, coffee bar, lunch clubs and the area’s first shop. More recently, £1.2m was raised to repair, refurbish and extend the building and in 2018, Chelmund’s Fish & Chips – the UK’s first community owned chip shop began trading. Today, the Centre is alive with activity, from parent and toddler groups to a wide array of clubs – fusing the Christian message of hope and peace with community life.

Gospel Bell’s Donald and Richard were joined by Omar and Glen, performing an evening of American Gospel, that drew on the fascinating story of key figures in the Gospel blues tradition (the foundations of rock n’ roll!) narrated by Donald. Offered as a free of charge event to coincide with Lent, the main hall was filled with people from the community and they sang with us and gave generously.

Donald told the story of American Gospel music – explaining the background to the songs we all sang

We would especially like to thank the Reverend Neil Roberts who conceived and organised the evening. Neil has lived and worked in Chelmsley Wood for more than 20 years. He has been a key figure in the development of the centre from a leaky shed to a vibrant centre for the community. Neil says that he loves seeing grass roots ideas flourish as real life projects and has been involved in setting-up and running a range of community initiatives, from festival seasons to arts organisations to that local community owned chippy! His day job is the minister of the Baptist Church, which has its home at Three Trees. Thank you Neil – we are looking forward to coming back!

Our thanks to the Reverend Neil Roberts (left) pictured with Donald McCombie

Farewell to Sean, Black Horse Inn, Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire, 02 October 21

At a Saturday afternoon event for family and friends, we said a musical farewell to Sean who enriched us with his friendship and elevated our music and live performances with his wonderful singing, guitar playing, wry wit and good humour. His declining health had meant that getting to the venues where we play had been challenging but once in place, he always sang and played with great enthusiasm and courage. Occasionally we find ourselves performing on a stage with lighting, a good PA system and a sound engineer and here, Sean was in his element – a microphone in front of him and an audience to be entertained! By the end of every performance he had no energy left but he was happy!

Farewell to Sean: left to right: John, David, Donald and Richard

Richard writes: I had the privilege of recording two albums of Sean’s original songs about different aspects of life and you can listen to them on the ‘Other Music’ page of our website: ‘A new direction’ tells the story of Sean’s connection with Gospel and ‘The little white church’ is a fine example of Sean’s song writing in this genre. Sean wrote the song: ‘There’s a new star in heaven tonight’ as a tribute to a friend and last Saturday, we played Sean’s recording of this beautiful song in memory of both Sean and his friend Steve. Sean’s second album concludes with the song: ‘Who’s going to play this old guitar? (after I’m not here). Sean knew the answer to his question – he bequeathed his beautiful Martin guitar to his dear friend Donald who now plays ‘Martin’ at Gospel Bell performances. We are so thankful to have known and played music with Sean and our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved Susie.

Susie sings ‘There’s a new star in heaven tonight’ with us: Left to right: Dave, John, David, Susie, Donald and Richard

Our thanks to the owner and staff of the Black Horse Inn, Shipston-on-Stour for looking after us so well.

Somerton Village Party, 18 September 21

After playing at Somerton Village Hall on Thursday 2nd September, we were delighted to be invited back to play at the:

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We would like to thank Catriona and her team for the invitation to play and for her warm welcome. It was great to see lots of small children dancing!

Gospel Bell at the Somerton Village Party, Saturday evening 18 September 2021

Hook Norton Baptist Church, Oxfordshire, 04 September 21

We last played at Hook Norton Baptist Church (HNBC) on 6 September 2019 and it is a favourite venue of ours because Nigel provides expert sound engineering from behind the mixing desk of the church PA. Not only that, but everything is set-up ready for us – four microphones on stands, two monitors, a stage and atmospheric lighting! Given that we can’t always hear ourselves in some venues, it is a joy to be able to hear every band member clearly and know that the sound balance is in experienced hands.

PA, lights and stage! – Rachel pretends to play the Mandolin

The occasion was part of the HNBC ‘Just Deserts’ series that attracts locals and others who had travelled from further afield (having read about the Gospel Bell event in the Banbury Guardian) and we all enjoyed the lovely range of deserts on offer that had been provided by the event organiser Jane Whitaker and her team.

We’d like to thank Jane, Nigel and all who had made deserts for the audience to try! We’d also like to thank the kitchen team helpers: Jenny, Cleo and her daughter Rebecca and Jelica who did an expert job as the event MC. Jane writes: Everyone really enjoyed themselves last night and were humming the tunes in the kitchen as we tidied up and we raised £160 in donations.

Gospel Bell at Hook Norton Baptist Church – Left to right: John, Toni, Donald, Richard, Rachel and Chris