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.

Thanksgiving for Sue, St Leonard’s, Grimsbury, Banbury, 20 August 2022

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.

Left to right: Jay, Richard (holding a photo of Sue) and Donald – Our thanksgiving for Revd Sue – one year on, we miss your smile, dancing and tambourine playing! With our love, all at Gospel Bell.

Cropredy Festival fringe at St Mary’s Thursday 11 August 2022

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!

Left to right: Richard and Donald – opening the Cropredy Festival fringe event at St Mary’s, Cropredy, pictured with Hilary

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!!)

Lymington United Reformed Church Weekend Celebration 16-17 July, 2022

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.

This wonderful photo of Lymington URC taken by Donald, reflects the words of our Gospel blues hero, Revd. Blind Willie Johnson: ‘Let it shine on, let it shine on, let the light of your lighthouse shine on me’

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!

Richard, Donald, Jackie and Rachel

Gospel Bell in the Garden – a happy evening of singing together in the URC Lymington church garden

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)