The Early Days
By Christmas '98 we had ditched the dodgy costume, but you can't say the same about some of the other folk on the stage.
Easter 1998 at the Central Hall, the choir sporting some rather questionable home dyed shirts and somewhat more hair than now
The choir was formed in the autumn of 1997 in order to sing at a Christmas service at Central Hall run by the Community Church. Initially the choir was formed almost entirely from members of that church but it was never intended to be a church choir, and membership has always been open to all, which is what the word “community” in our name means; we are from the wider community and sing in the community. That the church has the same word in its name does cause confusion sometimes.
Initially the choir disbanded after this Christmas event and was reformed just for a similar event at Easter, and then reformed again for Christmas 1998. After this we decided to become a permanent choir to do other events throughout the year.
Births, Marriages and Deaths
There was a period during the early life of the choir when several members were having babies, and frequently there would be a sleeping baby in a car seat at the back of choir practice. The choir sang at the baby thanksgiving services for some of these children, who will now be about 20 years old, and one of whom has sung at a concert with us.
Usually the couple will come to a regular choir practice and
listen to what we have on offer, it's rather like a private recital
just for an audience of two. Needless to say, we have performed at the weddings of
some of our members because the choir is a bit like an extended family for the long standing members.
What would a wedding be without a gospel choir? We sometimes sing at weddings, and inexplicably were not asked to provide the gospel song at the Royal Wedding in 2018, despite 'Stand by Me' being in our regular repertoire.
We are sure it was just an
oversight and they'd meant
to ask us.
Although we have been asked to sing at a number of funerals and memorial services, on a number of occasions for the Piam Brown children's cancer ward at Southampton General Hospital, it was not until recently that we sang at the funeral of one of our own.
The choir member in question had asked us to sing the Southern African song Shosholoza at her funeral because she enjoyed the song so much. The late South African president Nelson Mandela spoke about how he sung it during his imprisonment and it was sung at his funeral in 2013. We were pleased to be able to do
so despite the sadness of the occasion.
Mandela's supporters singing outside his house on hearing of his death
We have published two CDs. One has non-seasonal material on it, some from a workshop day which was run by Pete Churchill from the Guildhall School of Music, the other CD from 2004 has a wide range of Christmas music.
There is also in existence a cassette tape (Yes, remember those?) of Christmas folk carols from 1998, some of which made their way onto the later CD. Alas, no Edison cylinders are available.
One of the staples of the choir's year is to sing at charity events; be they concerts or just in a shopping centre, some organised internally and some under external auspices. One which regularly makes our calendar is The Big Christmas Sing, a concert with audience participation in support of Christian Aid. This usually takes place in the first week of December.
Also, biennially, the well known Comic Relief Red Nose Day event where we ditch the choir uniforms but don't actually sing anything funny – we let people who actually are funny get the laughs. Needless to say in these events we are usually joined by other folk, notably the Parkewood School of Dance, the Sing Out Choir and Highfield School Singing Club. In the past we sang regularly at the Wessex Cancer Trust annual Christmas carol concert at Romsey Abbey, a prestigious event in a very impressive venue. We also sing in less spectacular venues in support of local charities like Abby's Heroes and national ones like Shelter Box.
The logos below will link to the charities' and other groups' websites.
Another group of musicians with whom we have had a long standing collaboration is the local branch of the Psalm drummers, an international organisation of Christian percussionists. As our repertoire has always included a range of African songs the addition of hand percussion adds an extra authentic dimension
to the sound, and when there's no Psalm Drummer
around, we have our own Annie who drums and sings
at the same time.
Freedom Concert 2013
To mark the 180th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, a musical presentation written by
Hi-life Big Band
was given its première at King's Community Church in Hedge End. The piece took the form of
the recounting of a series of the pivotal court cases which led to the eventual abolition act in 1833. Several different types of musical groups and choirs took various parts in the retelling, including a certain gospel choir.
That's us there in our pink and purple kit
Several concerts and cabarets have been done in conjunction with the
Hi-life Big Band,
a full sized big band based
in Southampton led by
the next several years played at various church events and also at charity concerts to raise money for organisations like Cry, Hope UK and Southampton City Mission
The Big Band was formed in 2001, to perform in the Hi- Life Christian festival, and over
After an extensive break, the big band re-formed in 2018,
and the choir look forward to collaborating
once more with them.
Choir trips away
On five occasions we have been away for a few days together, three times staying in Normandy,
2006 in the cathedral in St Lo, memorable for how cold it was inside the cathedral.
2004, performing at an event organised by the Vire British expat association,
2006 at a school fundraiser. An English lady we knew taught at the school.
In 2009 we returned to Normandy and made a number of performances in church and an old folks' home.
These trips proved excellent for getting to know each other better and tightening the group.
We have also made a couple of trips to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour,
which, whilst also across the water, isn't anywhere as far.
...but there are red squirrels.
Music in the City
We stayed at the Victorian vicarage which was the nature warden's house. Normally this is
reserved for folk on conservation trips,
and the choir used this as a chance
to be together for a longer
period of time.
This is a free music festival which takes place in Southampton in the autumn.
It has now grown to include about 100 acts and 1000 musicians playing all across the city centre.
King John's Palace, but not us singing
One year we were in the Bargate, joining in with a ceilidh which the next group were running
From its beginning in 2009 we have performed at each festival, singing in a variety of places, the first being an empty shop on East St, which was rather strange, but later including some of the old vaults, King John's Palace and Holy Rood Church; which was bombed during the war and is now a shell and is maintained as a Merchant Navy memorial.
Holy Rood Church
More history to follow