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Saturday, 11 March 2017

A day of singing to the rooftops

Last Sunday was a cold, grey rainy day, there were even hailstones at one stage. A day for staying in bed late, and spending a day at home being warm.

That wasn't an option for quite a crowd of us who were gathering in St Lukes, a 13th century village church in Laughton, Leicestershire for a day of rehearsals, singing and recording tracks for an album. I must stress, I wasn't there to sing. Oh no, I was there to record a feature about a choir who are making an album.

St Lukes doesn't have its own choir, but through a series of serendipitous moments, church members have in a sense adopted another choir. Not just any choir though, this is the Emmanu-El Apostolic Academy Choir, also known as the DMU Gospel Choir.

I'm a huge fan of the choir, I've been hearing them sing for years around Leicestershire ....but in recent times, they've reached a national audience through reaching the finals of BBC 2 The Choir: Gareth's Best of Britain and other choir competitions.

The Academy and Choir was founded in 2003 by Bishop Mark Anderson

So what 's the link between a gospel choir from inner city Leicester and a sleepy, tiny country church? Well,  Kate and Willie Gilbertson Hart who live in the village invited the choir to come and sing at a Sunday service. Willie's band also performed, and the church was packed...something that wasn't happening at regular Sunday services. There's not enough people who live in the small village to do that.
The choir were invited back, word began to spread and a friendships were forged. The choir needed rehearsal space...Willie had it, and so a closer relationship began.
Singing a couple of times a year at the church, followed by long lunches cooked by Kate and friends, singing at Willie'' sons wedding, both in the church and at the riotous party afterwards, the choir have become much loved around here
Tom Allom, Kate and Willie Gilbertson Hart and Bishop Mark Anderson.

Record producer Tom Allom, a friend of Willie's who usually records albums by Judas Priest and other similar bands, heard the choir at the wedding and just before Christmas. He found their singing and enthusiasm infectious, and was quickly persuaded to produce a cd of the choir.
The cd is being made to promote the work of the choir, and to raise money to help finish the conversion of an old working men's club in Leicester into a church. Of course recording an album doesn't come cheap, so Kate and Willie have been asking their friends and supporters who enjoy coming to hear the choir to donate money to help the choir make their first album, which will in turn generate more money for the church.
So St Luke's Church was packed with choir members, friends and Willie's band plus

my friend and colleague  Amy Harris,the Leicestershire reporter at BBC East Midlands Today and cameraman Richard were there to record a piece for telly

When you hear the choir and  see them perform, it really is a revelation. Their joyous sounds raise the roof, and while you can't help but smile and tap your feet on the big numbers, their beautifully pure voices can also bring a tear to your eye. They make a mark on their audiences time after time.

It's still very early days though and this was the very first step towards the album. I don't know when it will be released or what the title will be.

In the meantime, click on this click below to listen to my radio feature  - and hear the choir rehearse....