Denys Baptiste‘s critically acclaimed Now Is The Time…Let Freedom Ring! comes to Harrow – administrative home of Tomorrow’s Warriors – on Thursday 21 November. It’s going to be a bit of a ‘family affair’ at Harrow Arts Centre as we have local residents, our Artistic Director, Gary Crosby OBE on double bass in Denys’ band and other half, Janine Irons MBE – Chief Executive of Tomorrow’s Warriors – in the choir! More than this, however, it’s a high profile gig for the Harrow Community Gospel Choir, a new amateur choir borne out of a serendipitous meeting of the Harrow Music Education Hub (HMEH) earlier this year.
Says Janine, ‘It’s a wonderful choir – long overdue in Harrow – that came into being following the inaugural meeting of HMEH. Sue McCall (Co-ordinator of HMEH), Cecilia Wickham-Anderson of Black Voices and I got together over a coffee at Harrow Arts Centre one morning in Spring 2013 to discuss a gaping hole in local provision – astonishingly, Harrow did not have its own community gospel choir. Almost immediately, there was a meeting of minds and, on paper at least, Harrow Community Gospel Choir was born.
‘Denys Baptiste’s new project, Now Is The Time…Let Freedom Ring! proved a superb catalyst to kickstart our new partnership within HMEH, particularly as we were already in discussions with Kerry Blackburn, Programme & Marketing Manager at Harrow Arts Centre about programming this work. So we all got to work very quickly on realising the ambition to give Harrow a brand spanking new community gospel choir we could all be proud of.
‘Within a few weeks, St Dominic’s Sixth Form College confirmed space for our weekly rehearsals and, since then nearby Christ Church Roxeth and members of the choir have offered rehearsal space when St Dom’s is unavailable. So the Hub and the choir are already beginning to act and feel not just like partners, but actually like a community, and this is brilliant!
‘Clearly, there are significant benefits to be gained from working within a hub. Harnessing collective skills and resources, we have been able to make a high quality artistic and participatory offer to residents of Harrow, working with some of the best professional musicians and vocalists in the country. This couldn’t have been delivered as effectively if we’d worked in our silos, and I think what I value most is the genuine ethos of shared leadership, with each of us playing to our strengths and supporting each other when needed. This massively strengthens the immediate partnership and the hub’s core infrastructure, thereby enhancing its potential for sustainability and growth.
‘As for the choir, we have a fabulous mixed bunch of people which is fantastic as, culturally, we each bring something different to the table. It’s very enriching to be around such friendly, generous, and just genuinely nice people. Quite apart from the enormous fun we have every week, and the opportunities for local networking, singing in the choir is actually brilliant for stress-relief! I can’t tell you how much I look forward to Wednesday evenings now!
‘Best of all, though, as part of the Harrow Community Gospel Choir, I will get to be part of Denys Baptiste’s band for a day – how cool is that?!’
If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the Harrow Community Gospel Choir, please do get in touch with Sue McCall at HMEH (see details on the flyer below)! Everyone’s welcome, no audition necessary. As long as you can sing in tune and you have a great sense of humour, you’ll be very welcome! The choir is particularly keen to encourage more male members so, if you’re a baritone or bass, you are especially welcome!