Singing at the Sea – Bray Gospel Choir

This Irish Gospel choir does it all - from weddings and festivals to TV.

What was a very special moment for your choir?

A few years ago, Bray Gospel Choir hosted Gospel Rising music festival – and invited over 30 groups and choirs to come and sing together in our hometown. Just see the headlines below!

QUICK FACTS

Choir Name: Bray Gospel Choir (BGC)
Location: Bray, Co.Wicklow, Ireland
Style: Gospel / Soul / Motown
Number of singers: 45 members
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Article in The Bray People Newspaper, advertising the Gospel Rising Festival (2013).

What was it like for a small town to host a big festival?

Every member of the Choir volunteered their time and energy to help run this social, fun, and energetic festival that takes place annually in Ireland. They were superb ambassadors for our little town, welcoming every singer and participant to the festival and helping them to find their workshop locations or the train station! We were all thrilled when the Festival organising committee booked the festival to return the following year! This was an extremely proud moment for myself and the choir management team.

What an experience! Any other highlights from the festival?

When we performed outdoors on the old Victorian Bandstand on our beachfront, for the closing night of the festival to a fantastic and energetic crowd. The atmosphere was electric!

What are some of the group’s favorite songs to sing?

Some of our favourite songs have come to us from wedding requests. By asking couples if they have any favourite romantic songs they wish to include on their special day, the choir is constantly learning new arrangements and doing our best to add a Gospel twist on contemporary songs too!
Some of these include:

  • “One day like this” by Elbow
  • “The One” by Kodaline (Irish music group)
  • “All of me” by John Legend
  • “Signed, Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
  • “For once in my life” by Stevie Wonder

Do you ever bring these songs into your concerts as well?

One of the songs that the group really loves to perform for weddings and at concerts, is a special arrangement of “Stand by Me”. The arrangement was taught to Bray Gospel Choir singers at a workshop led by a UK choral master and vocal coach, Mark De-Lisser. His version was most recently performed by the Kingdom Choir at the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel! (We all love to claim that we sung it in Bray first!)

Group photo taken after a “Merry Night of Soul” December (2016).

Does every singer have a background in Gospel before they join?

Most of our members are fans of Gospel music, and when we hold our auditions in Autumn, we just ask that interested singers simply prepare one or two verses of their favourite song, and sing unaccompanied in front of the musical director. (It doesn’t have to be a gospel song necessarily!) This gives the musical director an opportunity to hear the person’s voice tone, clarity and help match them with the correct vocal part ( Tenor, Soprano, Alto, Bass).

Any insights for singers wanting to venture into Gospel music?

First things first: join a local gospel choir! Next, consider your own personal tutor or vocal coach to help further your vocal training. Additionally, we would recommend to anyone interested in singing and learning more about Irish choirs, to take part in the Gospel Rising Music Festival and meet like minded people.

What is a favorite vocal warm up or exercise?

One of our favourite vocal warm ups is counting up a major scale: We start with 1,121,12321,1234321,123454321, etc all the way up to 8, and then start the descending scale by singing 8,878,87678,8765678, etc all the way back down to 1.

How does your choir bond as a group?

Every year, we hold 2 group events in the summer and the winter which are an occasion for all our singers /musicians to come together and celebrate the choir achievements. In December, we host a glamorous Christmas Dinner party for all our singers to don their finest glitzy outfits and enjoy a delicious dinner party among friends. (Some years we have presented Gospel Oscar Awards for the best soloist, best performances, and awards for the funniest moments of the year.) Then, every summer, we host a casual summer BBQ for our members, who are talented cooks as well as singers! The evening always ends with a couple guitars being brought out and and an ensuing sing-song (sometimes, one that goes on into the early hours of the next morning!).

Any turning points in the life of BGC?

Upon reflection, there are a few major turning points for our choir which include:

  • Our first ever gig and official launch of the choir was held in The Porterhouse on Bray seafront, and it ended up being a full house.
  • Collaborating with artist Mary Coughlan on her album for The Magdalene Laundries, and subsequent performance.
  • Being the musical entertainment for a Nationwide broadcast of the RTE television show, Ryan Tubridy live – which was broadcast from Bray seafront!
  • Having had the honour to support the Harlem Gospel Choir when they visited our local performance theatre ( “The Mermaid Arts Centre”) in Bray in 2010.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

We are hosting a big show (to celebrate our tenth year!) with some of our old favorite tunes, as well as some modern pop songs with our own Gospel twist. The concert will feature the full Gospel choir, as well as a band, hopefully a string quartet and some old friends of the choir singing as guests. We will be hosting the show in our own home town of Bray where it all started, and we hope to rock the town!!

Prepared by Alexandra Crampton, 1 of the original 4 founding members of Bray Gospel Choir. Alexandra started singing as a young child, trained and developed her love for performing on stage with The Vancouver Children’s choir in B.C., Canada, and participated in many singing groups throughout her youth. Upon moving to Bray, Ireland in 2009, Alexandra and her cousin Ruth joined with friends Serena and Ross to form Bray Gospel Choir. Since starting the choir, Alexandra has sang with in the Alto section, and she occasionally steps in as a backup conductor to help lead the group when needed.