Bowness Lake District gospel choir

A mother-of three from Texas is bringing gospel music to Lakeland, as Paul Mackenzie reports

When Robin Perris suggested forming a gospel choir in the Lake District she was unsure what the response would be. Maybe a small group would meet in her kitchen and listen to music, she thought.

Seven years on, the 60-strong Lakes Gospel Choir has a waiting list of people keen to join their ranks and is fully booked for the rest of this year and part of next with concerts across Lakeland and Lancashire.

‘It was a real leap of faith to form the choir here,’ said Robin, who was born and raised in Texas. ‘I grew up on gospel music but I was really hesitant about introducing it here. I wasn’t sure we could do the complex harmonies and I didn’t think I would be able to direct it but the choir’s ability is amazing and the results were quite spectacular.’

Robin had sung in church choirs since she was a child and met her husband, Bolton-born Michael, at a ski resort in Colorado when he was on a gap year. The couple recently moved from Storth to Cartmel Fell and Michael, who did sing tenor with the choir, is now their sound technician.

‘When my first child was about two-years-old I was desperate to sing again and I suggested forming a gospel choir to people at church. I put up posters and invited friends but then I got scared because I’d never directed a choir before.

‘I thought if people came we’d just meet in the kitchen and listen to music on the cd player but my husband said we should think bigger, get a hall, proper sound, the lot.

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In the first year we had about 18 people.

‘We met in the kitchen once then started to hire the local school hall. We did two concerts in the first year and then pushed it a bit more in the second year and we put the word round a bit more. I walked in to the first rehearsal and there were 60 people there.’

On Monday evenings in Bowness

the choir often attracts audiences of passers-by into the Lakes Christian Centre just to hear them rehearse and they also now hold monthly open � evenings where new members can audition.

‘As we are having more concerts we needed to audition and last year we had 80 people audition - we had to hold auditions over two nights. That really raised the bar.’

‘We have grown from just being a summer choir to being a term time choir and we have grown the children’s choir. A group of us now visit schools and introduce them to the choir and the music as well now,’ added Robin whose elder daughter was a founder member of the children’s choir.

‘We have also been thinking about an orchestra for some time. We mainly sing to backing tracks from the Brooklyn Tabernacle orchestra but getting an orchestra together could be a possibility.

‘We have some really good musicians and songwriters in the choir and we are looking at maybe composing a few Christmas pieces which we could record. We have a huge number of requests for cds but because of copyright with the backing tracks we use, we can’t provide recordings, but that would change if we were to have our own music.’

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