How we got started
Gale Force Gospel was born out of a weekend workshop lead by the well-known Gospel songleader Tony Backhouse in May of 2011. A group of us met together afterwards, and decided we enjoyed singing this music so much we wanted to continue on a regular basis. We had our first rehearsal on 1st August that year, and have continued to meet weekly ever since.
Kapiti Gospel Choir was formed shortly after, and we have been good friends since those early days, collaborating together on a number of joint projects.
Who we are and what we sing
We currently have around 50 singers in our choir, singing in 4 or 5-part harmony: soprano, alto, tenor (male & female) and bass. We're a friendly crowd who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and have a diverse range of beliefs. Whilst we acknowledge that Gospel music is firmly rooted in one very particular religious expression, it is our love of singing this energising, exciting, uplifting music that brings us together and unites us in song. You do not need to be religious or spiritual in any way to join us. New faces are always warmly welcomed, and are encouraged to try out the various voice parts to see which they like best. We never audition: if you can make it through the door (there's a ramp for those with restricted mobility) you can join in! To find out more about singing with us have a look at the Join page.
We sing primarily African-American Gospel music, interspersed with Gospel songs from other cultures: African, Pacific Island and Māori. Our repertoire still reflects our beginnings, and we mostly sing Tony Backhouse's excellent arrangements of Gospel a cappella that he picks up on his regular visits to the southern United States. We also sing quite a few songs collected, written or arranged by our director, Carol Shortis.
Carol has been our musical director since the beginning of the choir. She's a long-time Gospel enthusiast, and has been attending Tony Backhouse workshops for over two decades - including the infamous 2011 workshop where Gale Force Gospel was born. She even began her choir directing journey leading a group called Sister Shout on Waiheke Island which was formed after a visit by Tony to the island! She directs a number of choirs in the Wellington region, and runs workshops here and in other parts of the country, often sharing the gospel songs we've had the pleasure of singing together.
What we do
Gale Force Gospel holds concerts annually, and we sing at many events in our community throughout the year. Sometimes we take trips away, either for a retreat to learn new material and work on our singing skills, or to visit and sing with other choirs. In 2016 we had our first overseas engagement, participating in the Festival of Voices in Tasmania. We'll often get together to socialise, either at the end of choir practises (our last-night-of-term bring-a-plate events are a highlight of the calendar!) or sometimes to take in a movie or a show. Tony still visits Wellington most years, and there are a good many singers from Gale Force Gospel at his workshops.
Behind the scenes