Choir is the glue that binds the community together

IF you fancy a bit of a change from the usual Christmas concert routine, then the Urban Mass Choir could have the answer to your festive prayers.

On Thursday, December 23 at 7.30pm, more than 50 singers from the community will perform in the Urban Mass Choir Concert in The Southill Centre, in Hemel Hempstead.

Choir director Charlotte Roel, from Hemel Hempstead, will be conducting the singers, as well as assistant coaches Rachel-Yvonne Macintosh and Damon Harding.

A professional, live band of international musicians, including award winning drummer and producer Floyd Adams III and renowned jazz pianist and composer Jørgen Messerschmidt will accompany.

The audience will be treated to a festive repertoire spanning songs from Grammy Award winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin and the movie Sister Act to traditional Christmas carols.

The event, in Hemel Hempstead, aims to be a festive coming together of people in the community as well as two musical styles – classic choral and urban gospel.

It will be a complete change from the traditional Christmas carol service as the sounds of jazz and R’n’B will give the event a 21st century edge.

Charlotte said: “Often there seems to be a huge gap between the churches in communities and the people. I think it’s because sometimes churches can be out of touch.

“We live in a pop culture of Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor so it’s understandable that churches seem left behind.”

The Urban Mass Choir Concert will be a family event for people in the community regardless of their religion.

The idea comes from the urban and gospel choirs in London and America and Charlotte wants to use her team of voices to help bring the churches in the community together.

She said: “I love Christmas, people are nicer. It’s the night that Christ was born – the song says it all really.

“It’s a time for family to get together so I wanted to bring the whole community together with this event.”

Back in April residents shed their inhibitions to sing their hearts out in bids to join Unique UK’s new Urban Choir.

Twenty-five people auditioned for the choir and 21 went through to join the new body.

For Christmas the whole community was invited to join to create a choir of 100 voices.

People from all walks of life now form more than 50 members of the Urban Mass Choir and they have been meeting on Wednesday evenings to rehearse.

Charlotte grew up in Denmark where she went to a Pentecostal church before going to America to study at The Manhattan School of Music, in New York.

Her career highlights include forming a touring gospel band and she has also released a number of albums as a recording artist, so is the best person to teach the intricate parts to each song.

Some of the singers have had very little experience and are tackling difficult styles and arrangements but are rising to the challenge.

“It’s nice to see people grow and come to life through singing in the choir,” explained Charlotte.

“We live in a world where so many people are scared of so many things, for some the choir is a lifeline. We want to inspire, equip, bless and encourage, that’s our mission.”

Job Bell, 22, from Hemel Hempstead, joined the Urban Choir last year after seeing a story about it in The Gazette.

He said: “I couldn’t go to university because of financial problems and had to defer and take a job for a year, which is why I was looking in the paper.

“I love music, my taste ranges from Motown, rock and opera to drum ’n’ bass and soul. Plus I had experience from completing a music technology course at West Herts College.

“I auditioned from the choir and it has gone from there. I’ve sung in more than five shows and I’ve built a relationship with Charlotte and her husband Floyd, who have taught me a lot about how to present and sell myself.

“They utilise my skills as a sound engineer as well. Plus through being in the choir I’ve met interesting and important people, such as Mike Penning, the local MP.

Job leads the alto section of the Urban Mass Choir and supports vocalists when they have trouble with the notes.

It’s stories like his that make Charlotte proud. The Urban Mass Choir Concert is not just a one off event – in her eyes it is part of the formation of a ministry.

“We want to eventually start broadcasting through an online channel like You Tube and also hold gospel brunches in the town,” she said.

In true Sister Act style Charlotte’s vision is for the choir to act as the glue between the church and the community.

Tickets for the Urban Mass Choir Concert cost £5 for adults and £3.50 for people aged under 16 and are available by calling 08451 309 548.