People often ask me about the beginning story of the choir, so I will try to share it with you all in this blog. Some of it may sound a bit ‘whacky’ but I am coming from the point of view of a Christian who believes that God speaks to people today, not just thousands of years ago in the Bible. You may not share my faith in Jesus but I hope you will enjoy the story of how Messengers came into being…
The vision for the choir started many years ago when I attended a youth work conference with friends from my church. As the people at the front shared their passion for sharing Jesus with teenagers I became aware of a nagging feeling that I was being asked to run a Gospel Choir. The thought had never, never occurred to me before. Never. But it would not go away. I had never run a choir, I was not a great singer, I knew little about Gospel music, but I was just so sure that this is what the Lord had up his sleeve.
I went along to watch a rehearsal of Brighton Goes Gospel, which is a fantastic choir who have been based in Brighton for over 10 years. At the end I shared my vision with the choir leader, as I had the feeling that she knew the Lord, so she would not assume I had lost the plot. The mighty Karen Gibson will probably not even remember this conversation (back in the Dark Ages now) but she encouraged me to press on with it despite the obvious obstacles I mentioned above. I joined BGG for three seasons to learn about Gospel singing and had the time of my life there.
After training to be a teacher I was offered a job in a Primary school just teaching music. Finally I had the opportunity to run choirs and I found I loved it. So about three years after my original prompt, I started to seriously start praying and thinking about beginning the choir. Whilst praying one day I had a crystal clear impression in my mind of an African Choir. I mulled this over for a while, quite intrigued as an African choir could not have been further from my mind. I concluded that the Lord was leading us to ‘partner’ with a choir from Africa so we could support them financially. I started to search online for somebody to join forces with.
At this time I met Fiona, who had come to work at my school and who was a Christian with a stunning singing voice. I told her the story so far and her eyes welled up and said ‘I would love to be part of this’. She had had it on her heart for a long time set up a community choir and had been praying for a way forward. I had found my Gospel Choir soul mate. From this time onwards the choir was a shared vison and we planned the future together.
As I searched online for an African choir (not as straightforward as it sounds), I was finally drawn to one group in particular which was led by Peter Kasozi. He and his wife ran a massive school in Uganda which had a choir called ‘Messengers’. I shelved the decision for the weekend as I was going away with my family and decided I would contact them on my return.
When the weekend was over I logged on and was nervously excited about contacting the Kasozis, who were at complete liberty to think I was a nutcase to be avoided at all costs. I had a quick check of my emails and opened one from my church. It said that in about a month’s time we were to expect a very special visiting preacher from Uganda – Peter Kasozi! I was SSOOOO excited I think I just screamed around the house for a bit. Imagine!! The very same African stranger ‘plucked’ from the internet that I had been about to contact ACTUALLY COMING TO VISIT OUR CHURCH!! I was then convinced that the Lord was all over this choir. I was so grateful and SO EXCITED!! Telling Fiona in the staffroom the next day was memorable – I think we both just wept.
A few weeks later we met the Kasozis and the partnership was born. We decided to call our own choir ‘Messengers’ after the Ugandan choir and that it would be open for teenagers. In 2008 we opened our doors for the first rehearsal and have never looked back. Some of Messengers Uganda were able to join us on stage for our first ever concert at Ropetackle. What an honour and privilege that was. You can see some photos on the website.
A few years later we started a second choir to include the younger children. Then a couple of years ago Hannah returned from University and shared with us her passion to start a choir for adults. Fiona had always been keen to do this too, so Hannah’s return and involvement was the prompt we all needed. We are now a firm team of three leading the choir forward.
Our name has changed to Messengers Community Gospel Choir and it certainly has become a special and unique community made up of all ages, all abilities and all personalities. The vision has stayed the same though – to share the good news about Jesus through the words of our songs; to impact the wider community through our performances with the love of God; and to bless the children in Uganda with any funds we raise. All of our profits are sent to the Kasozis who we totally trust to use it to improve the lives of the youngsters in their care.
I know this has been a long story and I hope you can appreciate why I could not leave my faith and all of the ‘God stuff’ out of it. People may come and join us for many different reasons, all experiencing different things from their time at Messengers. But as a team our goal is the same (without preaching or bashing folk over their heads with a bible) – to honour Jesus in all we do and to share his love for others through our songs and our friendships. Oh, and to have a lot of fun at the same time.
Esther and Toma
Toma age 9
Choir is a great place to be because it is very fun. You learn new songs and songs you already know. If you would like, you can sing solos or duets. It is AMAZING!
Esther age 10
Choir is amazing because it's really fun and relaxing. It's a time to catch up with people and HAVE FUN! You can meet new people and if you invite people, you get a mars bar. After an hour of singing, you get refreshments because you've done so well.
From Esther and Toma xx
Messengers is the highlight of our week. It is one hour of pure happiness. How often do we get to stop in our busy busy lives and just listen to joyous singing? As a Mum, it is a delight to take this time out to listen to my children singing with other children, knowing how happy it makes them. I even get brought a cup of tea!
Callum and Leela themselves just love going to choir, they sing all the way there and all the way home. And then carry on singing throughout the week. And so we all sing with them. Thank you so much to Julia, Fiona, Hannah and the fabulous band for giving your precious time to give our family this weekly moment of joy (never mind giving the children self-confidence, fun, a sense of being in a team and all the many other things they enjoy). I couldn't recommend Messengers enough. Thank you.
Mum of Callum (8) and Leela (6)
Callum and Leela
You can be assured of a warm welcome at this fun friendly choir. This choir is the kind you don’t find very often, where all are welcome and lots of fun is had by all regardless of ability, and the results are outstanding. The choir leaders clearly love what they do and their enthusiasm and enjoyment radiates readily to the children. Songs are taught by ear so there is no need to be able to read either music or words. The range of songs is fantastic, with a mix of contemporary songs which the children are familiar with, and new or old songs which are ‘catchy’ and easy to pick up which become the sort of songs which you go home and sing all week.
There is live accompaniment of keyboard and electric guitar each week at the rehearsal which boosts the singing and helps the children to pick up the songs quicker, as well as giving them the experience of ‘the real thing’. Any child who wants to is encouraged to sing a solo, with a range of songs which have ‘one line’ solos which makes it easy for any child to try out singing in the microphone at the front. My daughter has special needs and is made to feel very welcome in the choir, it feels like a ‘level ground’ where she is unaware of being different although she cannot remember all the words, but it doesn’t matter as there are always repeated lines which she can sing. It doesn’t matter that she can’t stand still (which was one of my concerns when looking for a choir) in fact the children are encouraged to move to the music. She loved singing in the concert and no one minded that she disappeared on and off the stage a few times! She even sang a little solo in the concert which she was extremely proud of, as was mum! Every ability is catered for and the really talented singers are stretched and able to showcase their abilities as well. The resulting sound of the choir is outstanding.
Parents are made very welcome too, and even offered free tea and coffee each week by the friendly team of helpers! This choir has a friendly family feel and the rehearsal each week is an uplifting joyful hour. At the concert at the end of the season the children have the opportunity to sing with the adult choir as well, which gives them an amazing experience of being part of something bigger. The concert was a lovely celebration and all our guests thoroughly enjoyed it and went away smiling. I would recommend this choir to anyone.
Kaitlyn and Charlize