20 years of song for Gasworks Choir

Published on: 27 Oct 2017

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The inspiration for Bristol’s first community choir came from Dee Jarlett and Ali Orbaum, two singers in the Sweet Soul Sisters who were popular in Bristol during the 1990s. They wondered if they could find enough people who wanted to sing harmony together, without accompaniment or the ability to read music. They placed an ad in Venue Magazine and kept their fingers crossed – they couldn’t believe it when around 100 eager singers answered the ad! So, in 1997, a choir was born.

The choir rehearsed in St Werburghs and was named after the local gasworks where a gasometer dominated the landscape. Before long, they were practising in the remarkable Gasworks Studio, which Dee had created next to her house in Narroways Road. They performed regularly at St George’s, dressed distinctively in red and orange and delighted audiences with an eclectic repertoire of brilliantly arranged a cappella songs. 

The 160-strong Gasworks Choir, led by Ali and her talented co-leader Jessica Samuel, continues to refresh itself with new singers every year, creating a bright blend of voices and maintaining its unique reputation as one of the best community choirs in our thriving singing city. The choir’s singers hail from various parts of Bristol, including Bishopston, St Andrews, Horfield, Ashley Down, St Werburghs, Redland and Easton. There is a waiting list to join, but it’s not as long as it used to be – at one point, people had to wait six years before they could start singing! 

Nicola Ramsden, Bishopston resident and long-term member of Gasworks Choir, captures the spirit of singing in a community choir when she says: “There's something so special about singing in harmony in a group; I can be tired, grumpy, frustrated – or all 3! – but a choir session takes me out of all that and I come away uplifted and energised. I'd recommend Gasworks Choir to anyone who'd like to give singing a go - it's warm, welcoming and most important, a lot of fun!”

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Gasworks Choir will be holding a special gala concert at St George's on December 17.

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