Total Praise for Phakamisa

Our year got off to a wonderful start with a concert at the Methodist Church. Here’s a great account of the evening from one of our basses, Warren Bardsley, who also organised the event.

Lichfield Methodist Church was delighted to be able to host a Gospel Choir concert on January 27th, though we wondered just how many would attend, in view of  some counter-attractions on the same night, not least, being the visit of Pam Ayres to the Garrick! We needn’t have worried.  Although ticket sales led us to expect an audience of at least sixty, about double that number turned up on the night and the church was full for the performance, which is always gratifying!  It was an appreciative audience too, entering into the spirit of the performance, responding to the invitation to sing along, if not quite dance in the aisles!  Comments afterwards were fulsome in their praise of the choir, the quality of our singing, range of material and evident enthusiasm. A truly inspirational evening!

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This gives me the opportunity to say how much membership of LGC has meant to me, personally.  I joined in October 2016 when recovering from illness.  A member had been encouraging me to join and I decided that this was the right time.  I have sung in choirs over the years but not recently and never in one quite as large.  I felt immediately welcome – especially by the bass section!  Also I was fortunate to join when  we were beginning rehearsals for the National English Opera’s  presentation of Bach’s St John Passion, which involved several choirs in an Advent concert in Lichfield Cathedral – a memorable event.  Its a privilege to belong. I feel very much at home.

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One of the things I love about the Gospel Choir is the way we support and encourage one another. With numbers approaching 100+ its impossible,  with the best will in the world  to know everyone, even by name, but there is a strong sense of togetherness and although we work hard in rehearsals, we have fun! Recently I heard it said of an orchestra that in order to be successful it is imperative to create the right environment, and that is essentially the work of the conductor. In this, are singularly fortunate to be led by Themba who combines professional skills as a musician and a relationship with the choir which is warm and empathetic. He is a great  encourager and brings out the best in us.  Even when he is issuing a mild ‘telling-off’ to a section of the choir, he does it so graciously that it almost feels like a compliment!  His spontaneity can be challenging at times and keeps us on our toes! So thank you for having me.

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Just a brief word about ‘ Phakamisa’ the remarkable  ministry of Pinetown Methodist Church in Durban South Africa which the concert supported. It began in 1993 with five women who trained to be nursery school teachers, enabling them to earn a small wage and give 100 children the benefit of a good pre-school education.  Now, almost 25 years on the project supports over 16,000 children and their carers.  In an area devastated by the AIDS pandemic there are many children whose parents have died. Inspired by the compassion of Christ, Phakamisa offers people, through education, social care and life-skills training, the possibility to support themselves and the orphans in their care. This is the meaning of Phakamisa – ‘a hand-UP not a hand-OUT’.

Saturday’s concert raised £550 for this vital humanitarian work, for which we are very grateful.  The Director of the project came to Lichfield last May to launch the fund-raising programme here .  Thokozani  Poswa is a Zulu woman and told us that when they meet to worship they often sing songs like ‘Manginsondele’! So some kind of link perhaps  between Phakamisa and Lichfield Gospel Choir? Hopefully when I next send a report of our fund-raising we can include some pictures of the choir in action!

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