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Vocal Explosion choir in a relaxed moment.

Vocal Explosion choir in a relaxed moment.

An evening of world music with Vocal Explosion

This Friday night is world music night, with the Vocal Explosion choir presenting a concert entitled The Songs of the Gypsies and the Rhythms of Colombia and Cuba. Music journalist Jonathan Lennie previews the show and visit one of the choir’s open-to-all workshops. Photos by Mark Pearce.

Hastings is a town bursting with music, but are you aware that it is the centre of a world music scene? The ensemble pioneering this international song fest is Vocal Explosion, a terrific local choir that is bringing its passionate yet polished sound to the resonant acoustic of St Clement’s Church in the Old Town for an evening of exciting collaborations between top-class world music performers.

On Friday 14 July, Vocal Explosion is returning to its regular venue for what should be a barnstorming night of vocal and instrumental music, featuring songs from the Far East and the Romany Gypsies alongside the rhythms of Colombia and Cuba. The vibrant mixed choir will be musically crossing continents with the help of esteemed violinist Garry Blakeley and guest Latin maestros Sonpikkante who, as their Spanish name (‘Hot Chilli’) suggests, promise a funky infusion of infectiously hot sounds.

ve 2The event has been curated by talented singer Juliet Russell, whose rich and sonorous voice perfectly suits the gypsy music of the Balkans. As the founder and director of Vocal Explosion, she believes that the choir shouldn’t just give concerts every so often, but should also be an active part of the community. Part of this outreach takes the form of free vocal wellbeing workshops, led by Russell, in which choir members encourage others to experience the joy of singing together.

Workshop at The Bridge

At one lunchtime workshop I recently attended, at The Bridge community centre in Ore, Russell and a handful of choir members were joined by an assortment of local people who had come to discover the benefits of singing. We were assured that by the end of the session we would feel relaxed, less stressed and more energised. And so it proved, as after two hours the room was many degrees warmer as everyone got stuck into a selection of songs from across the globe, from South Africa and Angola to Spain and Romania, accompanied by Russell on various exotic instruments.

A tea break allowed a chance to chat with the workshoppers. Hastings man Harry (78) seemed to be enjoying himself. He had attended with three others from his bereavement group. ‘I just came along for moral support,’ he said, ‘but I’m finding it therapeutic.’ And what did he think of singing in a foreign language? ‘Music is good in any language,’ he laughed, although he wasn’t sure if he would take up the opportunity to join the choir in a couple of pieces at its forthcoming concert.

Meanwhile Fiona (62) had seen a poster advertising the workshop and checked out Russell on YouTube. Now, in the flesh, she found her ‘Very friendly; she makes it easy and fun, especially singing in parts.’ At the end of the session, which culminated in a rush of energy and noticeable increase in volume as we began to sing in harmony, another lady across from me was beaming from ear to ear – clearly a beneficiary of world music who will, no doubt, be joining Vocal Explosion for its summer show.

The Songs of the Gypsies and the Rhythms of Colombia and Cuba Concert with the Vocal Explosion choir. St Clement’s Church, High Street, Hastings, TN34 3ES. Friday 14 July at 8.15pm (doors open 8pm). Tickets: adults £10, under-14s £5. Interval refreshments available.

Posted 15:07 Thursday, Jul 13, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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