Music is not chosen for its content so much as the feeling it evokes.
We go for lush harmonies and great rhythms.
We’re interested in the way a song sounds rather than its spiritual message.
The sound in itself and its emotional impact sings spiritual volumes.
While Michel Durham is partial to the works of arrangers like Moses Hogan and Mark Hayes, she also arranges much of the music herself. Some arrangements are organically grown with the choir singing songs from which the harmonies naturally evolve. Other arrangements are scholastically developed to ensure a balance of the voices and emerging textures inherent in the dynamics of a particular song.
When devising a programme of songs, Durham considers how best to control and respond to the energy of an audience. Any selection will include a mix of energetic numbers and slower songs to contrast and complement this flow.
The Galway Gospel Choir’s winning performance at the inaugural Mayo International Choral Festival included the following:
Steal Away: Negro spiritual in a traditional arrangement by the mysterious K.B.
I Can Tell the World: traditional spiritual arranged by Moses Hogan
Credo from The Gospel Mass: by Robert Ray
Listen and view on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GalwayGospelChoir
Equally we can venture in to contemporary and challenging arrangements like Imogen Heap’s
Hide and Seek: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2IbPeE-C-0
The Galway Gospel Choir’s Christmas 2012 Programme includes:
O Holy Night: Music by Adolphe Charles Adam & arranged by Mark Hayes
In Excelsis Deo! (A Gospel Christmas) music by Greg Gilpin
Hallelujah: words and music by Leonard Cohen
Glory In Excelsis Deo: traditional carol arranged by Mark Hayes
The practice drill for The Galway Gospel Choir
The ability to sight-read music is not a requirement for joining the choir though sheet music is followed whilst learning songs. MP3 audio files of the songs in soprano, alto, tenor & bass, are shared via Dropbox, a free online file sharing system. Choir members can download the audio in advance of each rehearsal to practice their parts. Song scores are emailed to members who are responsible for printing off their own copies. We eventually learn the songs by heart.
“It’s a fun environment in which to sing. There’s an ever-evolving and eclectic mix of people. Though we’d never intended to sing Christmas carols, we’re now singing a selection but they’re so different to the versions we already know and that’s what’s great about the Galway Gospel Choir. We’re always stretched and we’ve become much more professional over the years yet it’s still possible to come in and enjoy the experience without being able to sight read.”
M – a long-serving member of the choir