A brand-new one-day choir festival makes its debut this year in Bognor Regis, with big plans to expand in the years ahead.
The event is being put together by singing trio The Bersted Boys – James Etheridge, Michael Gattrell and Will Hackett – who also run a community choir in Bersted, the starting point for the whole festival which they are staging as a collaboration between Arun Arts, who run the Regis Centre in Bognor, and Bersted Arts.
Will said: “Choir-Fest is the first event of its kind that we’re aware of, here in the south-east at least. It will see six choirs, including our own, come together in a non-competitive musical event on Saturday, March 25 at the Regis Centre. The aim of the event is to bring together some of our very talented, local community choirs from all across the area including Hampshire and Sussex to share in their mutual joy and appreciation of music; to learn from each other; and to showcase their individuality to the wider public.
“As well as experiencing the unique sound of each of our six participating choirs, the performance will culminate in all choirs taking to the stage, together, in a grand end-of-show finale that aims to wow the audience!
“We hope this to be the start of something quite big and we have grand plans to grow it over the next few years. There’s quite a buzz surrounding it and we’re already getting interest from other choirs interested in participating next year. We therefore need to make sure this year is a success!
“We were approached by Hazel Latus at Arun Arts who was wanting to put on something for the community, and we just looked at what we do, our own choir. We have got about 60 members now after two and a half to three years. People are really getting into choirs, and with word of mouth, people tell their friends that they have enjoyed it. People that haven’t sung before come along and are really glad they have.
“And we know there are other choirs out there. We came up with the idea of a choir festival. We have taken our choir to the Chichester music festival, but we wanted to do something that was non-competitive. We wanted to create a relaxed environment where everyone could just enjoy the music and network together and share their appreciation of music and songs. They will all come together and have time to chat and network, and then they will have the chance to perform in front of each other and then there will be a big finale where they all get on stage and sing together. And then they will come back in the evening (tickets from the venue) in front of an audience. They will each have two ten-minute slots and then get together again for a big finale.
“We have already had a lot of interest from other choirs that we have had to turn away. It is only one day and we are limited by the size of the venue, but we would hope to develop it and expand it to two days perhaps. We would like to go further afield and to other locations.
“The interest is there. We have turned away five or six choirs this year already. But we are inviting other choirs to come along and get a taste for it all, and we will be thinking about how we might develop it further. Lots of people have been saying what a great idea it is and that it is something that they want to be part of.”
Confirmed for the event are Voices of the South (Worthing & Adur area); Chi Choir (Chichester); The Igloo Choir (Havant); and The Royal Air Force Association Choir (Bognor Regis); and The Bersted Community Choir.
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