Gospel choir is on song for Wester Hailes

THE leaders hope it will put Wester Hailes on the map – for all the right reasons.

Hoping to promote a strong image of the neighbourhood, a community gospel choir is being set up for adult singers of all ages and abilities.

“I quite like the idea that it’s something positive coming out of the area, which hasn’t always got the best image in the world,” said co-organiser Alan Ness.

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“If it spreads a good image of Wester Hailes, and it’s something that people think of when they think of the area, it’s a good association.”

Mr Ness and Beryl Homan, community education workers, are in the process of setting up the choir, which they insist will not have a focus on religion, just a “love of gospel music”.

The first rehearsals will take place later this month.

Mr Ness, 48, from Craigleith, is based at the Wester Hailes Education Centre, where the 20-strong choir will be sited.

He said: “We were sure there was a desire for it. I think people just love this kind of music – it makes people happy. There’s no reason why we ultimately shouldn’t be playing decent venues in Edinburgh.”

At the helm of the choir will be Robert Gould from the Glasgow Gospel Choir, who have twice performed at the Mobo Awards.

The group will focus on upbeat gospel music with traditional and modern variations, and will initially take the form of a course run over two weekends – February 18 and 19, and March 17 and 18, from 10am to 3.30pm.

There will be a performance for family and friends at the end of the second weekend.

Ten people have already signed up for the choir.

Mr Ness said: “The idea is that we start with two intensive weekends and then have a regular meeting time. We hope to rehearse every week and will try to start gigging when they are ready.”

The choir is open to men and women across the city aged 18 or over. There are no auditions and no requirement to be able to read music.

Mr Ness added: “Wester Hailes is maybe not the most obvious place where you would expect a gospel choir.

“It’s a totally inclusive idea and the choir is non-denominational. It is to do with people loving gospel music rather than a religious thing. It’s about people coming along and singing.

“We will be playing with a piano for rehearsals and using some percussion in performances.”

The cost for both weekend courses is £79, £35 for over-60s, and £20 for concessions.

Mr Ness said: “Unfortunately, we have to pay the tutor so there will be some ongoing charge, hopefully kept to a minimum.”

If you are interested in joining, call the Wester Hailes Education Centre on 0131-442 2201.