Musical director Jamie Ferguson Cheltenham Gospel Choir, Singers.
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Musical Director Jamie Ferguson
Jamie Ferguson musical director

Cheltenham Gospel Choir is going from strength to strength; no doubt much of the inspiration behind it lies with its Musical Director, Jamie Ferguson. Thirty year old Jamie is clear about his objectives.

“I believe that our choir is a place where you can come and enjoy singing,” he says with feeling. “You can meet a range of people of all ages and be yourself. You don’t have to read music but just have a go and appreciate what we are trying to achieve. I’m happiest when the choir clearly enjoy singing something well.”

It’s this ethos and Jamie’s undoubted musical talent that has resulted in the choir having over forty members who sing everything from slow spirituals to upbeat gospel. Jamie’s keyboard skills are a pleasure to listen to, as is his command of harmony; so where does it come from?

“Apparently I was nagging my parents from being small,” says Jamie. “I desperately wanted a violin. My great-grandmother was a singing teacher and pianist but my parents weren’t particularly musical. Nevertheless I went to lessons and initially learned music by the Suzuki approach of which I am a great fan.”

For those who don’t know about the Suzuki approach, it was developed in Japan by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in the mid 20th Century. He believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement. His philosophy was that if every child has the inborn ability to learn their native language, then they also have the ability to learn and become proficient on a musical instrument. Begin children early and excite their own inborn joy of music, or as he referred to it “the mother tongue approach.”

Jamie learned the creative instinct when young and it now blossoms to the benefit of the choir. Three quarters of the material the choir uses feature Jamie’s arrangements and he composed two of our bench mark numbers, “Lord you are Faithful” and “He is the Rock”.

As a child he was a member of the Hertfordshire Youth Choir but much of his enthusiasm for gospel music was garnered at Cambridge, where he was a member of the Cambridge Revelation Rock Gospel Choir. “The attitude of that choir is very similar to Cheltenham Gospel Choir,” he explains. “It’s good at getting people involved. After a few weeks I was conducting.” It was also through this network of choirs that he met his wife Hollie, who sang with the University of Warwick Revelation Rock Gospel Choir.

When Jamie and Hollie were married and came to Cheltenham they began looking for their sort of choir but didn’t find one. They were, however, introduced through St Mark Church to Markus and Susanne Hauser who were in a similar predicament. The answer was to start Cheltenham Gospel Choir, which began on the 27th of September 2008 with ten members.

The current choir rehearses weekly in St Mark Church Hall, behind St Mark Church on Church Road Cheltenham, (7.45pm Monday evenings), and gives around three public performances a year plus several invitation events.

The choir has a strong Christian base and currently raises money for two charities: 'Family Space', a local charity supporting families in difficult situations, and 'Amani', a home for street children in Tanzania.

All who are interested in singing are welcome to join the choir.