Find out more about Wellington’s Gale Force Gospel choir - what to expect at a rehearsal, why we sing gospel, and how we got started.
Who we are and what to expect
We have around 50 singers in our choir. We sing in 4 or 5-part harmony: soprano, alto, tenor (male & female) and bass.
New faces are warmly welcomed. You are encouraged to try out the various voice parts to see which you like best. We never audition: if you can make it along the mobility ramp and through the door you can join in! Many of the songs are call and response style, with simple lyrics. We learn by ear and repetition. You don’t need to read music.
We're a friendly crowd who come from a variety of backgrounds and have a diverse range of beliefs. To find out more about singing with us have a look at the Join page.
We sing African-American gospel music, along with spiritual songs from African, Pacific Islands and Māori cultures.
We mainly sing Tony Backhouse's uplifting arrangements of gospel ‘a cappella’. Tony has a huge passion and respect for the gospel tradition and visits communities in the southern United States regularly. He says “I've been visiting black churches on and off for 25 years and the experience of being in the midst of such celebration, commitment and energy never fails to blow my mind."
Gospel music is firmly rooted in a particular religious and cultural expression. It is our love of singing this energizing and exciting music that brings us together. You do not need to be religious or spiritual in any way to join us.
Our musical leader
Our musical leaders source, arrange and teach us songs aurally (“call and copy”) which is very much in the inclusive Gospel style that we have all experienced with Tony Backhouse.
Ben Woods is our current Musical Director. He has been singing with Gale Force Gospel since 2013 and was invited to become Assistant Director in 2019, under the mentorship of Carol Shortis. She continues to provide guidance to Ben after stepping back from leading the choir in late 2020.
Ben has been singing and playing instruments since he was young. He focused on learning piano through his earlier years, adding drums and percussion prior to attending Burnside High School. Along with switching to jazz piano, he undertook singing lessons with Jean Cumming and sang in school choirs, including a male voice chorus led by Chris Bruerton.
Moving to Wellington in 2006, Ben met Carol while completing a BMus(Hons) in Composition at the New Zealand School of Music through to 2009. In 2013, while Ben was working at Carol's house, she heard him singing along to some blues music on his iPod and remarked ‘you need to come join my choir!’. He joined shortly thereafter and has enjoyed singing in the basses of Gale Force Gospel every week since.
During the days, Ben works as a music editor, both for a music publisher, Promethean Editions, as well as freelance creating sheet music for film/TV recording sessions or stage productions. He also enjoys photography, everything audio or hifi, and the occasional handyman project.
What we do – events and concerts
Gale Force Gospel holds an annual concert and we sing at a range of events in our community each year.
Sometimes we take trips away, either to learn new material and work on our singing skills, or to visit and sing with other choirs. In 2016 we had our first overseas engagement, participating in the Festival of Voices in Tasmania.
Singers sometimes take in a movie or a show together. On the last night of term everyone brings a plate - we have an hour of singing, then eat and socialise together.
How we got started
Gale Force Gospel was born out of a weekend workshop led by Tony Backhouse in May 2011. A group of us decided we enjoyed singing this music so much we wanted to continue singing it. We had our first rehearsal in August that year, and have met weekly ever since.
Kapiti Gospel Choir was formed shortly after. We have been good friends since those early days, collaborating together on a number of projects.
Behind the scenes
We are a registered charity. Our registration number is CC55180.
In addition to our musical director, our choir is run by a 'core group' of committee members, who are elected at a short AGM. The core group takes care of membership fees, pays our bills and organises our concerts, events and trips. The core group meet once a month after rehearsal. They are a very approachable bunch, and love to hear from our singers and any suggestions for ways to improve our choir.