Fringe Box



A Light Bulb Moment in Freiburg Leads to ‘ChoirBLAST’

Published on: 17 Apr, 2023
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2023

Guildford Jazz Choir in Guildford’s Castle Grounds bandstand

A music festival held in Guildford’s twin town, Freiburg has inspired a local choir to flatter the town’s German counterparts by imitating their event here in Surrey.

Last year, Freiburg, hosted ‘Chorwärts!’ – an inner-city music festival that celebrates the musical experience of choirs and when the Godalming and Guildford Jazz Choir attended and performed in 2022, there was a lightbulb moment for choir leader, Phoebe Gaydon.

That lightbulb moment led to the creation of ChoirBLAST; Surrey’s very own independent not-for-profit festival that is due to come to Godalming on Saturday, June 24.

Barbara Ford, chair of the Guildford Twinning Association said: “This is a very exciting announcement, and demonstrates once again the importance and benefit of twinning. We are so lucky with our twin town – Freiburg is, in so many ways, inspirational!

“They have so much music, with choirs and instrumental groups of all sizes, both amateur and professional.  It would be really great, after the deadening effect of the pandemic, to restart some musical exchanges between our two towns.

“The Guildford Twinning Association will be happy to support any Guildford group which is interested in exploring possibilities.”

Speaking about the festival, Phoebe said: “After taking our choirs to Freiburg in Germany for a music festival, I found it strange that the UK doesn’t have a non-competitive choir event like the one we experienced in Germany.

“ChoirBLAST has been created as a festival accessible for everyone; a total celebration of harmony singing to blow the audience’s socks off!

“I knew it was going to be hard work, and that the funding would be a challenge – but when I told Belle [ChoirBLAST’s co-organiser and marketing manager] about it, she jumped at the idea which was good because you always need someone to jump with you!”

Phoebe knows that putting on a music festival is no small feat, but it’s clear that the journey so far has already been amazing, with Phoebe adding: “It is definitely hard work, but there have been beautiful moments along the way. We had such a warm response to the idea of ChoirBLAST from our own choirs, and our first volunteers meeting of 30-35 people was super positive. It was a turning point to feeling like this whole thing is definitely going to work.”

The Guildford Jazz Choir

Choirs already confirmed for the event include the Guildford, Godalming, and Farncombe Jazz Choirs, Academix, Cora, The Meath Backstage Choir, the halow project choir and MbM Contemporary Gospel Choir who will be performing a range of music from classic to contemporary.

ChoirBLAST is also supporting two charities; The Meath Epilepsy Charity and the halow project – both of which have choirs performing.

Speaking about the charities’ choir involvement, Phoebe added: “Both The Meath Epilepsy Charity and the halow project are so excited to perform. Not only are they full of fun, but they support people who have a range of physical or learning disabilities, health challenges, and may even be non-verbal. Music provides an important creative outlet for people.

“As well as that, we’re hoping to make a financial contribution which will go towards the cost of providing living accommodation, general support and a huge range of activities to enrich their lives. The charities do everything from art sessions to history clubs, from cooking lessons to rock climbing – it’s incredible! We really want to be able to help them continue doing things like that.”

Belle Lawrence, ChoirBLAST’s co-organiser and marketing manager said: “I love a side-project, so when Phoebe suggested the event to me, I just “got it” – the joy of harmony singing, bringing people together, and having a big day out with our choir family… I love all of that!

“I’m not sure I’d quite put the size of the event in perspective until a bit later, but it’s not daunting because we have such a strong support group with our volunteers, plus our family and friends of course. We’ve both done festivals of various sizes before, so although it is hard work, we 100% know that the reward and fulfilment will feel incredible on the day, and probably for quite a while afterwards!”

To secure your entry to ChoirBLAST, visit their GoFundMe page and donate what you can:

ChoirBLAST will run from 11am to 9:30pm on The Burys Field, Godalming (GU7 1HR) which is just behind the main high street in Godalming and is easily accessible by car or train. The festival is family-friendly and includes activities for children during the day.

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