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Ipswich Reggae Choir

An up-and-coming choir are getting ready to bring some Caribbean sunshine to Christmas at a busy Ipswich shopping centre by injecting a reggae twist to some seasonal classics.

The Ipswich Reggae Choir will be singing a number of popular festive classics along with a selection of their usual hits when they perform at Sailmakers Shopping Centre on December 20.

The choir, who only formed a year ago, have enjoyed a busy first 12 months performing at community events and can’t wait to make their debut at the town’s popular shopping centre where visitors will be able to enjoy festive favourites such as Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child and Silent Night by Lloyd Brown.

Singer Bernadette Manners, who is one of a dozen members in the choir, said: “We’re really looking forward to singing at Sailmakers. We’ll be doing a few Christmas carols in a reggae style and we’ll also do a couple of our usual songs. We’ll have songs that people can hum along to or even sing along with us if they want.

We’ve only been singing together for just over year so we we’re delighted to have been invited down by Sailmakers. It’s given us a real boost.”

The Ipswich Reggae Choir was founded by Pat Bruce-Browne in August last year and during the past 12 months the mixed-race, all-female members have performed at a charity fundraiser, church services, elderly accommodation and at a ceremony for the new mayor of Ipswich.

The group have also sung at Caribbean and Windrush events in the town as well as for Black History Month and Ipswich University awards and celebration nights.

Bernadette said: “Pat put an advert out asking if anyone was interested in singing in a reggae choir and a handful of us went down to join.

We spoke about different songs and the fact it was going to be a bit of fun. Nobody had to have a soprano voice or anything like that. The age range of the choir is late 40s up to 60 plus and we’re from various areas of the town. Some of the girls have had experience of performing in choirs in the past.

Personally I’ve always loved singing. When I was at school I was part of the choir and then when I was about 17 or 18 in the late 60s I was part of a reggae group. I’ve never had singing lessons and didn’t really know what I was doing but I just enjoyed singing.

Then I started my career as a nurse and didn’t sing as part of an act for a long time. I had a recent stint playing with the Ipswich Caribbean Steel Band which my dad used to be in way back. I performed with them as I knew a few of the songs. When I saw the advert from Pat I jumped at the chance of getting involved.

“I love singing and it’s healthy. It makes you feel happy. Our choir is like a little family – it’s not only about singing but also the social aspect too. When we practice we do acapella. None of us are skilled but we fashion things around people’s voices. We tend to do songs where there is a reggae version and try to add something new to it, putting our own reggae vibe on it.”

Mike Sorhaindo, Manager of Sailmakers Shopping Centre, said: “Everyone loves Christmas and the carols and decorations but it’s good to have a bit of a variation as well and we’re thrilled that the Ipswich Reggae Choir will be here to bring a Caribbean flavour to the Centre.

The distinctive reggae beat is so infectious and here at Sailmakers we like to make sure out shoppers have a great time and are entertained on a visit, especially at Christmas.”

The choir practice every Tuesday from 7-9pm at Westgate Ward Social Club in Ipswich.

They are part of a programme of carol-singers at Sailmakers this Christmas which included steel-pan player Jamma Stewart also adding to the Caribbean flavour with a set on Saturday (December 15) and before that performances from the Ipswich Hospital Choir and Halifax School.

This Friday, December 21, the Police Male Voice Choir will be on duty from 10am to 12 noon.

For more on what’s happening at Sailmakers Shopping Centre go to www.sailmakersshopping.co.uk and to https://www.facebook.com/sailmakers.