About Us

Soul of the City Gospel Choir, Exeter






Soul of the City Gospel Choir, Exeter

Our History

Soul of the City Gospel Choir was born in April 2019.  A very exciting round of auditions took place for us to find our 40 founding members.  We took the first steps on the journey of creating a sparkling dynamic choir by working both on technical aspects of our singing together – our blend, choreography, diction, performance persona.  There is much hard work that goes into creating high quality performances, and yet just as important for us is to let the love of singing together and our joy in being a choir family brightly shine through.  In these times of perhaps greater isolation and hyper-individualism, we want our choir family to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for the power that can be created when we come together with others, our eyes set on something more beautiful than we could ever create on our own.  A choir is a place where we see and feel the potential of collaboration, of creating something cohesive.  We believe that this is medicine for these times, and we are proud to contribute this to all who hear us.

We began performing almost immediately with our sold-out summer debut concert.  In the autumn term of 2019, we auditioned again for a second round of new members and a handful of new talented singers joined us.  In that term we also recorded choir parts for singer/songwriter James Frost at Dartington Hall Studios, for the upcoming album ‘All of Our Hands’.  In the new year of 2020, we had gigs booked at Glasdenbury Festival, Ashburton Arts Centre, Altitude Festival, and a private birthday function.  Sadly, then covid hit and the rest as they say is history.

The choir stayed together on zoom throughout lockdown and kept the faith learning new repertoire and trying to keep our spirits up.  We created a fundraising video for NHS Heroes Support to buy essential PPE for frontline workers.  Our video raised over £10K, and we were featured on BBC Spotlight news – we almost made it to the Nationals, but that is another story!  

We were overjoyed when we came back to singing together in September 2021, and our third round of auditions took place, seeing our choir increase numbers to approaching fifty members.  We are very excited about this next phase of the choir’s development and have big hopes and dreams to go on create some spine-tingling musical magic in 2022 and beyond which we hope will take us on all sorts of musical adventures.

If you are interested to book the choir for a gig, or workshop, please contact Choir Director Fran André on fran@soulofthecity.co.uk.

Choir Director

Fran André

My earliest memory is of singing.  Singing gives me huge joy, and is a place where my spirit soars and I feel truly free.  I am passionate about bringing this experience to others – both to my choir members through my leadership and to audiences through our choir performances. As a child I have extremely happy memories of sitting at the piano, singing my heart out as I jammed chord sequences on the piano.  This was a welcome release and respite from the hard work and practise of my classical music studies as a cellist.  Improvising felt so deeply satisfying to me and felt like something so very natural and ‘mine’, and is at the heart of what I love about black music, the freedom of expression and pure joy of letting spirit through us in song.  I am a woman of mixed heritage, with roots in both England and the paradise island of Mauritius.  I feel a strong connection with the music of Africa through that lineage, and it is of growing importance to me to fully honour and celebrate the history and context of the songs as we sing them.  The stories particularly associated with the spirituals and early Gospel music need very much to be told in these times, as we must not forget the abhorrent conditions of enslavement out of which so much joyful, optimistic, powerful music was born.  

In my teenage years I found deep solace in the voice of Aretha Franklin. I was captivated by the depth of feeling in her singing and her raw deeply heart connected performances.  She had a voice that pierced my heart and gave me shivers.  Stevie Wonder was also a strong musical companion particularly through my twenties, as well as Motown, and the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Sam Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and so many others.  It is these musical greats that I seek to celebrate through Soul of the City Gospel Choir, and it gives me great joy to be at the helm of such a wonderful dedicated group of individuals seeking to sing this music to the best of their ability, and with maximum heart and soul.