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Gospel choir looks on the bright side

By Christine Nielsen-Craig

Sure ain’t nobody’s fault
but mine
if I don’t sing
and my soul be lost
it ain’t nobody’s fault
but mine

As these lyrics went round and round her head, and round and round again, Lisa Tui knew she had a choice: act or regret. She acted, and the result is the New Brighton-based Bright On Vibes gospel choir.

“That song prompted me to stand in my own ability to make my desire and calling happen – to live without regret and be responsible for what I can change,” she says.

Lisa trained at the National Academy of Performing Arts in Christchurch, and now teaches singing and performance to adults, adult educators, and children.

The idea for Bright On Vibes came via a Jazz School workshop run by Tony Backhouse, a Sydney-based singer and founder of Gateway to Heaven gospel group. Duly inspired, Lisa was then urged on by the frank, incessant lyrics of Nobody’s Fault.

Now each Wednesday evening, from 7:30 -9:30, St. Faith’s Anglican Church in New Brighton resounds with hearty gospel sounds.

“Were in the moment and we’re loud,” says Lisa. “We enjoy just being together and creating music spontaneously. It’s not about knowing how to sing, it’s about singing soulfully. I encourage people to find spiritual significance in the music and sing from that place,” she explains.

“It’s very repetitive music. The structure of gospel is so simple that the appeal lies in what you give to it,” she says. “We’re also an organic group. Sometimes we need to go with what comes.”

What comes is becoming increasingly popular for singers and listeners alike.

“On our first performance, we all ran to the stage,” she exclaims. Very often members don’t want to leave at the end of the weekly rehearsal. And Bright On Vibes has a growing membership.

“We’ve had a steady group of 20 for awhile, but this term we had an increase of 15 more people. ”

Lisa thinks a lot of the appeal comes from the safe and supportive environment group singing offers. Singing is a healing activity, she says, and singing in harmony in particular is a wonderful metaphor for living in community.

“When we sing in harmony we each have to stay true to our sound but we are supported and enhanced by the sounds of others,” she explains. “And being able to sing is a permissible way of expressing yourself that is healing in itself.”

Bright On Vibes perform in a range of venues, but do a regular 45-minute performance at New Brighton Mall on the first Saturday of each month. The group also has plans to hold a Christmas concert and perform in Brighton’s Christmas parade.

The more performances, the better: “We want to do more because want to fund a trip to the United States to visit Memphis, New Orleans, and Chicago to visit churches and soak in the Gospel culture.”

Brighton On Vibes has put on a workshop in Ashburton and performed at a community fair in Diamond Harbour. Current plans are to turn the group into a trust so donations to it can be tax deductible.

For more information about Bright On Vibes, contact Lisa Tui at 03 382 3939 or lisatui@ihug.co.nz.