Music for the soul: Hawke's Bay Soul choir performs public workshop concert.

Updated: Jun 7, 2021

Stephan Zebe, director of Hawke's Bay Soul Choir, conducts a workshop concert at St Andrew's Church hall, Hastings.

Soul music has been signed, sealed and delivered to Hawke's Bay, courtesy of Hawke's Bay Soul ChoirChoir founder Stephan Zebe, 54, said the soul music genre originated in the African-American community of the US in the 1950s and early 1960s. "It combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues and jazz," Zebe said. "We love the style of music like 'Signed, sealed, delivered' and 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine'. "It's like pop music, with a cooler rhythm and people like to dance to it."

All together now - "get ready". Soul singers sing their hearts out at the Hawke's Bay Soul Choir workshop.

The choir, of between 70 and 80 singers, performed a workshop concert at St Andrew's Hall over the weekend. "We started [the choir] last July, after the lockdown. In February we got a bunch of new, talented singers. "Singing is very popular at the moment. It's a special, intense feeling to sing together."

The choir consists of four sections- soprano, alto, bass and tenor, all working together in perfect harmony. "My wife also takes part in the choir. She sings alto, and she's a musician too. She works at Hohepa."

Stephen Evans, soloist, performs soul songs of artists like Stevie Wonder at the Hawke's Bay Soul Choir workshop.

Zebe decided to found the soul choir because he loves gospel music and he wanted to practise the popular style as opposed to classical. "I am a musician, originally a church musician, I love gospel style," he said. "I studied cultural management in Hamburg and started my first music choir when I was 19. "I studied music in Halle, Germany and came to New Zealand nearly two years ago. In Halle I started my first gospel choir." Back in Germany he also led the Berlin Soul Choir, the "Gospelkollektiv" - a female choir, and the mass choir project Lighthill Gospel. In addition to creating his original arrangements for his choirs he also composes music, mostly in a contemporary soul and gospel style.

"We have wonderful support from the council from Creative Communities," he said.

"We are an ethnically diverse group of singers ranging in ages from 20s to 80s, we love singing."

Hawkes Bay Today, 10 May, 2021, By: Sahiban Hyde Photos / Warren Buckland

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