Time to say goodbye

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Linda Vowles and Rosie Wells are stepping down from their official roles in the Jubilee Singers after 27 years.
Camera IconLinda Vowles and Rosie Wells are stepping down from their official roles in the Jubilee Singers after 27 years. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Linda Vowles and Rosie Wells are stepping down from their official roles with Bridgetown’s Jubilee singers after 27 years.

The group came together initially to sing as part of gospel mass at St Brigid’s Church for the inaugural Blues at Bridgetown in 1993, after a request from Pip Mills, one of the organising committee members.

“We went away and came back a week or two later and said we wouldn’t know where to start and she said ‘too late, it’s already in the program’,” Rosie said.

Rosie and Linda were part of that initial group — the St Brigid’s Gospel Choir — that would go on to become the Jubilee Singers, changing their name in 2000.

The group were heavily influenced by American gospel music.

“We picked up all the repertoire from a chap called Tony Backhouse,” she said.

“He used to do trips around America and source all this repertoire and if it wasn’t arranged — because a lot of it is just an oral tradition — he’d arrange it and bring it back and off we went.”

The Jubilee singers began to sing at events in the local community, including Carols by Candlelight, even as the original gospel masses fell by the wayside.

“We had a proper mass, a gospel mass, but then it didn’t sit right after a few years,” Rosie said.

“The formality of the mass setting didn’t really sit right with the service and the way it was, so we haven’t done a Blues gospel mass service for ages.”

In the 27 years they were with the group, Linda was the choirmaster while Rosie accompanied them on piano.

The Jubilee singers never auditioned new members for the choir.

“We were a choir that didn’t audition, that was the only thing, so anybody could come,” she said.

“If they wanted to come along and sing, even if they said they couldn’t sing, they were very welcome and we generally accommodated them, somehow or other.

“That’s what we always used to say, safety in numbers.”

During their time with the group, the Jubilee Singers competed in a number of Bunbury Eisteddfod competitions in the open adult choir section, including taking first place.

“We won! Open Adult Choir, how did we do that?,” Linda joked.

Their last performance in their official choir roles was at the 2020 Blackwood Rhapsody Concert, during which the group was invited to perform with headliner Emily Barker.

The last line of the final song of the set was especially meaningful for Linda and Rosie.

“Hope I know when to leave,” was the lyric, said Rosie.

“Someone’s telling us something.”

According to Linda, it was the last line of the last song that we did as a team.

Having stepped down from their official roles with the Jubilee singers, the women are looking forward to collaborating with the group on a more casual basis.

“With any luck we’ll be in the choir singing, if that’s how it works out,” Rosie said.

“They’ll have somebody else at the front doing the conducting and I’ll possibly still do some accompanying, so we will be involved hopefully.”

“I’d like to sing, it would thrill me to the back teeth to see it going on, that’ll be the icing on the cake,” Linda said.

Both joked they would like to receive life memberships to the Jubilee Singers group.

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