Sleigh Belles sing, are you listening..?

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THIS time last year three women from Worthing who knew each other vaguely from the music circuit decided to form a band.

Twelve months later and they are preparing to perform on ITV’s This Morning before jetting out to Cyprus to perform a Christmas Eve concert.

In between, they have switched om the Christmas lights in both Worthing and Brighton, performed at numerous corporate events and established themselves as a high-energy vocal harmony trio.

For Bev Seal, Andi Berthinume and Mariah Henderson, being part of Violet is now a way of life.

But for around six weeks of the year they become The Sleigh Belles, giving the band and its eye-catching wardrobe a festive twist.

Mariah, 33, of Selden Road, Worthing, said: “I have known Andi for a few years but did not know Bev that well before the band came about but we seemed like the perfect combination of people.

“We started doing local gigs as well as some corporate events then the idea for The Sleigh Belles came about one day when we were rehearsing and suddenly we started singing Christmas songs.

“There was a massive amount of interest and I think that is because there are not many people doing the same thing.”

It was Mariah, whose background is singing on cruise ships, that approached This Morning.

She said: “I do the marketing for the group and enjoy chasing up opportunities.

“I have not been surprised how successful the group has been so far because I think there was a gap in the market.

“Then, when we started singing, the harmonies worked and I thought we could do well.

“For me personally I have always wanted to sing and always been in bands.

“I loved working on the cruise ships but after being on them for years and living in a cabin for so long you start to want a change.”

Andi, 27, of Warwick Street, Worthing, said: “It was always very disjointed before we finally got together as a band, because we saw each other for a couple of months then we would not see one another again for about a year.

“I used to be in a Brighton based rock band called Shoot the Dead and we released a few singles and played at the O2.

“I got a lot of experience from working with them but I really fancied a change and the time was right to move on.

“I have got quite a rocky edge so this is very different for me but it is great and it works because we have got such different personalities but I think that is what makes it all work.

“We sound very distinctive individually and I think you can really hear that in our songs.

“There is not a lead singer in this group unlike some other girl bands, no one does any one thing more than anyone else.”

Bev, 28, of St Botolphs Road, Worthing, is a qualified secondary school teacher with a background in musical theatre.

“I have been in other girl bands and have also got some experience in burlesque so I am the choreographer of the group,” she said.

“We are quite a retro band and the style that we have adopted suits us because we all have quite curvy figures.

“This is a pop band with a lot of upbeat numbers so people can get up and dance.

“We are also hoping to record and release some of our own material next year so that will add a different dimension to what we already do.”

The friends have their outfits specially made and describe their style as similar to the Andrews Sisters but with a modern-day twist.

Andi said: “I think people respond well to that.

“We have our own style which is reflected in how we sing and what we wear and we want to be comfortable and be dressed in clothing that suits us.”

Mariah added: “The Sleigh Belles is all about getting people up on the dance floor.

“These are the modern classics with us putting our own stamp on it, and having fun at the same time.

“In the beginning with The Violets we tried out a few things and decided that we would do songs from across a broad range of music styles but ‘Violet it up’.

“That is our brand now - whatever song we are doing it still sounds like us, and that is very important.”

The trio say they have been overwhelmed by support received from family and friends.

Andi said: “It is lovely because my parents are constantly posting stuff on Facebook about what we are doing even though they are not particularly techy.

“They are just so proud.

“I think I felt it most when we turned on the Christmas lights in Worthing and in Brighton. It was a big moment for us and our families were there grinning madly at the front of the crowds.”

Bev added: “I think it is nice to have our local town be aware of us and we want to do things within Worthing.

“This is a very musical town and it means a lot to us.

“It was a real honour to be asked to turn on the lights here and it was great fun too.”

The women regard every performance as special and say they get a huge buzz from being on stage.

Andi said: “When we are in a Worthing pub we are beginning to see people that follow us around which is nice, whereas at a corporate event you tend to get lots of people up and dancing and it is more of a show.

“There is nothing more fulfilling than to see people having a really good time and enjoying what we are singing.

“There is nothing better than doing a job that you love with your best friends, it is such a good feeling.

“We also love meeting lots of different people at all the gigs that we do.

“We want to be available to people rather than just turning up, singing then leaving. We always stay to talk to people afterwards.”

Performing on This Morning is just one highlight of a very successful year for the band.

Andi said: “Being on TV this year is amazing, we never thought that would happen, especially not so quickly.

“That is just phenomenal but we have put in a lot of hard work in.

“The only way is up and who knows what will happen next year.”

Bev said: “We just have to take each day as it comes. Obviously we would like to do this full time and be successful with it.

“It would be great if we could get more gigs abroad like the one we have booked for Christmas Eve.

“I hope that this is just the beginning for us because we want to do this for as long as we can.”