A GROUP of friends who formed a vocal group after meeting in local choirs have performed to a sell out crowd at their first solo gig.

The Vintage Belles are a seven piece vocal harmony group who sing the best of the 1940s swing and boogie-woogie tunes, while also wearing some of the most popular fashions of the era.

The women, all from Darlington, juggle performing and rehearsals with family commitments and their careers – the group includes a nurse, a civil servant and a therapist.

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Although the Belles have been performing together for several months, often at weddings, charity fundraisers and corporate events, their first solo performance took place last night (Friday) at The Forum, in Darlington.

The sell-out crowd were encouraged to embrace the vintage theme and the venue was decked out in the style of a 1940s street party.

Andrea Lambell, one of the Belles, said all of the group had come to singing relatively late, but were enjoying the experience.

She said: “We all had thought that singing and performing was something that other people did. We all had families and work and that kind of takes over.

“But we all joined choirs and singing workshops and we got to know each other and became friends. First of all we realised we could actually sing and then we realised we enjoyed the performance part too.”

The Belles sang a variety of genres before settling on the 1940s doo-wop style after discovering a talent for vocal harmonies.

They took the plunge and decided to perform together for the first time in Easter last year, providing the musical entertainment at a corporate event organised by one of their employers.

The first event led to several other bookings and now to their solo event at The Forum.

Speaking about the sell-out audience, Ms Lambell said: “It has really taken us by surprise, it was sold out two weeks ago.

“The vintage thing really seems to strike a chord with people – we’re in rough times at the moment and instead of doom and gloom people are hankering for times when people pitched together.

“None of us are planning to give up our jobs to do this but it’s such a wonderful contrast to our everyday lives and we’ve got such a wonderful friendship too. It’s a very empowering thing for a group of women to do.”