It seemed an unlikely venue for some of the UK’s leading Gospel singing exponents, but, with a packed house and the engaging, generous personalities of these amazing singers, Walton Girls’ school hall absolutely rocked on Sunday night!
I’ve been lucky enough to watch the extraordinary rise of our own ‘Choir Invisible’, from the time they wore punk/biker clothes and stormed the finals of the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year Competition, to the time Desmond Tutu asked them to become his official choir in the UK, and on to their amazing performances last December at Southwell Minster (to a packed house) and at UNESCO and Notre Dame in Paris.
In Sunday’s performance they showed us that they moved forward yet again. This was a very ‘grown-up’ sound indeed: perfectly blended, wonderfully rich. They held the whole audience in the palms of their hands, every single one of their eighty singers clearly giving 100%, performing with an infectious joy I have never seen in any other choir. They delivered a set of Gospel standards in unique totally acapella arrangements created for the choir by the Director, Sally Brown, far closer to the authentic roots of Gospel than any choral versions I have heard, singing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ and ‘Go Down Moses’, for example, and making us hear these songs as if for the first time. This choir is also blessed with the best soloists a choir could wish for: Abi Moore, Dorothy Holland and Lauryn Short (who brought me close to tears in the African song she led).
In the second half, contemporary Gospel composer and singer Tyndale Thomas MBE, together with his family and young colleagues, carried us along on a tide of energy created by funky keyboards and close harmonies. What a talent this man is! The Gospel version of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was a real highlight, and Steve Thomas on keyboards deserves a special mention for his sensitive, inventive accompaniment.
The evening closed with the massed voices of the talented singers who had clearly had a ball taking part in the weekend workshop of Gospel Singing. They danced and sang their way through five upbeat songs and got the audience on their feet for a sharp contemporary arrangement of ‘Down By the Riverside’. I left feeling as if I’d been on holiday and the feeling hasn’t worn off yet! That a concert of this calibre took place on my doorstep I still find impossible to believe. Thank you to all involved.