‘It’s been a real whirl­wind’

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - MUSIC MATTERS -

When life is tough, peo­ple turn to gospel. Just ask the head of The King­dom Choir, Karen Gib­son. If that choir name sounds fa­mil­iar, it should, be­cause it be­longs to the group who de­liv­ered a daz­zling three­minute per­for­mance on May 19 as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were mar­ried at Wind­sor Cas­tle.

It was an aus­tere day, with thou­sands gath­er­ing to fight for a glimpse of Meghan’s dress or Harry’s shock of red hair.

In the mid­dle of all this was The King­dom Choir - a tal­ented but un­known group of gospel singers in­vited to per­form.

Gib­son guided them through a soul-stir­ring ren­di­tion of Stand By Me by Ben E King and from that mo­ment the group’s for­tunes were changed.

“We never saw this com­ing. We never saw any of it. It’s been amaz­ing. It’s been a real whirl­wind,” Gib­son, 55, ac­knowl­edges down the phone from her Lon­don home.

“It’s an un­dreamed dream. It’s a dream that you don’t dare dream. Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent now, ev­ery venue is dif­fer­ent, ev­ery per­for­mance is dif­fer­ent.”

Gib­son’s crop of sil­ver hair made her the recog­nis­able sym­bol of the group, which counts about 30 but flexes in num­ber to suit the oc­ca­sion.

The King­dom Choir, she ex­plains, ex­isted for many years be­fore the pub­lic took no­tice in May, but the fact their at­ten­tion is drawn now is no co­in­ci­dence.

Last year, grime artist Stor­mzy bucked ex­pec­ta­tions to re­lease Gang Signs & Prayer, an al­bum of gospel and soul.

And each year the Mu­sic Of Black Ori­gin (Mobo) awards draw more at­ten­tion to the genre.

Gib­son sees her mu­sic’s suc­cess as a sign of the times, and when the chips are down, peo­ple turn to gospel.

She ex­plains: “We are in a sea­son when peo­ple need hope. They want to be in­spired. Peo­ple want good­ness in their lives be­cause there seems to be so much bad news all the time.

“Peo­ple want love. They want to feel love and they want to be loved, and peo­ple also want to be free.

“I have also seen how singing frees peo­ple and how it cre­ates great con­nec­tion. Peo­ple want fam­ily, and singing in a choir pro­vides great fam­ily.”

She started her first choir in 1994 with sis­ter Kim­mie and school friends Elaine and Col­lette in south Lon­don’s Toot­ing. Later, she went on to sing back­ing vo­cals for acts like Grace Kennedy and The Beau­ti­ful South and, un­til the royal wed­ding shot her to fame, taught in schools around Lon­don.

In the days fol­low­ing the wed­ding, mem­bers of the choir be­came house­hold names. The YouTube video of their per­for­mance has cur­rently been watched more than five mil­lion times.

The group are also re­leas­ing an al­bum, ti­tled Stand By Me af­ter the song that changed their lives. It fea­tures modern cov­ers of Bob Dy­lan, Stor­mzy and Bey­once while delv­ing into R&B, soul and, of course, gospel clas­sics.

Recorded over two week­ends, Gib­son says the stu­dio time chal­lenged the choir.

“We were very tired by the end of it but we loved it. There’s noth­ing wrong with be­ing in­tense and tena­cious and in­ten­tional and pur­pose­ful.

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