It’s been a real whirlwind since we performed at the royal wedding
The Kingdom Choir became an overnight sensation after singing at the royal wedding. Now they say they are hoping to inspire people in 2019, as ALEX GREEN discovers
WHEN life is tough, people turn to gospel. Just ask the charismatic head of The Kingdom Choir, Karen Gibson. She says the healing power of music is needed now more than ever and there has been a resurgence in an interest in gospel music.
The choir came to public attention when they delivered a dazzling three-minute performance last May when Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Their unforgettable rendition of Stand By Me by Ben E King was watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide and proved life-changing for the group of gospel singers, leading to the release of their debut album of the same name.
Before the royal wedding, the largest audience the group had performed to was just 200 people.
Choir founder and conductor Karen says: “We never saw this coming. We never saw any of it. It’s been amazing. It’s been a real whirlwind.”
The 55-year-old says: “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.”
Karen’s crop of silver hair made her the recognisable symbol of the group, which counts about 30 members, but is flexible in number to suit the occasion.
She explains the Kingdom Choir existed for many years before the public sat up and took notice last May.
It follows new interest in gospel music which has seen grime artist Stormzy bucking expectations to release gospel and soul album Gang Signs & Prayer and the MOBO awards drawing more attention to the genre.
Karen sees gospel music’s success as a sign of the times and says, 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 n 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.
Following the wedding, the YouTube video of their performance has been watched millions of times.
They named their debut album Stand By Me after the song that changed their lives. It features modern covers of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, Coldplay’s Fix You, Stormzy’s Blinded By Your Grace Pt2, John Legend’s All Of Me and Beyoncé’s Halo while delving into R&B, soul and, of course, gospel classics.
It was recorded over two weekends and Karen 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. It’s good for the soul,” she says.
“It was a great time of collection and fun and great music, wonderful arrangements from our fabulous arrangers, and a lot of love, a lot of laughter, a lot of food and biscuits.”
Karen is currently offering a daily dose of thoughtful mantras as part of The Kingdom Choir’s Flash Briefing on Amazon Echo.
Love, Hope And Inspiration Daily can be heard throughout January and is aimed at filling listeners with hope and motivation for the day ahead ... or just make people smile. Each mantra to kickstart the day is followed with a snippet of the choir cho singing. Th The choir will be tou touring the UK fr from April 30 with concerts in cities and towns including Cardiff, Birmingham, M Manchester, L Liverpool, Leicester, Gateshead, York and Cambridge.
Karen’s voice certainly holds a preacher’s power. The way she forms her words is strong and compelling but also soothing.
It’s not hard to see how she inspires the rest of the talented singers – many of whom see her as a kind of spiritual leader.
Ayanna Mitchell, from Edgware, north London, was among those who sang at the royal wedding and speaks of Karen with an almost religious fervour.
The 31-year-old met her at a New Year’s Eve party in 2014. The pair discussed gospel and by the end of January she was part of the choir.
Ayanna describes Karen as a “leader, friend, confidante, spiritual mother” and says: “She wears so many different caps, and she wears them so well.”
Karen Gibson from The Kingdom Choir
The Kingdom Choir
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex wave after their wedding