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

Llanelli Star - - SOUND OUT - ■ Go to king­dom­ for more de­tails about the choir, their al­bum and forth­com­ing tour dates.

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.

The King­dom Choir

“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 Karen Gib­son from The King­dom Choir

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.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sus­sex and Meghan, Duchess of Sus­sex wave af­ter their wed­ding

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