With over a 150 individuals to choreograph, conduct and move stylishly on and off the stage, Brighton Goes Gospel choir director, Daniel Thomas had his work cut out. He managed it all with vibrancy, positivity and some funky dance moves. He is the former director of the London Community Gospel Choir which is where he met the guest vocalist, Michelle John, UK finalist 2017 of The Voice UK .
Brighton Goes Gospel consists of two choirs. The first, the Workshop choir, is non-auditioned and will accept anyone with a passion for singing. Considering some of the members had not performed to an audience before, the choreographed moves and harmonies were remarkably polished. There were also some impressive soloists, notably during the song ‘It’s Only a Test’.
In the second section, the auditioned ‘Performance’ choir took to the stage wearing vibrant pinks and oranges. The music was a combination of traditional spiritual gospel songs such as ‘We Shall Overcome’ which are based around the pentatonic scale, and more contemporary Gospel such as ‘Write My Name’ and ‘This Little Light of Mine’. The theme was ‘Shine On’ and so pop songs such as Sia’s ‘Diamonds’ added that extra glitter. Especially when sung by Michelle John whose impressive high range and silky low notes made it seem effortless.
Gospel, meaning ‘good news’, has long been taken from the church and brought into the community. All the elements of Gospel were there. Harmonisation, the call and response, singing from the heart and a little bit of improvisation. The singers were also accompanied by the musical director, Jason Thompson, who is a skilled pianist and his JT band.
The essence of the music has historically kept the hopes of a community alive during difficult times. Music in the community can help to heal and Gospel emotionally releases people from their usual selves. In Gospel churches they have people there to catch others if they get too ecstatic. The Clarendon Centre did not provide this and if the gig had carried on any longer, they may well have had a situation on their hands.
This is why Brighton Goes Gospel, which has charity status and is run by volunteers, provides a vital service to the community in trying times. They are inclusive to all members of the community regardless of religion or background. It was the first time I had witnessed a solo in sign language during John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. The hope and joy inspired by the choir is also a testament to the power of Gospel music itself.