Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir is a pioneering London gospel choir with a mission: to help spread contemporary gospel music into Catholic, Anglican, and other non-Pentecostal churches, and to bring its unique sound to diverse audiences everywhere.
The choir was founded 12 years ago in the belief that contemporary gospel music (CG) is one of Christianity’s greatest living artistic treasures, and that it should be spread among all denominations and introduced into as many Christian liturgies as are open to it.
For over a decade we have been developing our unique and innovative approach to incorporating gospel music into structured liturgy. For the last several years, we have sung and played for a monthly Roman Catholic Mass at Farm Street Church (Mayfair, London) and a monthly Eucharist at St James’s Anglican Church Piccadilly (central London) with Lucy Winkett and her team. Sensitive musical programming means contemporary gospel songs (with full choir and live band) are weaved seamlessly into the service alongside prayers, liturgy, a sermon and communion.
Sample feedback from congregation members: “I go to Mass all the time; that was the most beautiful ever;” “I haven’t taken communion for 30 years, but I did tonight.”
Very little CG has been written for conventional liturgy, and we have therefore created and commissioned many original mass and psalm settings in a contemporary gospel style, as well as gospel settings of traditional hymns.
A very important part of our mission is spreading gospel choir music far and wide, throughout churches in the UK. We are doing this via our ‘toolkit’ of resources and gospel singing workshops. More info at http://soulsanctuarygospel.com/workshops-and-resources
To get a flavour of how Soul Sanctuary operates in a church context, watch our short film: http://soulsanctuarygospel.com/documentary
Outside church walls, Soul Sanctuary have sold out the Jazz Cafe, appeared at Marlborough International Jazz Festival, and developed ambitious original productions: The Resurrection (a gospel Easter oratorio) and Nine Lessons and Carols (gospel carols and spoken word poetry).
In 2015, The Resurrection was broadcast on BBC Radio 2, and an abridged version was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship alongside reflections from the Rev Lucy Winkett. Last Easter we collaborated with the BBC on a special Radio 2 programme for Good Friday. This Advent, we teamed up with Lucy Winkett again and created another special episode of Sunday Worship, with gospel carols and reflections from Lucy and theologian Robert Beckford. It can be heard on iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0855807
REV LUCY WINKETT
The Rev Lucy Winkett is a well-known broadcaster, writer and rector of St James’s Piccadilly. Ordained in 1995, she was part of the first generation of women priests in the Church of England, becoming the first woman priest to be appointed to St Paul’s Cathedral. She regularly appears on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, and is a published author (e.g. her book Our Sound is our Wound: Contemplative Listening in a Noisy World, which was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book in 2010).
Before being ordained, Lucy was a professional classical soprano, and remains an extremely accomplished (and active) musician to this day. This means that the collaboration between Soul Sanctuary and Lucy is fruitful and exciting. For example, Lucy sings our blues-inspired Eucharistic prayer during each gospel music service at St James’s (backed by our band and choir).
We love working with Lucy. Our multiple collaborations on successful BBC radio projects, and our regular church services, have inspired us to approach Greenbelt about the possibility of a joint appearance in 2017.
Photo Credit: Alison and Jonny Tsang