Find out more about Telegraph Hill’s very own Choir who have played to audiences worldwide, and who are now popping up at the 25th anniversary Telegraph Hill Festival.
Turning off a busy street in Telegraph Hill and you’ll find yourself in a secluded enclave ringed by trees and wooden terraced houses, with brightly painted verandas overlooking a communal garden. We could be in Latin America, the Caribbean or Africa.
This, Telegraph Hill, is the birthplace of the London African Gospel Choir, a musical venture rooted in community and creative expression which has brought African gospel to audiences worldwide since its launch in 2002 with those early rehearsals at St Catherine’s Church.
Members of the London African Gospel Choir are drawn from different countries in the African Diaspora; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya, Zaire, Ivory Coast, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Uganda and the Congo to list but a few.
The choir’s diverse membership is reflected in their repertoire, which includes secular songs with a positive message, including songs from Paul Simon’s Graceland.
London African Gospel Choir were commissioned by Camden’s Jazz Café to perform its uplifting lyrics and South African rhythms and melodies in its entirety for one night only.
Tickets sold out within hours.
Five more nights were added, they all sold out as well, confirming the enduring appeal of Paul Simon’s masterpiece, and also the growing excitement generated by the Choir’s string of notable stage and television appearances shared with stars like Emile Sande, Mumford & Sons, Tom Jones and the Soweto Gospel Choir, with whom they made a triumphant appearance at London’s 02 Arena, singing in front of 17,000 people.
Video: London African Gospel Choir performing Paul Simon’s Graceland at the Jazz Cafe
London African Gospel Choir finished off their Graceland tour at St Catherine’s Church earlier last year to a huge sold out audience.
From small vocal groups to a large-scale ensemble, the Choir has at its core a ten-piece band featuring two keyboard players, two guitarists, bass, drums, percussion and three horn players. The dozen or so singers are all expected to learn the lead parts of every song, which means familiarising themselves with several different African languages. Some of the singers and musicians are well known in Africa, or have appeared in West End shows like The Lion King. The group has stars in its midst but it’s a sense of belonging and togetherness that binds them.
Following the Choir’s creation in 2002, they played at church events and small venues in SE London, little imagining that they would one day perform at the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and a G4 Summit; or serenade millions of viewers with Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life on UK breakfast television. These days they headline their own tours, which regularly sell out months in advance. They also appear on festival main stages, performing Graceland to growing numbers of fans in the UK and Europe.
Earlier this year the Choir embarked on their first US tour, home to some of the world’s finest gospel talent. They slayed it, of course.