Award-winning gospel choir leader Karen Gibson has performed for the Queen, the Pope and Nelson Mandela – now she’s inspiring Lewes Old Grammar School singers.
Karen, who has worked with vocal groups all over the world, lifted the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year title in 2014 with her Lewes Sings Gospel choir, led a workshop for the school’s students on Friday.
LOGS head of singing, Rachel Munro, arranged the gospel workshop for her Vox Show Choir, who later this month will be performing at the South Coast Jazz Festival. Rachel said: “We encourage our Senior and Junior Vox choirs to try all kinds of musical genres and Karen Gibson really is the master of gospel.
“She inspired pupils to truly understand and embrace the joy of gospel music.
“Its influence on contemporary music is well-documented and we wanted our singers to learn from a real musical expert.”
The Lewes Old Grammar School Vox Choir was founded in 2008 by LOGS singing teacher and choir director, Rachel Munro, but the Show Choir was formed in 2010. Twenty four pupils aged between 11 and 17 took part in the gospel workshop at St Michael’s Church in Lewes High Street.
The Vox Show Choir now look forward to their next performance on January 24 at the South Coast Jazz Festival.
They will be performing a 30-minute set at the Ropetackle Centre in Shoreham.
Future performances include a lunchtime recital at All Saints Church, Lindfield on March 9 and a choral version of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece Into the Woods in May.
Karen Gibson, a full time choir conductor and workshop leader, is described by colleagues as a powerhouse of inspiration and energy. Recently nominated in the categories of Best Contribution to Gospel Music for the GMA’s and the music category of the Wise Woman Awards, she conducts several choirs in the South-East.
She led one choir, the Maria Fidelis Gospel Choir, to victory in the Songs of Praise Senior School Choir in 2014 and directed the same choir during an audience with the Pope as well as before the Queen, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Mayor of London.
She also led another of her choirs, Southampton’s SINGIT!, to the finals of the BBC Choir of the Year Competition in 2010.
As well as the choirs that Karen facilitates, she is the founder of the award-winning Kingdom Choir.
She’s been involved with vocal groups and choirs for over 25 years, conducting gospel workshops across the UK and Europe as well as Nigeria, Japan, Zimbabwe and the USA.
She’s also been instrumental in drawing together and conducting some of the most prestigious large-scale choirs for a variety of gospel and community initiatives including The Queen’s Jubilee, The Global Day of Prayer and Concert for Diana. Numbers in the choirs have ranged between 200 and 4000.
Karen recently featured in the first book about British Gospel Music, ‘British Black Gospel’ written by Steve Alexander Smith who cites her as a pioneer of the sound of gospel in this country.
She has conducted Lewes Sings Gospel since its inception in Autumn 2009.
Most singers are not from a gospel background, and the choir is open to those from any or no religion.
She explained: “My ambitions were to get people singing gospel, and to understand the heart of it, but mainly for people to be touched by the music.
“The nature of gospel is that it’s inclusive.”
Karen’s background is in the Pentecostal church, though she did not plan for her life to take this path.
Notable career highlights include singing inside Buckingham Palace, conducting a 3,000 voice congregation in front of Pope Benedict when he visited the UK and meeting Nelson Mandela and singing a song especially penned for him by Joan Armatrading.
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