JAZZ Ann ewes FESTIVAL PREVIEW
EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BLUES FESTIVAL
Songs of praise
Great gospel singing can be the most uplifting thing that ever happens to your ears. Fiona ‘Shepherd listens in and soars upward.
The psalms may variously exhort God‘s people to ’make ajoyful sound unto the Lord . . . praise him on the trumpet . . . praise him on stringed instruments too.’ but the London Adventist Chorale. now entering its fifteenth year of making ajoyful sound. prefer to do it without the usual gospel choir back-up of chiming keyboards. funky bass and clattering drums.
‘We have a number of contemporary pieces we perform. but the emphasis is on the vocal skill.‘ says Trevor Johnson. the choir's assistant general manager. who also sings in it. ‘We're about getting across a message. so I wouldn‘t say our first port of call would be to depend on musicians to provide the vehicle for our songs; we'd look towards the vocal to do that. Contemporary music doesn‘t take much into consideration when you‘re looking at a cappella; it‘s based on support through the music. whereas we feel the strength of gospel music lies vocally.‘
The Chorale. which draws on the talents of singers from various Adventist churches in the Greater London and Home Counties areas and now numbers 30 voices. is distinct from many other gospel choirs in its repertoire. The traditional gospel material it favours is based on early negro spirituals but it also
performs traditional ecclesiastical and classical pieces. Its current artistic director. Ken Burton. is a skilled arranger of spirituals as well as composing original material for the choir.
‘You find a lot of gospel choirs are really just imitating what the Americans do.‘ says Burton. ‘They buy the latest records and steal songs from them. What this choir is doing is expanding the repertoire of gospel music by taking on the early American styles. That tradition ofspirituals is waning in America and is almost completely dead over here. so I guess the Chorale has stood apart from the gospel world in that way.‘
‘To a certain degree. you can't tell the difference between British gospel choirs and American gospel choirs.‘ agrees Johnson. ‘whereas with the Chorale I think there is a distinctive difference because we‘ve taken repertoire that originated in American and Africa and new also incorporated some of the European composers which gives us a bit more scope. Sometimes people come expecting to hear the standard three-part harmonies and I think they're quite taken aback when they hear us. There's a lot of discipline attached to what we do.‘
The originality of the choir was recognised last vear
when they were awarded the title Sainsbury's Choir ofthe Year. As a result of this. American adventist
London Adventist Chorale: making a lot oi ioyiul noises unto the audience
pastor Shelton Kilby III has written an arrangement ofa psalm for them which they will premiere at this year‘s Proms. in keeping with their eclectic approach. it draws on American. African and European styles. The Chorale itself. though predominantly black. encourages all races to join to emphasize the universality of their message. Tire members span an age range from late teens to forties and come from various occupational backgrounds.
However. says Johnson. ‘the religious connection is paramount. We have one outlook so whatever we do there's a uniform approach towards our religious experience and that comes out in the performance.‘
‘For us music is a means ofevangelism as well as a form of praise.‘ says Burton. ‘so it‘s our opportunity to spread the gospel and we get a buzz out ofseeing people respond.‘
The Chorale hopes to break down more barriers with plans to conduct school workshops as a future project. Whether that extends to inspiring any budding Mahalia Jacksons or Aretha Franklins remains to be seen.
‘It‘s something that‘s within. but I think it‘s something that can be learned.‘ says Johnson diplomatically.
The Lam/mt Adventist Chorale. St Giles Cathedral. Thursday 8 August. 8/7121.
mm:- Working mum
Tina May’s son Ben has been returning heme iron nursery a little punled. it seems that some rigorous questioning of his intent class-mates has yielded the remarkable discovery that not everyone’s mum and dad play or sing. The mistake is understandable enough, mind you, when your own parents are Tina and drummer Clark Tracey.
The pair are currently juggling their busy lives to accommodate the second arrival to their iemily, now six months old. combining the roles oi mum and periornring artist is, Tina admits, her biggest headache, but adds that ‘it would_be‘ver_y detgatist lust to give in
' - e'illt meansis to
organise and concentrate my time better, and that I tend to end up burning the midnight oil a bit more.’ Of all the giited jazz singers to emerge on the till scene in the past decade or so, Tina has a lair claim to being the one with the most overtly improvisational iazz approach. iier style makes no concessions to iashionable borrowings irom pop or soul sources, and she is always ready to take risks and push herself just a
iler iour albums ior 33 Records have grown consistently stronger, and the latest, Time Will Tell, is the most assured yet. iier earlier experiments with a string quartet accompaniment is developed into a collaboration between quartet (the locrian) and jazz
hannonicaliy and texturally they give such a diiierent sound, especially in the hands oi a skilled writer. This time around I wanted to integrate them with the trio, and Clark has done some lovely arrangements. It means you can’t really work on the nod and wink basis that you can with just the trio, but there are still ways oi incorporating improvisation within it.’ For her Festival gigs, Tina will be working with a trio ieaturing Clark and Scottish pianist Steve Hamilton, rather than her regular pianist David ilewton, but she is quick to point out that, ’I haven’t sacked David or anything - it was Mike iiart’s idea to use Steve, just to very things a bit, and i like to do that sometimes anyway.’ (Kenny .Methieson)
ensemble. Rotten Club, Mon 5-Tue 6, 4.45pm; ‘Enmtlouallr. mines can make a Festival club, Mon 5, 10m, Tue 6, Tina Mar: MI I811 sinner really diiterent iinpact,'and 12.3mm.
38 The List 26 Jul-8 Aug 1996