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Sing Inspiration! Festival, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Sing Inspiration! Festival, Royal Festival Hall

Sing Inspiration! Festival, Royal Festival Hall

An evening of gospel and soul at the Southbank leaves everyone feeling the spirit

Returning to her gospel roots: vocalist Carleen Anderson

Bringing together the most talented choirs, vocalists and musicians from across London and the UK, iGospel's two-day Sing Inspiration! Festival came to a close in spectacular fashion. Lurine Cato opened the concluding "Gospel & Soul" concert, showcasing her impressive five-octave range on “You Revive Me”, the first single from her forthcoming debut album. With one, ever higher, key change after another, Cato's deluxe pipes made some better-known pop singers sound like common-or-garden pub belters.

Call-and-response sections with the audience can often be slightly tuneless, let's-get-this-over-with affairs. Here, thanks to the large number of choir members in the audience, it was the most soulful – not to mention tuneful – I've ever heard. A second self-penned song from Cato, “A Mother's Prayer”, elicited a cry of “beautiful” from a couple of rows behind me. And indeed it was. A quick whirl through “I Love the Lord” (made famous by Whitney Houston in the soundtrack to The Preacher's Wife) and we were straight into the MOBO award-winning Isaiah Raymond and Friends.

You were completely swept along by their well-drilled phrasing and astonishing expressivity

Kicking off with the steamroller funk of “No Limits” from their 2003 album Playing Games, given a swinging, almost Prince-like twist here by the superb 10-piece band led by Gareth Fuller, the group then dusted down singer-songwriter Labi Siffre's classic anti-apartheid anthem “(Something Inside) So Strong”, with Isaiah Raymond's impeccable falsetto on the final “strong” providing a textbook lesson in stagecraft.

Drawn from schools across London under the dynamic leadership of David Levale, hearing the mass choir of 1Soul Collective performing “So Much Joy”, you were completely swept along by their tight harmonies, well-drilled phrasing and astonishing expressivity. The iGospel Adult Choir, bringing together stand-alone choirs from Brighton, Northampton, Enfield and Wandsworth, made a similarly joyous noise, with their more mature voices giving an even greater dramatic heft and puissance. Featuring the extraordinary vocal talents of Israel Allen, I'm not quite sure what note he hit at the climax of “I Give You Praise”, but as his namesake, Woody, once said, I think it might have been an M over high C. It sent the uplift factor off the scale.

For the final set, special guest Carleen Anderson took us to church with a transporting account of “I Know the Lord Will Make a Way”. With her voice dripping with emotion, this was something of a spiritual homecoming for the UK-based Ms Anderson, whose musical roots began in her paternal grandparents' Pentecostal church in Houston, Texas. For those of us who had grown up during the days of Talkin' Loud and Acid Jazz, hearing Carleen performing her hit “Apparently Nothin'”, clothed in a sumptuous new arrangement, was an unexpected delight – although it came as something of a shock to think that the album it was taken from, Road to Freedom, was shortlisted for a Mercury Prize a full two decades ago.

Sharply presented and buzzing with energy, Sing Inspiration! was an evening of multifarious charms. What's more, it made a lot of auto-tuned contemporary pop seem like a pallid substitute for real musicality.

Sharply presented and buzzing with energy, it was an evening of multifarious charms

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

Hi its Zainab from Brampton Manor Academy, i was singing for iGospel last tuesday and it was fantastic although last year was better, it was very enjoyable. thank you very much !:)

This event brought heaven to earth. There was a peace which crescendoed into an eruption of gospel misuc at its best. Im sure that the converted will be preaching to me in the future! Rejoice again I say rejoice!

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