Detail of University of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra playing

Why did you start Gospel Revisited Project?

I have a love for Gospel Music! From late 70s to the mid-1990s Gospel songs were regularly sung in our church settings, but lots aren’t now. The project is about revisiting those songs and presenting them in a different format, to give them a new lease of life and introduce them to different audiences and generations whilst keeping the same message. I want to bring people to new spaces in Birmingham, sharing the wonderful venues we have and Birmingham talent along the way. The people involved may not all have been born in Birmingham but they now live here and represent it in a huge way, so it’s a celebration of that.

Why Birmingham?

Birmingham was one of the biggest areas for the settling of the Windrush generation, who brought with them their musical capabilities and influenced the way that a lot of us from the Midlands play our music. A lot of people settling then were quite “religious”, so their songs would be played in their home and their whole life would be based around attending churches with Gospel Music. Religious music played a very big part in my community growing up, so one of my aims is to put gospel on the map again here by presenting it in a new way.

University of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with a conductor

What will the concert programme be like?

For this particular project we’re paying homage to the women of gospel. It’s about the heritage of Gospel Music so I think it’s only right that we pay respect to the pioneers like Sandra Crouch, Mahalia Jackson, Tremaine Hawkins, Shirley Ceaser, Danniebell... all of those artists paved the way for Gospel in the UK. Jonathan Silk, Director of Jazz Performance, has rearranged theirs ongs, so there will be elements where you go, “Oh yeah, I know that song...” then we take it somewhere else! It’s a fresh sound. Jonathan and I have developed a working relationship which is kind of the median of our two worlds, my gospel grooves meets orchestral jazz, but we’re paying tribute to these wonderful women and showcasing local Midlands female artists.

How has it been working with the students from the Symphony Orchestra and who else is involved in the project?

I just sit there and watch the young people and wow... sometimes I’m just so overwhelmed. I’m hoping that this project has a long-lasting impact on them as individuals, that it brings joy to their hearts, as you can see that when they’re playing. The Gospel Revisited Project band are all pro players: myself on drums, Andy Bunting on keys, Ian Reid on bass, Pete Harris on guitar and Tom Chapman on percussion. I am so humbled to be working with these guys. Also the vocalists, Claudia Prince and Deborah Brown. The conducting is overseen by Jonathan Silk and Daniele Rosina, Director of Orchestral Studies, and, for this project to go ahead, a lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes, rehearsals scheduled etc. It’s nice to be a part of project where everybody’s singing off - excuse the pun - the same hymn sheet! It’s all going to come together, I have no doubt that the end product will be what it’s supposed to be because they are wonderful.

What can people expect from the concert experience?

I have a slogan: GRP infuses mind, body and soul. Everybody can relate to that. Whatever community background you’re from, whatever culture, everybody will get something from this. Music is such a phenomenon that is sometimes underplayed, and Gospel Music can lift your spirit. There’s no way you're going to leave our event without a smile on your face.

University of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will be performing as part of Gospel Revisited Project at Birmingham’s Town Hall on Sat 3 Dec at 19:00.