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December 22, 2020
Earlier this month, we were pleased to welcome a small audience of NHS keyworkers from St Thomas’ Hospital London for a festive live performance by Karen Gibson MBE and The Kingdom Choir at The Nest in Treehouse. We spoke with Ms. Gibson about her influences, leading the choir through a challenging year, and what’s next.
I started singing in church, although my music education actually began with lessons on the piano and then the oboe. That was my formal music education. Alongside that, however, I was also being trained, informally, by the black Pentecostal church in which I was raised, where I learned about harmony, rhythm, improvisation and so much more. The choir came out of a larger, London-wide choir that all the initial members were a part of. Some of the members of that choir became involved with a BBC Radio2 program called the Gospel Train. From there, we were spotted by Songs of Praise, who wanted us to come and sing on their 35th anniversary program. We didn’t have a name, but we were told to get one if we were going to appear on the show. I dreamt about the name The Kingdom Choir the same night of that request, and that is how we became an entity.
Initially, we would continue to meet every Wednesday, which is our choir rehearsal night, as we knew that it would be important to keep connection in some way. We decided that we needed to sing in some form, so we began to create virtual videos. We found that we began to get request after request for them! We got to sing virtually at the Together at Home concert curated by Lady Gaga, at Ascot, we curated a concert for the Royal Albert Home concert series, we had a collaboration with Gary Barlow singing on his new single, we had a collaboration with the Missguided retail brand. We had a lot of fun, experimenting with this new type of creativity and expression. We even released a single, Real Love, the proceeds of which went to the domestic abuse charity, Refuge.
I don’t think there is one favourite song that the choir sings for me – there are far too many that I love, and for different reasons. My two favourite Christmas carols that we sing at the moment, are Hark, the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World. I think the arrangements are stunning.
My biggest musical influences, particularly when I was growing up, are some of the biggest Gosport legends around: the Hawkins, (of O Happy Day fame); Andrae Crouch, who in his day was seen as the first Christian crossover artist; The Winans and Brothers, a family group that inspired my friends and me to form a singing group; and Richard Smallwood, whose classical training underpinned his gospel artistry.
The Treehouse experience is one that we will never forget, for so many reasons. We were honoured to have the company welcome us to the hotel. It felt like nothing was too much on for the management or the staff to make us feel comfortable. The attention to detail and levels of excellence in the service were incredible. This, along with the building itself and the design, brilliantly helped to achieve a sense of it being of home from home. The actual performance far surpassed what we thought it would be. The atmosphere that evening was electric, and it was so powerful to see how moved the NHS workers were by the performance. It was a beautiful night of music, joy and connection. Of course, I was in the studio when I saw it all and had to hold back the tears. I was stunned seeing how the interviews, performance and behind-the- scenes had all come together. We are so grateful to all at Treehouse for making it happen.
Next year we will be looking to release new music and will also be preparing for two tours the following year, 2022. There are other things in the pipeline that I cannot talk about now, but watch this space!
The Treehouse experience is one that we will never forget, for so many reasons.
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