As far as Juliet Fletcher is concerned, 2013 has been a great year for Britain’s live gospel music scene, and she shares why gospel events that draw in the crowds are a good thing.
Gospel concerts were the first activity that informed us something special was happening with our music – outside of our local church. This hasn’t changed, because the numbers and quality of gospel concerts readily inform us whether we’re doing well or badly in our scene.
Do you enjoy going to a gospel concert? How keen are you to go to your local church concert event? Or are you one of those individuals, who wait for that big name artist from the USA to come along?
When I speak of a gospel concert, I’m not talking about a ‘worship event’. No. This might sound controversial to some, but I think it’s important to note the difference.
WORSHIP EVENT DIFFERS FROM GOSPEL CONCERT
The difference is this: A worship event relates more to believers gathering to exalt and adore the Lord, and to encounter an experience of the presence of God. You may not experience any entertainment, but you should enjoy a connection between yourself and the worship leader(s), as you agree in the spirit and atmosphere of worship. At the end of the night, you should feel you were in a great night.
A gospel concert is about hearing and being inspired by artists sharing the message of the Gospel, and their godly perspective on life in song. You may experience the presence of God; you should find a connection between yourself and the artists at a level on which you are more personally satisfied. At the end of the night, you should feel you were at a great night.
In reality, gospel concerts often seem to need more justification than a worship event – all because of the entertainment element.
CONCERTS – GODLY SOCIAL ENJOYMENT
Back in the day, the young people of my time didn’t have all the so called ‘freedom’ to go and do what young people today do without blinking an eyelid. Going to the cinema was a no-no. Going swimming was a no-no. The theatre? A no-no! Going to a club or wine bar: A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y NO!
But when gospel concerts became popular, it was our number one godly form of social enjoyment. They were organised and promoted by us; performed by us; attended and enjoyed by us. It was our ‘thing’. It was an exciting and transformational time.
As the foundation stone of our gospel scene today, concerts set the temperature of how hot or cold we are; when there are lots of concerts, we feel more confident that our music is ‘going somewhere’; it’s important, it’s relevant. When the Church realised that it was an honest way to support their social and fundraising goals, it was a win-win, as some people found their way to Christ through attending concert events.
HOT GOSPEL CONCERTS
Organising a good gospel concert, therefore, can be very effective if used in the right way. I’m not a believer in organising a public gospel concert, with a paying ticket price, for people to turn up and find it’s really an evangelistic or deliverance meeting. That is not fitting to the advertised programme!
A well-planned, well-organised concert in a local church, with local artists and a ticket price equivalent to a high class Pret-A-Manger sandwich, can be just as effective as a hot gospel concert staged in a big music venue, with an international line-up demanding a Pizza Express three-course-meal ticket price! At least that should be the attitude.
We often forget – or fail to have in mind – how many people it takes to put on a good event; it generates direct employment opportunities for promoters, musicians, singers, graphic artists, PA and technical crew. Furthermore, in-direct work is done by media writers and reporters, who help surround the event with excitement. That’s a lot of ‘industry activity’.
This summer, we’ve seen a lot more major events that engender ‘an Ultimate Gospel Concert Experience’ – LCGC celebrating their 30th anniversary with a Reunion Concert at the Royal Albert Hall – and, for the first time, the annual world-renowned BBC Proms hosted a late night BBC Gospel Proms, featuring, among others, LCGC, Muyiwa & Riversongz, Dave Daniels and People’s Fellowship Choir, Aaron T Aaron and, I am pleased to say, yours truly leading a Caribbean gospel medley of songs.
Organising concerts is a demanding task, but for those who have thought through why, what, when and how – being creative and financially astute – it is a rewarding experience for everyone! The question is: What can we do to increase and sustain quality, year on year?
Juliet Fletcher is a former BBC Producer and founding Executive of the GMIA. Visit www.gmia.org.uk for more details, or phone 020 3086 8348.