StepFWD Gospel News

RSL AWARDS & GMIA HONOUR UK GOSPEL ICONS DURING LAUNCH OF NEW GOSPEL MUSIC QUALIFICATION

Due to a groundbreaking collaboration between international awarding organisation RSL Awards and the GMIA (Gospel Music Industry Alliance), it is now possible for gospel singers and musicians to obtain a standard of excellence with graded music qualifications in gospel music for the first time. 

This initiative was recently launched at a special event at London’s iconic Kings Place, where 18 musicians and artists were recognised for their contribution to UK Gospel with an honorary award. 

Several notable UK gospel choir directors, such as Bazil Meade MBE, Tyndale Thomas MBE and Karen Gibson MBE, were among the many inspirational individuals given Honorary Fellows.

Notable gospel music recording artists, such as Noel Robinson, Priscilla Jones-Campbell; composers, such as Ken Burton; prolific music educators Audrey Mattis-Lawrence and Ray Prince, as well as music producers Nicky Brown and Ayo Oyerinde were also awarded. All the honourees received a Honourary Level 7 RSL & GMIA Fellowship as formal recognition of their exceptional talents, creativity, and continuous contribution to the music industry. 

Many familiar faces from the UK gospel community were present to celebrate this major development for gospel music heritage and, by default, Black history. As Muyiwa Olarewaju OBE observed, the influence of gospel music permeates popular music and culture, while it can also be traced to have birthed most other music genres, such as rock and blues.

It’s noticeable that the popularity of gospel music continues to grow – especially through choirs, as we can see from the vibrant scene in the UK today. Gospel choirs have performed at royal weddings, as well as festivals and awards ceremonies, where they have performed alongside the most influential artists in the world today, such as Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John and Mariah Carey. 

RSL Awards and GMIA will offer a suite of Ofqual-regulated grades to formally assess gospel practitioners who demonstrate their performance skills at grade 6 level or above. The qualifications carry UCAS points ideal for university and higher education.

The qualifications were developed through a series of workshops. For vocal syllabuses, much work was undertaken by Audrey Lawrence-Mattis, Karen Gibson MBE and Alex Foryan. Both RSL and GMIA are set to create resources to support up-and-coming gospel practitioners. The development of the qualifications signals an exciting new chapter for the UK gospel industry which we can’t wait to see unfold. 

RSL & GMIA Honorary Fellows were awarded to:

  • Audrey Lawrence-Mattis
  • Ayo Oyerinde
  • Bazil Meade MBE
  • Clinton Jordan
  • David Copeland
  • Jerome Brown
  • John Fisher BEM
  • Karen Gibson MBE
  • Ken Burton
  • Lawrence Johnson
  • Nicky Brown
  • Noel Robinson
  • Priscilla Jones-Campbell
  • Ray Prince
  • Tyndale Thomas MBE

In addition, RSL Fellows were also awarded to Anu Omideyi and Roger Moore. Special appreciation was extended to Audrey Gray, CEO of GMIA and Naomi Morris of RSL for their contributions. 

Learn more about the qualifications at https://www.rslawards.com/gmia

Article written by Samantha Radford

Miriam Culy writes about the positive impact singing with a gospel choir can have on mental health and well-being

Being part of my university gospel choir has been a truly life-changing experience for me – and I’m not the only one! University gospel choirs across the UK are bringing students together for fellowship, worship and prayer – on campus – and providing love and support for each of the members involved.

University can be a tough time for many students – juggling workloads, being away from home, and all the other struggles life brings. After my second year, I was struggling with my physical health; the harsh reality of suddenly becoming a wheelchair user; and the bitter depression that accompanied this. When I turned up to the Keele University Gospel Choir (KUGC) taster session in the first week of my third year, I knew at once that I had found a home. And I know that this choir has provided a family not just for me, but for every member of KUGC. 

The beauty of a gospel choir is that they have Jesus at the centre. I had been in other choirs before KUGC, but this shift in focus made all the difference. We worship and pray before rehearsing. We support one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We love one another without judgement or condemnation. And I am so grateful to the choir for that, because after everything I had been through with my physical and mental health, their love and support helped me to keep fighting. It stopped me from dropping out of university, and I genuinely don’t think I would’ve made it through my third year without their support. 

It isn’t just me or those at Keele who have experienced incredible love and support from their gospel choir, though. In universities all across the country, students are finding a family in their university gospel choir. Lorraine Wright MBE, founder of University Gospel Choir of the Year Competition, who has seen the benefits of university gospel choirs over the last 12 years, said: 

“The testimonies have been intense. We’ve heard from students who were likely to drop out of university but had this support system around them. We’ve heard from people who didn’t have any other outlet to praise and worship, but were able to use their gospel choir as an outlet to do that. And we’ve heard of people who had mental health challenges, and their gospel choir really helped support them through it. Their choirs have been a rock for these students.”

You might still be wondering whether this is for you. Maybe you’re uncertain if you are talented enough or confident enough to sing in a choir. Whatever is holding you back, I urge you to go for it! Music is not something that only the most talented elite can partake in – music is for everyone and is something we are encouraged to do in worship.

In the Bible, singing is mentioned over 400 times, 50 of which are commands. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord’ – and that is the aim of any gospel choir, to make music from our hearts to praise the Lord our God. 

I had very little confidence in my singing ability when I joined KUGC – as a female singer with a tenor range, I’d been made to feel like I wasn’t good enough in the past because I couldn’t hit the soprano notes and struggled even with alto. No one ever made me feel like that in gospel choir. 

Although the parts and harmonies are of course important, we are doing it all to worship the Lord our God, and that surpasses any qualms about musical technicality, range or know-how. With hard work and dedication, alongside the constant encouragement and support of our amazing vocal director, our medleys always come together in the end. 

Our KUGC president, Chidinma Ogu, said of the gospel choir: “I’m so glad I took a step out of my comfort zone, because God has blessed me immensely through being part of it.” We have seen over the last two years God provide for our choir, allowing us to exceed all expectations and land second place at the University Gospel Choir of the Year Finals 2024.  

Joining KUGC was truly the best decision I made at university, and I would encourage anyone to give their gospel choir a go!

Miriam Culy

FWD FOCUS

Kingdom Tour 

London and Manchester will experience one of the most awaited global events, as the Kingdom World Tour with Maverick City Music and Kirk Franklin hits the UK in August 2024! This highly anticipated tour stop promises to be a powerhouse of gospel music. From Maverick City Music’s innovative sound to Kirk Franklin’s legendary hits, Kingdom Tour is set to be an unforgettable experience through the heart of gospel music. So, mark your calendars, gather your friends, and prepare to be swept away by two of the biggest names in gospel, plus support from top UK acts Warehouse Worship, Charles Dada and Areatha Anderson. Get ready to witness the Kingdom come alive in London and Manchester this summer!

UK Christian Charts

Great music is back on the menu as the UK Christian Charts gets underway again, with monthly listings of the best tracks from the tremendous pool of talent across the country. AStepFWD’s COO, Tolu Adebekun, explained: “At the end of 2023 we invested heavily in improving the process of creating the charts. We built a proprietary software that pulls together the new releases from over 600 artists. It reduces the time to find new releases from weeks to hours. We are now entering a whole new era of UK Christian and gospel music curation!”

Here are a few top tracks from the UK Christian Charts to add to your playlist: 

CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL: ‘I Will Not Fail (Unplugged)’ Volney Morgan & New Ye

RnB / SOUL: ‘Hiding Place’ NaffymaR, Noël Mio, Pawasonic

AFROBEAT: Good God II’ Limoblaze, Naomi Raine

REGGAE: ‘Holy Is The Lamb’ Shezzie

RAP: ‘Wavy’ Reblah

5 EVENTS YOU SHOULD GET TO THIS SUMMER

Whether you’re a seasoned gospel enthusiast or just looking for a fresh and uplifting experience, the list of summer events this year is hotter than ever! From electrifying concerts to heart-warming choir performances, there’s no shortage of entertainment to lift your spirits and brighten your summer days. So, grab your friends, bring along your family, and join in the celebration of music, faith and community. Search Eventbrite and book your tickets today!

VICTORY SOUNDS Sinach Live In Concert | 7th July | London

FRED HAMMOND Greatest Hits Concert | 13th July | Birmingham

THE GRACE BRUNCH Holi Boys and Girls Summer | 21st July | Secret Location

CREATION FEST | 1st – 4th August | Cornwall

LIVERPOOL GOSPEL MUSIC FESTIVAL | 7th September | Liverpool

Gospel News is curated by O’Neil Dennis – founder of AStepFWD.com, the UK Christian Charts, StepFWD Awards and more. To get in touch, email info@astepfwd.com 

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