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How to get Gospel

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Roy Francis’ brother, John Francis, and the Inspirational Choir

KAREN GIBSON and the Kingdom Choir are currently the most well known faces of British gospel, following their performance at last year’s Royal Wedding, and their subsequent record deal with Sony Music.

Few people know, however, that the Kingdom Choir are traversing a trail that has been well-travelled before and that UK gospel has its roots in the music played in churches founded by the Windrush Generation in the 1950s and ‘60s.

And Roy Francis has shed light on that era with his debut book How To Make Gospel Music Work For You which chronicles the history of the UK gospel music scene, from his personal perspective and contains tips on how gospel artists can make a career of their music.

Roy said: “I’ve worked in UK gospel for many years, and have noted that many artists are unaware about the history of UK gospel music.

“I felt it would be a good idea to write a book about gospel’s roots and history, and as I’m constantly asked how artist can achieve success both singing gospel and as a musician, I’d share some advice on how to do that.”

If there’s anyone who knows about achieving success as a gospel artist, it’s Roy Francis. He managed the Inspirational Choir, led by John Francis, his brother, in the 1980s and ‘90s. They were the first UK gospel group to secure a deal with a major label.

And in recent times, Roy served as agent/mentor to Muyiwa, one of the most popular artists to come out of Britain’s African churches. One piece of advice he gives artists is to get the support of the church.

“The music of most gospel artists will be bought by church goers, so it makes sense for artists to get the support of their pastors and fellow Christians,” he said. “It’s easy to forget sometimes how powerful modern pastors are – but they often decide which artists gets to perform on their platforms.

“If they lead a large church this can mean lots of record sales, as well as bookings for live performances.”

PICTURED: Roy Francis

Born in Jamaica, Roy joined his father, Bishop T G Francis in the UK during the 1960s.

Bishop Francis was one of the pioneers of the Black Pentecostal movement in London, with his church, The Pentecostal Church of the Living God based in White Lion Street, Islington, north London.

The ‘60s were a busy time for Roy. He often accompanied his father to church services. He was also a talented keyboardist and was soon in demand to play at services of other pioneering church leaders.

He recalled: “Looking back those were interesting times and although I didn’t recognise it, the people that used to visit our house to see my father or whose churches I visited to play music for, were pioneers who laid the foundation of the Black Pentecostal Church movement here in the UK.”

Roy went on to be a member of the Soul Seekers, one of the first UK groups to perform in Europe.

From the 1980s onwards he had a number of key roles.

They included managing the Inspirational Choir and working as a producer on the hit Channel 4 series People Get Ready, which showcased UK gospel music and the church.

Roy was also a producer of BBC’s Songs of Praise and produced the Donnie McClurkin Live DVD, which made the US gospel singer a superstar.

The new author also been a concert promoter. Latterly he’s worked as a music agent, consultant, and mentor. He draws on these experiences, as well as those of working with leading as well as unknown gospel artists.

He said: “It’s my hope that How To Make Gospel Music Work For You enlightens readers on the origins of the music described as UK gospel and that it lets UK gospel artists know it is possible to achieve success with the music that they love.”

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