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Top gospel director celebrates Songs of Praise win

SUCCESS: Gospel director Karen Gibson

THERE WAS no mistaking the look of joy and surprise that swept over the faces of singers from Lewes Sings Gospel (LSG), and their director Karen Gibson when it was announced they’d won the second BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition shown on BBC 1.

Recalling that moment Karen said: “We were over the moon! We seriously didn’t expect the reaction that we received from the audience nor the comments from the judges. I remember that after the first song, we received such an extended, rapturous applause that some of the choir were in tears. One of them said to me ‘If that’s all we got by coming here, I could go home now…’ The win was the totally unexpected icing on the cake.”

I asked Karen why she felt the three Songs of Praise gospel competition judges, Carrie Grant, Muyiwa and Mica Paris named them the winners.

“I think the judges liked our delivery, our attention to detail (from what Carrie said) and the way we expressed the songs” she said. “When you’re on stage everything goes by in a blur, but I saw a photo of the choir where they looked so in the moment and committed to what they were singing, I understood what the judges meant then.”

The choir’s win is well deserved, and consolidates her position as one of the most talented choir directors to come out of Britain’s black Pentecostal churches. Her abilities were honed in the Church of God of Prophecy, directing local and national choirs.

She went on to form the renowned Kingdom Choir and, for over 25 years she has also taught gospel workshops throughout the world in places as far afield as Nigeria, Japan, Poland and Latvia, as well as in schools throughout the UK.

WINNING CHOIR: Lewes Sings Gospel directed by Karen Gibson

However her career as a world-renowned director was not something she planned.

“To be absolutely honest, I haven’t been that intentional about it at all” she said. “I really thank God, because so many doors have opened for me, and now I work in schools, community choirs, abroad, as well as many ad hoc initiatives.”

Karen has also directed choirs in front of some of the world’s most famous people including The Queen, Nelson Mandela and Pope Benedict during his historic visit to Britain in 2013.

And she’s no stranger to winning competitions either. She directed the Maria Fidelis School Gospel Choir to victory in the 2010 Songs of Praise Senior Schools of the Year competition in 2010.

The future looks bright for both LSG and Karen. “We’ve been invited back to sing on Songs of Praise at the Royal Albert Hall, which we’re really looking forward to, and we have had some other invitations to perform as well. It’s all really great, because before we sang at the Hackney Empire, we’d only ever sung on the stage at Southover Church for our twice-yearly concerts!”

And Karen has much planned for herself. “This year I’ll be doing a mini-tour of Italy, running classes for choir conductors, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m also working on putting out some products online and starting a course for choir conductors in this country.”

She lives to bring the ‘gold’ that lies in others, and in so doing, has brought the gold out in herself.

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