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The Kingdom Choir: By faith, not by fame

PROFOUND IMPACT: The Kingdom Choir won praise for their rendition of Stand By Me at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May – and now they have put together an album (photo: Andrew Whitton)

THE KINGDOM Choir captured not just the nation’s hearts but those around the world when they performed at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – in May.

Their performance of Stand By Me was stunning and it now features on their debut album of the same name, which is available to buy from October 26.

Life & Style caught up with Karen Gibson, the choir’s founder and director, and choirists Tyrone Sinclair and Elaine Simpson, before they headed to Australia for yet another performance with a royal connection – the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games.

“We were over the moon when we found out we were going.

“I really like what the Games stand for, the word invictus means, I believe, ‘undefeated’ or ‘unconquered’ and I love that these men and women who’ve been through some pretty tough things physically, are declaring and speaking over their lives that they’re undefeated,” Gibson says.

The Australian audience will be among the first to get a taste of the songs on the album performed live.

Speaking of the 15-track debut, which features an original song written by a member of the choir, Gibson describes it as a collection of “inspiring songs, songs with great lyrics, uplifting songs, songs of love, hope and inspiration”.

For Simpson, who grew up with Gibson, the decision to join the choir was easy: “It wasn’t a matter of ‘are you joining the choir?’, it was a matter of whatever you’re doing I’m in it because we’re friends.”

She’s seen the group go from strength to strength, and the extent to which it has happened has taken some getting used to.

“It’s really hard to process what has happened and what i s happening because we never thought that would happen. We never thought it would happen to this amount, and this extreme journey that we’re on, we just hadn’t bargained for it, really... but it means a lot, it means heaps,” says Simpson.

It’s been an intense few months for the choir, who have been catapulted into the limelight, but Gibson won’t let the newfound fame get in the way of their values.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for who we are and the values that we hold very dear. “We were doing this a very long time before we got any [attention] so the attention is not going to move us because that’s like breathing to us, you know, a sense of worship, our faith in God and our desire to release his Kingdom.

“That is our basic core value so we’re not going to move from that otherwise it all loses meaning. I’m not interested in singing if there’s no purpose, no goal or no aim. I am not interested in being famous,” Gibson says.

While she’s not concerned with the superficial consequences of their success, Gibson is grateful for the platform it has provided, and the responses she receives from ordinary people who approach her in the street. One woman recently came up to her and said while watching the royal wedding performance, she “felt like we made it”.


FAITH: Karen Gibson founded the group and still acts as the choir’s director

Simpson, too, is also humbled by the public’s response. “It means everything... it’s very heartwarming,” she says.

Gibson trusts in God, but she also trusts in the ability that we all have to sing, something she taught formerly self-confessed non-singer Sinclair, who is now a fully fledged member of the The Kingdom Choir.

“I’m a firm believer that everybody can sing, the thing is to what degree but, you know.

“When you sing you’re dropping your masks and people are very afraid of being exposed, so the first thing to do is to throw up their defence and say, ‘Oh I can’t sing’. It’s nonsense. If you can speak, then you can sing. It might not be great all the time but the more you practise, the more you can,” Gibson says.

When the topic of Sinclair not being able to sing comes up, he and Simpson erupt into infectious laughter, and she jokes that he still can’t hold a note but just looks good.

Sinclair describes his singing journey as a strange one. “I remember sometimes being in church and with my friends – my friends are very cheeky by the way – who would be standing next to me and we’d be singing to the worship and my friend would be like, ‘You’re disturbing my worship’. That’s how bad I couldn’t sing,” he says, smiling.

Simpson lets out a hearty laugh. The pair’s rapport is demonstrative of their closeness.

“I remember praying and asking for a singing voice,” he continues. His prayers have been answered and then some after Gibson played a part in helping him find his voice.

“Karen was the person who directly challenged me on that. I remember specifically saying to her at the time as well, ‘You will never see me release a record or sing on an album’,” he says.

There’s no doubt whether or not listeners believe in the power of their own voice, they’ll be blown away by The Kingdom Choir’s debut album.

It’s already had a profound impact on those who have been involved in it.

“Hearing the album, it really was like, wow. I’m impacted, I’m influenced, I’m touched by this album but I’m a part of it,” Sinclair says.

While he’s still reflecting on their latest achievement, Simpson is just about coming to terms with the performance that catapulted them into the homes of millions, the impact of which she says still hasn’t sunk in.

“Every now and again to think, oh yeah we actually did that... this is really special,” she says.

And while these are no ordinary wedding singers, their connection with the royals has become part of their identity.

“People still refer to us as ‘the royal wedding singers’, it hasn’t really faded away,” Gibson says.

She adds: “At the time I didn’t know it was going to have such an impact on people but since then, people have said how much the song affected them, they were in tears or they had goosebumps.

“I think that’s something spiritual that happened and it seems to have happened not only the land over but the world over, so whatever that was, whatever that goodness was, we’d like to see that happen again 100-fold with this album.”

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