Tag Archives: What’s on MAY 2020

INTERVIEW: Karen Gibson, the conductor/musical director of The Kingdom Choir who found global fame at Royal Wedding last year

Global audience of two billion watched The Kingdom Choir perform Stand By Me at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. 25 years after she founded the choir, Karen and her singers are preparing for their first UK tour. The tour will visit 18 towns and cities, with the choir sharing the experience with young choirs in each destination. Karen answers some question ahead of their appearance in Glasgow on the 22nd of May.

Twelve months ago, Karen Gibson was travelling around London giving workshops in gospel music, when she received a phone call which was to change her life – and the lives of her closest friends, the members of The Kingdom Choir.

And in May, as HRH Prince Harry and the Duchess Of Sussex prepare to celebrate their first wedding anniversary – while adjusting to life as first-time parents – Karen and the choir will be embarking on their debut tour.

The Kingdom Choir’s stunning version of Stand By Me was a standout moment during the Royal wedding. The performance has been an internet sensation with more than 10 million views on YouTube.

A former IT worker and music teacher, Karen Gibson formed the choir 25 years ago, drawing together singers from in and around London, from various Christian traditions. For their first two years together, the choir didn’t even have a name – it was only an invite to appear on the BBC’s Songs Of Praise which saw Karen decide on The Kingdom Choir. Karen has worked around the world as a gospel choir conductor, travelling as far a-field as Japan, Nigeria and the USA.

2018 was a whirlwind year for the choir, with TV performances on shows such as Good Morning Britain and alongside Madness for the BBC1 New Year’s Eve concert, releasing their debut album Stand By Me after signing to Sony, and closing the Invictus Games in Sydney.

Now they’re preparing to take their musical message of ‘love, hope and inspiration’ on the road. We spoke to Karen Gibson about how life has changed and what’s next for the choir.



Looking back, to this time last year – can you believe everything that’s happened?

This time last year, I had absolutely no clue what was going to come. I was living my ordinary life; giving gospel workshops, teaching in schools, travelling to do those things. I was jumping on public transport, missing busses and trains, all just going about my life.

There were some lovely things going on – a few of us had just filmed with Call The Midwife, which had been a lot of fun… Little did they know what was going to then happen to the singers they booked.

It has been all change, and not without challenges, but it’s been a brilliant, wonderful blessing of a time.

So how did it all start……..

I had been told I would get a phone call, that it would be something big, but I had no clue at all what it was about. The person who initially told me said ‘I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s going to be big’…

That call didn’t come for a few days, and I’d put it out of my head. I was on a number 87 bus and a very posh voice came through on a call and said: “We would like to invite you to sing at the Royal Wedding”. I was so shocked I just said: “You’re joking.” They said absolutely nothing, so I knew it wasn’t a joke at all.

It was so exciting to call all the choir members, even though I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I just had to make sure they were available on that certain date, and that maybe the date might ring a bell with them. One gentleman said he wasn’t available, and yes, I’m pretty sure he kicked himself when it emerged what was happening.

Has the Royal Wedding experience changed the way The Kingdom Choir works?

Oh, yes, it definitely has. When we went into the studio [to record the album] I realised we couldn’t do what we were used to doing; presenting gospel in that very full-on, in-your-face way. God showed me that you can bless people without being in your face, and that stripping it back can be very meaningful – it must be, people are still talking about that performance all these months on.

I’ve realised we can reach more people by also take a different approach to our music. The couple’s [The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s] version of Stand By Me was the one which caused our website to crash, for our Instagram following to go from 700 to 35,000 in one weekend. That taught me something; maybe it’s not always about doing what you do in the way you do it. In faith terms, that’s a huge lesson.

How did you bring together the choir’s original approach with the new outlook to create the album?

We chose songs we had previously performed, like Something Inside So Strong, a self-penned song from one of the members Chases, Amazing Grace and Hark The Herald Angels Sing. But then we also looked to songs we like, not necessarily from the Pentecostal realm, but songs we found inspiring and that carried a positive message.

Golden, has the lyric “Living My Life Like It’s Golden”; I love that. And then something like To Make You Feel My Love, we turned it from being about a relationship love to a faith love.

Now you’re getting ready for a UK-wide tour. How is that going and what can people expect from the tour?

It’s all going very well and we are starting to put the show together. It’s going to feature songs from the album, and of course we’ve got to do Stand By Me. But it’s all very exciting.

You’re going to get a bit more of The Kingdom Choir that people have heard or seen on the TV or radio, but in a more raw state – freedom, and love, hope and inspiration, as the album says. We’re really looking forward to making the connection with people – to see the people who’ve been listening to us, and to introducing gospel to people who maybe hadn’t experienced it before. Our music is powerful, moving and inspiring, people come in with one mindset and leave with another.

The Kingdom Choir has selected local youth and children’s choirs to join them in each town or city they’re visiting on the tour. Are you looking forward to working with them?

The choirs we’ve chosen really are very, very good, and it’s lovely to know there are so many singing communities out there.

Singing is so good for our children – well, for everyone. From personal experience, I know what it can do for a person; it’s a skill for life, it builds confidence and it’s brilliant for them.

I’m very much looking forward to connecting with the children and I hope we will impact on them in some way, through the power of music. It’s going to be really special and I love the idea of us spreading that joy to these groups. A lot of the choir’s members have worked in schools, so we have that connection with young people – some of the choir’s members are people I taught in schools or worked with in youth choirs, so it goes back a long way.

A year on from where it all began, the tour will coincide with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first wedding anniversary, what happens next for The Kingdom Choir?

We just don’t know how it’s going to pan out – who could have predicted this last year? We are praying for longevity, we just want to impact the world for good. The album strap line is ‘Love Hope and Inspiration’, and I was thinking recently ‘hope’ is in pretty short supply right now, I feel the world is hungry for hope and good news – so we want to bring more of that about; that’s the long vision.

Tickets for the tour are on sale now from www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.cuffeandtaylor.com

KINGDOM CHOIR UK TOUR 2019 – FULL DATES

APR

Tue 30th SHEFFIELD, CITY HALL

MAY

Thu 2nd SOUTHEND, CLIFFS PAVILION

Sat 4th LEICESTER, DE MONTFORT HALL

Sun 5th NOTTINGHAM, ROYAL CONCERT HALL

Tue 7th MANCHESTER, BRIDGEWATER HALL

Wed 8th YORK, BARBICAN

Thu 9th GATESHEAD, SAGE

Fri 10th BIRMINGHAM, SYMPHONY HALL

Sun 12th IPSWICH, REGENT THEATRE

Mon 13th CAMBRIDGE, CORN EXCHANGE

Thu 16th BATH, THE FORUM

Sun 19th LONDON, ROYAL ALBERT HALL

Tue 21st LIVERPOOL, PHILHARMONIC HALL

Wed 22nd GLASGOW, THEATRE ROYAL

Thu 23rd EDINBURGH, USHER HALL

Mon 27th CANTERBURY, THE MARLOWE THEATRE

Tue 28th BOURNEMOUTH, PAVILION THEATRE

Thu 30th CARDIFF, ST DAVID’S HALL

 

INTERVIEW: Kieran Brown, Scottish star of Titanic the Musical

Scottish actor Kieran Brown has an enviable theatrical CV, having appeared in Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, Les Mis, Wicked and our own Glasgow King’s Theatre pantomime, to name just a few. He’s a member of the hugely successful Barricade Boys and a concert star in his own right. Kieran from Larbert, returns home to Scotland this week to appear in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s and at Edinburgh Playhouse from June 12th – 16th. I had a chance to catch up with him about life onboard the world’s most famous ship before it sets sail in Glasgow!

Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect in Titanic the Musical?

It is a multiple Tony award winning musical written by American composer Maury Yeston with book by the late Peter Stone. It tells the tale of some of the real life passengers and crew onboard the ill fated ship. It was first produced by Danielle Tarento with direction from Thomas Sutherland and musical staging by Cressida Carre at the Southwark Playhouse in London, before transferring to the Charing Cross Theatre, and then crossing the Atlantic to Canada. This is the first major professional production of the show in the UK. I should state, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 1997 James Cameron movie…! It has a stunning score with not a hint of Celine Dion..!
What about your role?

I play First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, who was essentially second in command of the ship, and was in charge at the time it hit the iceberg. He was Scottish, from Dalbeattie. He was treated quite unfairly in the film (which Cameron apologised for), but this is a much more sensitive treatment of his character. He very much blamed himself for the tragedy that unfolded. In actual fact, there were a great number of factors which led inevitably towards the sinking. It’s fascinating to learn throughout the show exactly what went on, but without ever placing judgement on anyone…

What songs or scenes should we particularly look out for?

The opening is really pretty epic..! It’s about 20 minutes long, and doesn’t pause for breath..! To be honest, it is such a stunning score and the sound of our 25 strong ensemble make accompanied by our 6 piece orchestra under direction of musical wizard Mark Aspinall is incredible! The audience are frequently blown away by the wall of sound that washes over them. It’s so humbling to be part of it!

How has the show been received as it’s toured around the country?

Phenomenally. Instant standing ovations practically every show. There’s the odd grumble about people expecting the film onstage, but those who have either informed themselves or allow our beautiful touching story to be told are usually left very affected by it. It’s a very emotional night at the theatre – because it’s not just a film – it’s true – I often wonder if people have forgotten that! We all know the ending of course but the final scene features direct quotes from the survivors – It’s very touching, but ultimately uplifting.

What’s life like on tour/backstage with such a large cast?

It’s been a while since I’ve toured and I actually enjoy it. We have a very mixed company age wise, but we do genuinely all get on great, and organise nights out, day trips to the countryside castle hunting etc. It’s a very supportive company onstage and off, and it’s a real joy to share this experience with them all.

Why should we come along to see the show?

It’s a story we all think we know, especially those who have seen the film (much of which was fiction), so I think it’s important to retell the story with tremendous respect and honour those who died (and survived). It’s not tap dancing and feathers, there are no hydraulic lifts and razzle dazzle spectacle, but there is a poignant layered story, accompanied by a beautiful, beautiful score, told by one of the most talented bunch of actors and musicians I’ve had the honour to work with. I think of all of the jobs I’ve done, this really ranks as one of those I’m most proud of. I love it. And I am particularly proud to be telling this story at the Kings in Glasgow. Last time I was here I was riding a magic carpet as Aladdin! I love the city (I lived and studied here at the RCS) and it feels very much like home. I’m curious to see how Scottish audiences respond to it…

Any roles you’d love to perform/shows you’d like to be in that you haven’t yet?

To be honest I’m keen to do a play – it’s been 7 years since I last did a play (The Woman In Black in Vienna). I love singing and musicals, but I’d love to do something where I don’t have to worry about my singing voice for a while..!

What’s been your favourite role to date?

I think playing the Phantom probably ranks as a major career tick and I was lucky that I managed to get on a lot during my two years at Her Majesty’s. The feeling I had inside when I stepped on to take my bow at the end of my first show was something I can’t really describe..!

What’s next after Titanic?

Who knows! The life of a jobbing actor..! TBH we are all loving this Titanic experience so much we are all hoping it may not be ending mid August in Hamburg! Crossing everything there is another life, whether continuing the tour or sailing into the west end, who knows…!
You can catch Kieran in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s Theatre from Monday 28 May until Saturday 2 June 2018 – tickets here
Edinburgh Playhouse from Tuesday 12 June until Saturday 16th June 2018 – tickets here.
Titanic photography: Scott Rylander
Kieran Brown headshot in article: Kate Scott

INTERVIEW: Rebecca Norris, actor and co-deviser of The Wedding Reception coming to Eastwood Park Theatre’s Carmichael Hall in May.

Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to talk to Rebecca Norris, co-creator of The Wedding Reception coming to Eastwood Park Theatre this May.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

The Wedding Reception is a unique immersive theatrical dining experience. It invites you to be a guest at a surprise wedding reception for newlyweds William and Kate. You join the family (and a few uninvited guests) through two hours of a muddled attempt at traditional wedding celebration rites where nothing seems to go as planned. They cry, laugh and dance, and hopefully you will too! (maybe not the cry bit).

And your role…

Four actors play nine roles in The Wedding Reception. I play two roles: Lynn (the mother of the bride) and Marge (the groom’s aunt). Lynn is a great role to play She’s a wonderful and warm northern lady. A bit of a mum to everyone and will talk about anything. Nothing is off limits with Lynn. Aunt Marge is much colder. A stuck up ‘wanna-be’ who’s faked most things in her life to get her where she is today.

 

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

The Wedding Reception has been performed all over the UK, including Scotland and Wales – although this is our first time in Glasgow. We have even been lucky enough to do tours across Australia and a show in Singapore. Depending on the location, we change a few references in the show for audiences to relate to but on the whole we’ve found wherever we are the universal truth is that everyone loves a good wedding so everyone always has a great time.

What is life like backstage on tour?

Backstage on tour can be a bit crazy, really. We have a lot of quick costume changes throughout the show so backstage can be manic. Especially when we are out and about on tour and the size of our changing area can vary quite some bit. We’ve all been very close together in some shows.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

Keeping this show fresh isn’t so much of a challenge, as it’s very different to traditional theatre shows. The audience members are not just watching a show, they become an integral part of it so with their input we never perform never same show twice. It certainly keeps us all on our toes. Good planning and keeping it all in good fun is key to staying healthy and fighting fatigue on the road. We spend a lot of time in each other’s company so trying find ways of making long journeys and mundane jobs fun is really important.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I didn’t get into acting until quite late – I was 30 before I’d even considered it. Although I remember having a love of theatre when I was younger, I never considered it to be an option. It was only by chance that I did a workshop in Brighton which actually changed everything. Suddenly my sole focus and drive was on acting. I went to drama school and worked full-time while attending to fund myself. Once I graduated I tried to make sure each job I got would lead to another until it became my full-time job and I’ve never looked back.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

It’s never too late! If it’s something you have a passion for then go get involved. Maybe do some courses and see where it takes you.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? And where else can we see it?

Everyone should come to see this play! – though it’s PG, because of some sexual innuendo and partial nudity. That aside, each show is truly different as audiences react in various ways to being swept up in the raucous action. Whatever happens though, one thing’s for sure – it will be an unforgettable experience.
You are all invited to the most madcap marital celebration of them all and get to eat a 3-course meal as well.

We are playing at Carmichael Hall in Eastwood Park Theatre on Saturday 12 May at 7:30pm.

We’re also visiting:

Birmingham REP (10-11 May)

Greshams in Ipswich (18 May)

Bedford Swan Hotel (also 18 May)

Hadley Park House in Telford (19 May)

AFC Portchester Club House (22 June)

Nottingham Theatre Royal (6 July)

– and Edinburgh Fringe 2-27 August.