The gospel choir who stole the hearts of the world when they sang Stand By Me at last year’s royal wedding are appearing on stage in Sheffield a year on.
The London choir were plucked from virtual obscurity to perform at Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle a year ago, when they serenaded a global audience of more than a billion with their show-stopping performance.
Now, with a best-selling album out, they are starting a tour that takes them to Sydney Opera House and the Hollywood Bowl, where the choir will support soul superstar Gladys Knight this summer.
Before then, they appear at Sheffield City Hall on Tuesday (April 30).
Choir leader Karen Gibson said: “It’s our first visit to Sheffield. I don’t think I’ve been before. It’s definitely a first for the choir if not for me.
“We’re really looking forward to it. It’s our first tour date. That's going to make it very, very special indeed.”
At each venue the choir will be inviting local choirs, primary school, secondary, youth and adult choirs to sing with them.
In Sheffield they will perform with Peak District-based children’s choir Pitch Perfect.
Karen said of the past year: “It’s been quite a ride, I have to say.”
She said that it was Prince Charles that wanted a gospel choir for his youngest son’s wedding.
“His member of staff is friends with friends with a young lady who used to be a member of Kingdom Choir years ago. She pointed to myself and Kingdom Choir.
“It was completely out of the blue, not expected at all, but so good!”
After their appearance at the wedding, Karen said: “It went crazy. We just had experience after experience.”
They appeared on the Jonathan Ross show, went to Australia to sing at the Invictus Games in Sydney, been featured on a star-studded British Airways advert to celebrate the firm’s centenary – so many highlights that they haven’t had time to process them, said Karen.
She said that the 20-strong choir that she set up in London in 1994 is a mixture of full-time musicians and singers and members who have other jobs.
For the time being, though, the choir has become their key focus as they make the most of their success.
Karen, who is one of the leading figures in British gospel music, said that the choir members come from several different London Pentecostal churches.
She added: “In the group are several of my sisters and friends I grew up with and used to sing with in an all-girl accapella group, New Dawn, for about 40 years. There are five or six of them in the choir at the moment.”
Karen is also a classically-trained musician and started off as a pianist and played oboe and other instruments. She said: “I didn’t start singing gospel until I was 18.”
However, the music was always close to her heart and she is thrilled that her choir can reach out to a global audience with their message now.
Their album, Stand By Me, includes original songs and inspirational numbers.
Karen is looking forward to performing live again. “It’s a way of connecting with our audiences – people who love gospel and who never encountered it before, to see them face to face and almost reach out to touch them.”
Tickets are available for The Kingdom Choir: The Stand By Me Tour from www.cuffeandtaylor.com