Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir was founded thirteen years ago on the premise that contemporary gospel music was the most exciting and Spirit-filled Christian music being written today. One of our very specific aims was to create contemporary gospel settings of traditional liturgy, in which the Mass is central.
For our first album, With All Your Soul (2013), we recorded original settings of the Gloria and Sanctus from our St Patrick’s Gospel Mass. Both are characteristically exuberant, and we’re proud of them. However, honestly, they’re not very easy for congregations to sing.
For our new EP, You Are The Key, to be launched on Easter Sunday 2018, we have recorded original settings of the Sanctus and the Lamb of God, both of which are full-blooded contemporary gospel, but eminently congregational as well. Sanctus is based on Bernadette Farrell’s Mass of Hope Sanctus. Her well-known lilting melody in 3/4 time lends itself to a bluesy gospel 6/8, with a calmer choir-only Benedictus in a different key. We have added a haunting rubato solo as introduction: the hymn of the seraphim in Isaiah 6, the original Sanctus, deserves space and drama.
Lamb Of God, arranged by our tenor/pianist Peter Yarde Martin, is a gentle, sophisticated piece of participative soul magic – lovely as a stand-alone, perfect as a joiner-in. Peter is also MD at a large and lively London church, so it’s not surprising that he understands how to draw congregations into music. And Lamb Of God is preceded by a short and moving narrative of testimony and praise to Christ, the title track, written and delivered by our alto Thea Smartt Henry.
All of which is topped and tailed by two of our favourite gospel “standards”: Tonéx’s scintillating hit from 2004 Since Jesus Came (Into My Life), and Baroni and Sutherland’s praise anthem from the 1990’s Bow Down And Worship Him, as arranged and “gospelised” by Bishop Paul Morton. Gospel choirs all over the world sing the latter song, which works beautifully as a song of gathering, a new All People That On Earth Do Dwell for the twenty-first century. We hope listeners agree that our new covers of the songs do them both justice.