House Gospel Choir. The Original House Meets Gospel Experience - Church!
Mobilising people is something that Natalie Maddix knows a lot about, as the creative director of the mighty House Gospel Choir for the past five years. So too, is Brixton. Arms outstretched, gesturing to the South London home of the Caribbean diaspora in the UK where she grew up, she tells the story.
“I think I did a post on Instagram and I had been mentioning this idea of a house choir to people, so I just wanted to see if anyone came” she laughs. A few did, and the first iteration of a choir singing gospel version of house tracks and vice versa, started with twelve people in a rehearsal room in Hackney, East London, one Tuesday evening.
The fact the group could sing was lucky, because unknown to Maddix, the loose gathering of friends was soon to become unintentionally official. “My last project before HGC was programming some choirs for Olympic Park” she explains. “In passing, one of the directors I was working with at the time mentioned that one of the bookers was looking for a choir for Glastonbury. He asked me if I had a choir and I said yes but they do house music, is that alright? He was like ‘yeah, I think so but you need to do gospel music as well’. So before our first session we had secured our first booking which was Glastonbury on the Acoustic stage… we had twelve weeks.”
It’s no surprise that the likes of Kirk Franklin and Aretha Franklin (of whom she firmly counts as a gospel singer) and gospel TV show ‘People Get Ready’ were the early soundtrack to her house that she gravitated towards. For Maddix though, it was searching out music independently as a teenager by going to house and garage raves that made her fall in love with the dancefloor. Seeing the devotional elements of club spaces, she recalls hearing house tracks that took her out of herself, and into the music. “I remember hearing ‘We Are One’ by Hugh Masekela and Black Coffee for the first time” she recalls. “I was like, ‘That’s it! Isn't that just the truth’ - yes we look different, yes we all sex different, but we all fundamentally want to be united under something a bit bigger than ourselves”.