By: The Show Master
History was made last Tuesday night when the Kingdom Choir made its inaugural visit to Toronto; the choir was performing as part of a tribute to Nelson Mandela – the Mandela: Struggle for Freedom exhibition will remain on display at the Meridian Arts Centre in Toronto until January 5, 2020.
The show kicked off with a rousing performance by Toronto’s Juno award-winning performer Lorraine Klaasen, originally from South Africa but now calls London Ontario home. Klaasen gave a riveting performance of some of Miriam Makeba’s greatest hits, including a flawless performance of Pata Pata that brought the house to its feet.
Klaasen primed the audience for the Kingdom Choir; a group which gained instant worldwide popularity following a single, stirring performance at the Royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Choir mistress Karen Gibson said that on that day their website crashed as the followers increased 700 to 35,000 followers the next day. A huge part of the new followers came from Canada, and now a little over 16 months later they are on tour for the first time in the group’s history.
The performance started with the Lord’s Prayer and moved on to more secular music from the likes of John Legend, Coldplay, and topped off with a tribute to Aretha Franklin featuring “Respect” and other great hits. The Aretha segment served to highlight the tremendous vocal range of the members in the group, all of whom had a solo performance during the evening’s presentation, some of which got the audience on their feet and into the aisles of the George Weston Recital Hall in the Meridian Arts Centre.
The big moment came when the choir sang the song that catapulted them to international fame – its rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me, the song they sang for Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. I confess that I joined in, singing my lungs out.
Within every great performance, an inspiring story lurks – about midway through the concert the choir sang a beautiful song called “Look Up”, composed by one of its members who did not make the trip to Toronto.
The story goes that some time ago she fell ill, suffering from extreme bodily pain for which doctors could not find a cause. They said, however, that while they cannot pinpoint the cause of her suffering, they were sure that she will be unable to bear children. She was prescribed pain-killing drugs and sent home.
One day when the pain became unbearable, she fell to her knees, looked up, prayed, and later experienced a distinct reduction in the level of pain. The composition of “Look Up” was a direct result of that experience. Since then she has been virtually pain free, but could not make the trip because she and husband are at home taking care of their first child. Miracles do happen!
Usually when I think of gospel music I think about the brothers and sisters to the south in the United States of America. Now my taste for gospel music has been broadened to embrace my brothers and sisters in the UK.