Alison Beck

Jazz / gospel / sessions / alt.

MUSIC IN A CHURCH CONTEXT

Doing jazz inside Southwark Cathedral, London

Doing jazz inside Southwark Cathedral, London

I was raised in the Anglican church, on a musical diet of extremes: traditional hymns and three-chord, soft-rock guitar songs. 

A chance encounter introduced me to contemporary gospel music, and I began to sing (and find my voice) with Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir. For more than a decade, this extraordinary group of decent and humble human beings has been pursuing its mission to spread gospel music throughout UK (non-Pentecostal) churches. Recently, I created a 'toolkit' of gospel workshops and resources for Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, aimed at doing just that - find out more here. 

My experiences as a member of experimental church music collective The King Cave Project constantly push me joyfully to the edge of my Anglican safe zone. I'm not sure what my ancestors (I come from a long line of ordained Church of England vicars) would have made of me singing 'Never Ever' by the girl group All Saints as a solemn communion piece, or of a church service consisting entirely of Bob Dylan songs.... Fantastical, thrilling and moving compositions by members of the collective - including James Cave, Ewan King and Chris Little - have been performed by us in St Paul's Cathedral, Union Chapel, at Greenbelt Festival and on BBC Radio 3. 

I occasionally cantor (lead the singing) at my church, St James's Piccadilly; I seek to respectfully meld classical, jazz and gospel styles in a way that honours the rich musical heritage of this famous central London church. 

It is my heartfelt belief that music in churches can be greatly enriched by exploring a 'third way' of inclusive, diverse and non-traditional music inspired by jazz, groove and soul styles. I am always seeking to collaborate with others to help make this concept a reality.