Rev Bazil Meade MBE, International Gospel Choir Director
The London Community Gospel Choir
Bazil Meade MBE talks very openly about directing London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC). Bazil co-founded this internationally acclaimed choir and both he and the choir had humble, local community begins.
Born in the Montserrat, Bazil moved to England when he was 9 and personal circumstances led to him leaving home in his teens.
Uniting Faith and Singing
He brought his two great loves together, faith and singing and built up a loyal following worldwide. International artists that have worked with the choir include: Madonna, Sting, Sir Paul McCartney, Brian May, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Luther Vandross and Kylie Minogue. Bazil turns his hand to all styles of music and thus LCGC are the first point of call for soulful vocals for many significant events.
The Spirit of Gospel Singing
In 2018 Bazil was awarded an MBE for Services to Gospel Music. Bazil believes that when he, and the choir, sing Gospel music that they are “standing on the shoulders” of the original Gospel singers who had no other way to cope with their situation. He sees Gospel as a cry for freedom and that’s why it was so emotional and hopeful in its origin.
Singing and Soul
How did Bazil create the “LCGC sound” that is so obvious and distinctive?? He talks about warm ups that unite all of the choir, who come from different walks of life. He talks about how if he doesn’t think that a choir’s soul is totally connected with a song, if the soul is not coming through in the performance, then he will abandon it and change which song he is using.
Singers Vowels, Pitch Bends, Vocal Tone, Note Endings
Bazil enlightens us with more detailed musicianship aspects that, whilst he was not formally trained, that reveal that he has a particular ear for detail. He talks firstly about vowels. With so many different nationalities within the choir, he talks about ensuring that the whole choir use the same vowel sounds. He refers to using different sounding vowels for different style songs. He discusses when to use clipped and staccato sounds at the ends of phrases. He discusses sliding and smooth curvy blends for ballads, the need to start notes a quarter-tone under and bend the note up. With regards to tone he discusses teaching the amount of “belly sound” needed for a particular song or breathy tone.
The Singer’s Breathing
He also talks about the need for a physically fit breathing technique, especially for long notes, long phrases and faster tempo Gospel songs. He makes further reference to breathing in sentences, where you would drop your voice in speech also matching the singing and bringing the lyrics out. For Bazil, the message is important through the text and musical expression.
Vocal Tone, Soloist versus Choral Blend
Bazil distinguishes between choral and soloists tone. He has strong beliefs that tonal blend is essential, but that real character is important for soloists. He makes reference to his own huskier tone as a soloist. He repeatedly refers back to ‘listening’ to promote blend as a key ingredient.
Choral Social Healing
He believes that more than ever, in our near post-covid society, choirs are needed to unite people from different backgrounds. He thinks that the pandemic has made us realise how important singing was to us. He talks about when LGCG first returned together after lockdowns and that they began with a good 15 minutes of hugging followed by singing with energy and freedom in the room. He talks about how voices transmit emotions and how much that came through.
Bazil’s Choral Directing
The Bazil Meade choral directing method is summarised as: unified vowels, attention to phrase beginnings, phrase endings, phrase shapes (such as swells), tonal blend, quality listening and conviction through the intent of the lyrics.
Finally, he reminisces about singing for with Madonna and at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, performing with Madonna, George Michael, Sting and Queen.
Singer’s Performance Anxiety
He talks about how the choir prepare when there’s possibly anxiety and even intimidation emotions when they are out of their usual comfort zone in terms of performance situation. He talks about the need for a ‘devotion’ before going on stage via prayer and a gentle song. He discusses how rock stars have come into the Green Room at big events to share in this experience and how these big rock stars say that they should incorporate such a preparation technique in their work.
LCGC Gospel Choir Concerts
LCGC have recently produced an online concert, which can still be viewed and you can donate if you wish to their wonderful cause. There are many details of their future concerts, discography and spotify links on https://lcgc.org.uk/
Holistic Music Lessons
Dr Robin Harrison, the interviewer, teaches through his website (and in person in Yarm, Teesside, UK):
He teaches piano, organ, singing and vocals in all styles for all ages at all levels, right through to diplomas. His teaching his holistic and trains the whole musician not just via in-depth pedagogy, but also by connecting the soul to the sound.
Current offer: 25% off for new students.
More interviews will be showcased over the coming weeks: