Looking back at this is gospel 2012

March the 9th-11th 2012 Stavanger Gospel Company had the pleasure of hosting several international guests and artist for the third year in a row of THIS IS GOSPEL in Stavanger, Norway.

Grammy award winning producer and gospelartist Donald Lawrence and the amazing singer and teacher Judith McAllister visited Stavanger to inspire, teach and give the people in Scandinavia a close meeting with the lifestyle of american gospel music. The amazing crew of artists and guests also included the american group Light of Love, the annointed singer and worship leader Cinque Cullar, the swedish gospel/soul artist Samuel Ljungblahd, Pastor John Hannah from New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, South African gospelartist Audrey Mbuyazi and 20 American top level gospel musicians, background vocals, technicians, providers and coordinators. The American crew counted 37 persons all together. They all came over to join Stavanger Gospel Company (SGC) for this third THIS IS GOSPEL-festival, and we had great expectations.

The close relationship that has evolved between our American friends and Stavanger Gospel Company makes this festival unique in it’s character, and people from all over Scandinavia and Europe are starting to discover this. We had participants from Sweden, Germany, Portugal, England and more…

We once again shared some amazing days together both on and off stage. Having Pastor John Hannah here for the second year was again a real blessing. He has long experience with building and running a huge festival and also from leading a church that has been growing from zero to 17.000 persons in ten years, and he could share about both the “the bumps in the road”, and the good times. He has great belief in This Is Gospel, and although it’s hard work, it is worth it. As he says: “You can’t argue with success”.  We once again had several breathtaking musicians (Calvin Rodgers, Sharay Reed, Lawrence Jones, Rodney East and more..) awesome crewmembers and other people related to guests and artists. We really love them all, and are exited about the future.

The first two Americans arrived at Sola airport at Tuesday March the 6th, and six more, including John Hannah and Anita Holmes from Light of Love, arrived on Wednesday. We did some organizing and preparations for the week, and just had fun together. At Thursday 29 people – artists, musicians and other crewmembers – arrived, including our main attractions; Donald Lawrence and Judith McAllister.  Our good friends and co-organizers from the fantastic gospelgroup Light of Love has been a huge contributer both in the making of  Stavanger Gospel Company’s album “It’s Amazing” and to the birth of THIS IS GOSPEL, and they were naturally coming along for this years festival as well.

During Thursday they did lots of interviews with newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and magazines together with Aril Schøld (director Stavanger Gospel Company).

Thursday evening all the people involved in the festival (Stavanger Gospel Company, artists, crew etc.) got together for a Meet & Great Party. We had great food, Aril Schøld shared the vision and the history behind THIS IS GOSPEL, and Pastor John Hannah shared some thoughts, we sang together and prayed for the festival. It was a evening where everybody went home uplifted in the spirit, and with great expectations for the weekend.

At the same time, the venue  IMI Forum was already starting to get ready for the next day; backline and raisers for the workshop choir were carried in. The people in Stavanger Gospel Company has organized themselves in different groups, working with everything from rigging to toilet cleaning, transport and food/feelgood for the artists.

Friday the 9th of March, people from all over Norway and Scandinavia arrived at IMI Forum, and found a seat at the venue. The first part of the program was rehearsal with the WORKSHOP CHOIR, with directors such as Kimberly Holmes and Cinque Cullar leading the enthusiastic mass choir. Directors and participants were all giving their very best, and the tone was set for the weekend! A new thing this year was the BAND WORKSHOP with Norwegian musicians. This took place in the basement at the same time as the workshop choir was rehearsing in the main auditorium. About 50 musicians in all ages were involved, and gave great response to the teaching from Stavanger Gospel Company’s band. We are happy about this, a great thing to offer more during TIG for the musicians.

At 7:30 pm we had a break, before the evening-program started at 8:30 pm: EVENING SERVICE WITH PASTOR JOHN HANNAH. As last year, this became an amazing meeting with the Afroamerican style of worship and ministry, through a mixture of singing and spoken words…  Hannah makes us laugh and gets everyone’s attention, using different sized suitjackets to illustrate his point. “Are you wearing a to tight jacket?”

The evening was lifechanging for many of us, and was certainly a real authentic experience of how the Americans express their faith. And we did not only watch the Americans “do their thing”, we were taking part of it! That is the whole idea behind THIS IS GOSPEL; it’s more than music, it’s a lifestyle, and through this weekend we can be a part of that. Also, this was a unique experience both cultural- and musicalwise.

Saturday began with CLASSES, were people could choose between different subjects, such as songwriting, lead vocal, vocal projection, complete vocal technique and the lifestyle of worship. All classes were instructed by the international artists. The classes were a huge success, and this part of the festival is something that we’re definitely going to keep developing to make it even better, it’s a winner!

For the musicians, we had the BAND WORKSHOP, where our top range American musicians did a session together, before we split up into instrument-based group instruction. We could spend a week with these guys, there is so much to learn! They gave us true inspiration to go home and practice and also to keep using our musical talent for a higher purpose. Nik Pears, who run the publishing company Depentant in London, led the workshop.

After a break, it was time for THE SUPER PANEL DEBATE led by Nik Pears, where Donald Lawrence, Judith McAllister and the rest of our artist were sharing around the subject “Gospel Music Artform vs. Spirituality”. We could listen to these amazing people for hours, but we had to wrap it up after an hour, to move forward to another session with the workshop choir.

Saturday evening came, and it was time for THE GREAT GOSPEL CONCERT. The line up was great: Donald Lawrence, Judith McAllister, Light of Love, Cinque Cullar, Samuel Ljungblahd, Audrey Mbuyazi, Stavanger Gospel Company and the Workshop Choir. It was an amazing concert! People were dancing all over the venue. Donald Lawrence finished the evening with a selection from his incredible catalog, and he got really personal with the audience, sharing from his own life in a way that really touched all of us.

Sunday was the day of THIS IS GOSPEL – CHURCH. As under TIG 2011, we once again wanted to let the Norwegian and Scandinavian people experience an authentic african american black church- service. This was an open event, free of charge. Many people in the Stavanger-region came this afternoon, and the church was full. We decided to move the service forward to 2 p.m. so that people travelling from different cities and abroad were able to take part of this experience and still get home the same evening. All the artists were participating. After the opening worship leaded by the Americans, and a couple of great songs performed by Cinque Cullar, Audrey Mbuyazi and Stavanger Gospel Company, Judith  McAllister ministered the Word for us. Judith McAllisters teaching was great, filled with wisdom and honesty. This is gospel!
Sunday evening all the people involved during the festival had a wonderful meal at Renaa restaurant (http://www.restaurantrenaa.no/omoss.htm) downtown Stavanger.

Monday the 12th we brought our American brothers & sisters to the airport. They all had a safe trip back to the US.

Looking back at these wonderful days, our heart gets filled with gratefulness:

Thanks to Donald Lawrence, Judith McAllister and the rest of our American friends for giving everything and for being so humble and wonderful to both the Stavanger Gospel Company and the rest of the Norwegian and Scandinavian people. Thanks to Samuel Ljungblahd, and Audrey Mbuyazi for your great contribution. A special thanks to Anita Holmes (Light of Love), Cinque Cullar and Taylor Taylorr for helping us organize it. Thanks to our wonderful partners and sponsors; SR-Bank, MDE, Bavaria, Myhregaarden hotel, PAP, WestCom, Nidar, Pizzabakeren, Renaa, Servit, PS Selskapsutleie and 4 Sound. We would also like to express our gratitude to Stavanger Kommune and Rogaland Fylkeskommune for making this possible.

To everyone who took part of THIS IS GOSPEL 2012. Thanks! We’ll see you all again!

Most of all thanks to the Lord for making it possible. We believe that THIS IS GOSPEL is a part of His plans for the future.

Stay tuned for the next THIS IS GOSPEL happening. Don’t miss it!