Chip Kendall: How the chimes of Big Ben became an international children's hit

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Tony Cummings reports on Manchester's rapper, singer, songwriter and worship leader CHIP KENDALL who tells an amazing story

Chip Kendall and Oslo Soul Children
Chip Kendall and Oslo Soul Children

For many years, Florida-born Chip Kendall has been a major figure in the British Christian music scene. As the frontman of dance/alternative evangelistic team thebandwithnoname he was instrumental in catapulting Christian music to a more up-to-date approach. As a popular solo artist he delivered such Cross Rhythms radio hits as "Set It Off", "Sunshine" and "Call My Name". And now, as one of Britain's leading children's communicators, he has been the key figure in the successful children's albums 'Lift Off: Praise Songs For Kids' and 'God's Awesome Rescue Plan: Praise Songs For Kids' emanating from the fast-growing Manchester-based Audacious church where he works. One of the songs Chip will be singing at this year's Big Church Day Out is his international hit, "Jesus Reigns", recorded by Norway's Oslo Soul Children. Rapper, singer, songwriter, worship leader, evangelist, Bible teacher and author Chip took time out from his busy schedule to tell the story behind "Jesus Reigns".

"A couple years ago I was invited to do an entire day of music and RS lessons at University Academy in Warrington. The topic chosen for me? British Values. In all honesty, I laughed to myself at the thought of an American teaching British teens their own national values. But then something struck me. I thought, 'I've lived in this country longer than any of these kids have been alive. I've had to learn much of British culture from scratch. If there's anyone best qualified to teach this subject, surely it's me!' So I set to work researching anything I could get my hands on, and boy was I rewarded with some interesting discoveries. I learned that a study of British values could quickly become a study of Christian values and our rich heritage."

Chip's research into Britain's heritage began to bring to light some startling facts that many Christians, young and old, were blissfully unaware of. Said Chip, "One thing I've found was that the words written on every pound coin are an abbreviated Latin phrase which translates to: 'Queen Elizabeth II, reigning by the grace of God, defender of the Faith'. This reference to the Christian faith dates back to the 1400s. In America all we've got written on our dollar bills is, 'In God we trust'!"

When Chip was doing his research, Theresa May was Britain's Prime Minister. In an interview, she made the statement that, although she didn't want to 'flaunt' her Christian faith in public, her faith and Bible-based convictions played a vital role in her policy shaping. The more Chip grappled with the issue of British culture and the pivotal part the Christian faith had in shaping it, the more intrigued in the topic he became. One day, his mind went back to an incident he'd had when he and his friend Mike were invited to lead worship for the Conservative Christian Fellowship in St Mary's Undercroft, directly beneath the Houses of Parliament.

He remembered, "We'd had a little 'run-in' with Big Ben, as we started our first song precisely on time at the top of the hour, but in a different key to Big Ben's bonging chorus playing directly above us. We looked at each other, thinking it was some sort of feedback in the monitors before slowly realising what that 'noise' actually was. After that, I discovered by visiting the CCF website at the time that the famous melody of Big Ben - one of the most recognisable hooks on the planet - was actually taken from a work by George Frederic Handel, who was of course a Christian. Millions of people are familiar with Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus'. But I couldn't help but wonder how many people knew that those famous assemblage of notes, which are recognisable as Big Ben's chimes, were actually composed by Handel. And that there were words that went with the melody:-

"'Lord, through this hour/Be Thou our guide/So by Thy power/No foot shall slide!'

"I was completely blown away when I first read this lyric. What a brilliantly written, prophetic prayer to have ringing out over our nation, every hour of every day. Day and night, come rain or shine, with millions of tourists earwigging in, people of all ages, ethnicities and creeds pause to listen to the chimes of this Christian prayer!"

Chip continued, "As you can imagine, I had a blast teaching British values in Warrington Academy that day. The students and teachers alike thoroughly enjoyed themselves in every single lesson. But as I drove home from Warrington, I had what can only be described as a wonderful moment of inspiration from the Lord, as I thanked and praised him for all he'd done. At the time of my Warrington Academy visit, it was being announced that Big Ben would be undergoing some much needed restoration work and would therefore need to be silenced for a number of years. But suddenly this God-breathed idea was in my heart. What if I could write and record a song, built on Handel's work, that combined the famous melody with those prophetic, prayerful words? What if I pulled off what I like to call a 'Chris Tomlin' by adding a new chorus and bridge? What if God would use this song to remind his people all over the world of his power and sovereignty, even against a backdrop of moral and political upheaval and uncertainty? Finally, what if it all took place during the period in time when Big Ben's 'voice' was silenced?"

A few months later, Chip had made a rough demo of his Big Ben song, now titled "Jesus Reigns". He remembered, "I played it to my good friend Ragnhild, the leader of Soul Children - a global movement of youth gospel choirs that started in Norway, and has since grown to over 400 choirs all over the world. Something about the story and the song itself resonated deeply with her, and she suddenly said, 'We will record this song, release it with you, and make it one of our theme songs at the next Soul Children Festival, with over 2,000 choir participants in attendance'. That was 2018."

Chip continued, "Fast forward to present day, and not only was the song a hit at their international festival, but it also led to me taking on the role of partnering with Scripture Union to pilot Soul Children choirs here in the UK. At the end of January 2020, we brought together two of our choirs from Buckshaw and Leigh to perform for Princess Anne (the Queen's daughter) when she visited Parbold Equestrian Centre in Wigan. With BBC, ITV and several local papers in attendance, the Princess Royal was delighted to hear the song, 'Jesus Reigns'. I guess you could call it history in the making!"

The Oslo Soul Children single "Jesus Reigns ftg Maren Reme & Chip Kendall" is available on iTunes, Amazon, and other download sites. Chip will be performing "Jesus Reigns" at West Sussex's Big Church Day Out in May. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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