Sounds Of New Wine: UK gospel's Lawrence Johnson gives the background

Wednesday 17th April 2019

Tony Cummings spoke to Lawrence Johnson about the SOUNDS OF NEW WINE album emanating from the London megachurch

Continued from page 1

I think what was happening, because of what we'd been through as a church, when we lose someone as influential as Pastor Tayo, who was an amazing speaker, it has an effect on the church. Some people left. Some of us were questioning God. Sometimes people say, 'Just ignore it,' but I questioned God. 'God, what's happened? Why are we losing these great guys?' I realise, at the end of the day, that only God knows: I can't answer these questions. But these two men left a legacy, they left a plan that we must carry on. So when I was writing the songs over a period of time with my team, we were writing nice songs but I was thinking, 'This is not enough.' I always get a gut feeling that I'm doing something that's going to be right. When Pastor Tayo passed away, God was telling me, 'Tell our story.' 'What does that mean?' During that process in the church, people had gone through divorce, financial situations, people had lost their children. We'd been through a lot of stuff that normal people go through. We're not the only church that's gone through stuff. But I think sometimes the church don't want to talk about those issues. The only reason we're different from a non-Christian is we've got someone we can go to. God is there for us. So I wanted this album to relate to people outside who could go, 'Oh, they're like us. They go through the same as us but have God on their side. He'll bring us through.'

Tony: Have you written most of the material on this album?

Lawrence: No. I've written three or four of the songs, but the other guys in Sounds Of New Wine have all written. I've got an amazing team. We wrote based on what we've been through. I already know we have something that's really special because I've played the album to a friend of mine who's not a Christian, and I heard her crying. Another friend of mine in America was telling me her child was in a coma, and they played this one song, "God Of The Impossible", all week, and a few days later he opened his eyes. So I know this is more than just an album - 'Let's get it out, let's try and sell it.' Yeah, I want to sell it - don't be fooled - but I know it's going to really help the Body of Christ.

Tony: You and I, because we've been around a long time, have seen gospel music come back round several times. Now with the Kingdom Choir at the royal wedding, do you think it's ready for another big breakthrough into the mainstream?

Lawrence: Yeah. I'm so proud for people like Karen and the guys, because that's our people, that's our family. I was talking to Paul Lee, who's done the lead on that song. He called me last week because we did something together, and he was telling me he was going off to Jamaica. The Jamaican Embassy have called him to sing for the prime minister. He's like 57! What's happening here? It's like a new breath of fresh air. But I really believe that people like us - the Karens and many guys who have served in the house and given more than they should have done - God is going, 'If you shine, I shine.' That's really what it's about. We're enjoying this. I've just done a thing for a film soundtrack for Aladdin. I got a call from Alan Menken, and I was like, 'Who's Alan Menken?' I didn't realise he'd done Pocahontas, Beauty And The Beast, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. I'm thinking, 'You could have used anyone in America to do this job and yet you called me in South London?' I always say to people, 'It doesn't matter what you've done over the years. That's God's favour. There are people just as good as you, or even better. So when it's your time, it's your time.' So when I see people in my field doing well, I never think, 'How come they're doing well?' I'm thinking to myself, 'This is great to see our people doing well.' That's why those doors are opened. I've been thinking more about the team and what we do as a team, as a Christian body, rather than the individual glory which sometimes people want to hold on to.

Tony: How many are in Sounds Of New Wine?

Lawrence: Sounds Of New Wine consists of 125 people. It's made up of various members - the engineers, my stage team, my musicians, the youth choir. That's a collection of the sound. One of the things I realised is most people usually hype on the choir, but we come from a different concept. I thought to myself, 'All these guys help us do what we do.' So the Sounds Of New Wine is all those people who help us do what we do. I know it's different for most choirs, but that's our sound, that's our team. I wanted to acknowledge our engineers, our stage team. So that was it is.

Tony: Was the decision to record an album made a long time back?

Lawrence: Yeah. When I first came here 11 years ago, it was one of the things that Pastor Tayo talked about. But I didn't see what he was talking about because the choir was in such a bad state. I had never worked in a church, so it took me a while to suss out what I was going to do, and just be led by God. I made quite a few mistakes in the early stages. I was trying to get them to where I came from, but to get them there I had to come down and catch the first person's hand, and pull them up slowly with me. That was a really important thing for me, because I wasn't used to working that way. I'd worked with Latter Rain and LCGC, so I was used to a standard. It was a change for me. I learnt more about myself doing this than probably any other thing. It was a growing process. The church is made up of different people - we have people from Bulgaria, Poland, the strongest nationality is probably Nigerian, Ghanian, people from South Africa, and obviously myself, Caribbean. It's a real collective.

Tony: Are the singers all from African or Caribbean backgrounds?

Lawrence: Most of the singers are from an African background - Zimbabwean, Nigerian, Ghanian. We've got some people from the Caribbean. That's the singers. In the band we've got a mixture of people from different nationalities. It's a real collection of people.

Tony: I've learnt from Scandinavian gospel choirs that it can be an international language.

Sounds Of New Wine: UK gospel's Lawrence Johnson gives the background

Lawrence: Definitely. It's changed a lot over the years. What I found, when I went to Scandinavia, is they love gospel music. The majority of the people that went to gospel music workshops weren't Christians: they just love the music. That was such a refreshing thing. Sometimes, in the black churches, if you're not a Christian you can't sing. When you go to Scandinavia and Poland, the majority of people don't want to become Christians, they just love the music. But in a funny way, I come back a year later and half the people have become Christians. So it's a real way of reaching people, and it's been an amazing journey.

Tony: Even in Japan, where there's a tiny Church.

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Reader Comments

Posted by SEGUN ADEYI in Kent @ 12:06 on Apr 20 2019

Trust me, New Wine Church has been through, and arguably too, what no Church has never experienced! The Church lost their two Senior Pastors within a space of Five Years. Devastating is an understatement. Having been a member of New Wine Chuch even before the Church started, I know what I am talking about. I can only hope the songs will help heal the pain as much as possible.

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