Praise for the songs

The BIG Sing Gospel Voices choir perform in the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2015The BIG Sing Gospel Voices choir perform in the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2015

The BIG Sing Gospel Voices choir have a performance track record way beyond their amateur status. Ahead of a performance in Wanstead this month, local resident Liz Toher explains why she joined.

The BIG Sing Gospel Voices choir were finalists in the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year in 2015 and have made it to the final again in 2017. We have sung with Leona Lewis, Blake and the London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC), and performed for Jamie Oliver at his 40th birthday party. This month, we will be performing at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Wanstead.

The choir was started by Jon Rattenbury, who previously sang with the LCGC and travelled the world with them. After leaving the LCGC, Jon wanted to start his own gospel choir and in 2012 found a room in Brixton under the railway arches in which to get started. Since then, the choir has gone from strength to strength and now rehearse weekly in Soho.

I joined the choir in that first year, a short time after my sister Kathy had joined, who met Jon at her workplace where he was coaching her office choir. Kathy suggested I should come along with her and we haven't looked back since. It brings us great joy as well as wonderful friendships.

The gospel choir is made up of a wide cross-section of the community, crossing generations, nationalities and occupations including medicine, teaching, IT, retail and charity, as well as the arts, banking and more. All with a love of singing and the commitment to work that bit harder. The choir is now part of a family of community choirs known as The BIG Sing, most of which are based throughout Essex, Kent and London. The BIG Sing was founded by Jon, his sister Gemma and his brother-in-law, Howard, all previous members of LCGC. Anyone can join one of these community choirs and one has just started in Walthamstow.

The BIG Sing are passionate about uniting communities with uplifting music, and having seen how their choirs have changed people's lives first-hand wanted to capture what they have created and take it to those who can't get to them. Gemma had the idea of setting up a charity that harnessed the power of singing, the camaraderie and the health and wellbeing benefits. The BIG Sing SOUL (Singing Outreach Unity Love) was born. The charity takes tutors into hospitals and schools and works with disabled groups to help those who could benefit from music the most.

Money raised at this month's event in Wanstead will be shared between The BIG Sing SOUL project and Our Lady of Lourdes Church funds.

The BIG Sing Gospel Voices choir will perform at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Wanstead on 18 November from 8pm (tickets: £10). Visit

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