What Gospel Means to Marcia Hines02 May 2022
In this Q&A with singer Marcia Hines, we learn about her history with gospel music, why she loves Vivid Sydney, and what to expect on the new album at its world premiere during the festival. On 9 and 10 June, Marcia Hines will be performing her album, The Gospel According to Marcia, at St Stephen’s Uniting Church, 197 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000.
Vivid Sydney (VS): You’ll be launching your new gospel album with a 12-piece band and choir in a beautiful candlelit church for Vivid Sydney. Why is gospel music important to you?
Marcia Hines (MH): Gospel music is incredibly significant to me because I grew up in church, as most black kids in America do. My church was the Church of England, but my godmother was the head of her choir, which was Baptist, and I used to church hop just to hear all the different music. Children aren’t usually allowed in the choral box, but because she was blind, I was allowed to sit there and listen to all the ladies sing. She was very integral in my musical career. My cousin in America has one of the biggest gospel churches in LA. And whenever I land, that's where I go.
As I was recording [this album], I could hear my godmother saying, "keep it simple Marcia, keep it real. Do the right thing.” I’m terribly excited about it because I’ve never sung in a church in Australia.
VS: What does spirituality mean to you, and what can gospel music bring to people who aren’t necessarily religious?
MH: I believe, in my heart, that most people are spiritual. I grew up in church, and that kind of upbringing – especially as a black child – it’s a big part of your social community, and it teaches you how to deal with life and people. I believe that grace is a large part of life, as is humility.
The world is kind of upside down at the moment, so hopefully, we'll bring a little bit of joy to the people who come and see it.
VS: This is the first time you’ve done a whole gospel album – has the gear shift given you a new energy or sense of purpose?
MH: Yes, it's a new page in the chapter of my life, and I’m really digging it. I can only speak for myself, but as artists, we tend to try and reinvent, while still staying true to ourselves. [Gospel] is how it all started [for me] and you must never forget where you came from. It’s a part of who I am. There was this feeling in the studio – and we all talked about it – a sense of peace washed over us. It's a very beautiful thing to do, to make music. There's nothing on this earth that’s quite as amazing as when it all comes together and you look at each other and go, wow.
VS: The concert will be performed in St Stephen’s – Vivid Sydney’s only gig in a church in 2022 or ever??! What do you think the experience will be like?
MH: It is a beautiful church. I had never been inside it before and gosh, it's just so pretty. So, fingers crossed, it will bring something special to the night. Churches, as I know them – the acoustics are the bomb. As a kid I used to hang with one of the missionaries in our church and when she was downstairs doing paperwork, I'd go upstairs and just sing my little heart out. I sound like a geek, but that’s what I did. I just loved the vibe of the church and you know, the quiet. As long as I was singing by myself, I enjoyed it immensely.
VS: What kind of songs can we expect to hear at the Vivid Sydney event?
MH: We've chosen songs that we believe people will really like and that they know well. When I listen to gospel music, I think “wow” — I don’t believe they could do it if they weren’t praising [worshipping in song] , they couldn’t hit those notes, and they couldn’t create that warm feeling you get when you hear it. It's partly a religious thing – but there's something so special listening to people sing gospel, it really comes from the heart. We’ve chosen some of the oldies, but the goodies.
VS: Can you tell us about the choir singing with you?
MH: The choir is imperative – I heard someone once say this about really good singers: “you’ve got a plate of rice, and to make a meal, you put casserole on top. You can’t just have plain rice – you need the flavours and beautiful aromas that come with the casserole.” That’s what I believe the choir will be – they’ve all been hand-picked.
VS: Aside from your concert, what are you looking forward to about Vivid Sydney?
I've gone to Vivid Sydney many times, and Sydney just lights up. It's just so good to see people out and about. What we all need now is a bit of joy – and that’s what Vivid Sydney brings, great joy and a great family experience. It’s the most wonderful vehicle for people in the creative industry. We’re all looking forward to getting back out there and doing what we do. This is one of the prettiest cities in the world and seeing it light up and seeing the smiles on people’s faces – that's what we live for.