Harmony that is close to heaven

The American vocal group Take 6 believe that they were brought together by God to make music
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The Independent Culture

The hallowed interior of St Paul's Cathedral in London is about to be blessed by one of the world's top close-harmony vocal groups. Take 6 are making a comeback to the UK for the first time in six years, with their blend of street-corner a cappella, contemporary jazz and funky rhythm and blues. Mark Kibble, the group's spokesman and lead arranger, says that the show is a one-off for the City of London Festival.

Expected to grace the venue are such favourites as "O Mary Don't You Weep" and classic numbers "Spread Love" and "Wade in the Water". But Kibble confesses that the programme has not yet been decided on, and that arrangements are often spontaneous. The group decides most of the numbers on the night of the performance, which for St Paul's will be mainly a cappella, though some numbers do feature instrum-entation. However,Bill Withers's "Grandma's Hands" should be given an airing.

"Our last CD included a couple of his songs - we love his material. We may or may not do a lot of songs from our latest CD, which is Beautiful World."

What the audience will definitely get is improvisation and richly layered harmony - Take 6 provide lead rhythm and percussion with their own voices. "Harmony is how we made our name," says Kibble. No heartbreakers? "No," says Kibble, "but how about heart-makers? Our songs will carry you through talk of hope, love and peace, not sorrow. The venue will be awesome. We always bring the same level of God through our music in any form we choose to sing in." Most of the group are Seven-Day Adventists; Kibble belongs to the Mount Zion church in Nashville, Tennessee, where he resides.

Take 6's basic credo is simple: "We believe that the love of God saves lives and changes hearts, and we have been commissioned to sing about this. It is this belief that brought us together 20 years ago. And it has held us together. First comes our love of God, and then the love of what we do. We are totally committed. We know that the way we came together was an act of God. Every time we sing, we pray before and after. We invite God's presence into everything."

Of the 10 CDs produced by Take 6, Kibble says that he would most recommend the first and the last. "The first, Take 6, was such a ground-breaking album. It is the one everyone will always remember us by. And Beautiful World is just a great CD; I love it - we produced it with Marcus Miller, an incredible bassist who produced Miles Davis."

Also in creative cahoots with the group is Stevie Wonder, who has written songs with Take 6. "Working with him is one of our best experiences," says Kibble. Another big name who has worked with the group is Quincy Jones. Other inspirations? Vocally, they admire Gene Purling and The Singers Unlimited, says Kibble. And musically, their inspiration is drawn from Edwin Hawkins, among others.

Take 6 are at St Paul's Cathedral, London EC4 (0845 120 7502) Friday