The UK is to get its first official weekly Christian music chart following a surge in popularity for faith-based recordings.
Compiled by the Official Charts Company, the first Official Christian And Gospel Albums Chart Top 20 will be unveiled next Monday.
Sponsored by Compassion, a Christian childrens’ charity, the new chart is expected to feature breakthrough stars such as Friar Allesandro, a Franciscan monk who was first member of the order to sign a major record deal.
The Chart Company said that 600 new “Christian” albums were released last year, including popular recordings by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Matt Redman, a Grammy award winning Christian worship leader and songwriter based in Brighton.
The compilers hope that the exposure will help boost sales of the Christian and Gospel sector to similar levels that the music enjoys in the United States. Music described as Christian and Gospel accounts for 7 per cent of all US recorded music sales, with 26 million albums sold in 2012, a bigger chunk of music market than classical, blues and jazz combined.
Omar Maskatiya, the Official Charts Company’s Director Of Charts, said: “The popularity of Christian and Gospel music to date has largely been demonstrated through its vibrant live sector, however with the launch of the Official Christian And Gospel Albums Chart we can now, for the first time, shine the spotlight on those artists who are enjoying significant success through recorded music too. We look forward to working with Christian labels and supporting partner Compassion to bring the new chart and its featured talent to music fans of the UK.”
The Charts company cited figures showing that 7.6 million adults attend church each month, an increase of 3 per cent last year, as testament to the music’s potential.
“This is a defining moment and changes the landscape for Christian and Gospel music in the UK,” predicted Jonathan Brown, Managing Director of Integrity Music, the UK’s biggest Christian and Gospel record label. “Christian music has always been a part of society in bringing hope and encouragement. With the development of this new chart it will bring significant profile to this growing genre.”
Voice From Assisi, the debut album by Allesandro, was last year’s biggest UK Christian seller. The singing friar, 34, was flown to Abbey Road and worked with Mike Hedges, producer of the Manic Street Preachers, on the record which mixed traditional and contemporary “sacred” songs. The album reached no 28 in the charts.
Last month Redman, the UK’s second biggest Christian-seller, won Grammy awards for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord).”
The Official Christian And Gospel Albums Chart will be broadcast every week on the Christian digital radio stations Premier Radio and UCB, and published alongside the pop singles chart on the Official Charts website.
The former Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to the Christian boom when he signed to Geffen, Guns N’Roses’ label, and released Music From The Vatican, a double CD of prayers and litanies accompanied by the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra.
Popular music in its formative years developed from gospel, and a creative clash between the sacred and the profane. Christian-themed pop chart-toppers have included Sir Cliff Richard’s The Millennium Prayer and the German “new age” group Enigma, which incorporated Gregorian chants into their soundtrack.
The Official Top 10 Biggest Selling Christian and Gospel Albums of 2012
1. Voice From Assisi - Friar Alessandro
2. 10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman
3. Essential Carols - King's College Choir/ Willcocks
4. Homemade Worship by Handmade People - Rend Collective Experiment
5. Cornerstone - Hillsong Live
6. Carols from King's College, Cambridge - King's College Choir/ Willcocks
7. The Loft Sessions - Bethel Music
8. For the Sake of the World - Bethel Live
9. Carols from King's - King's College Choir
10. Classic Christmas Carols - King's College Choir