Something Else

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The Independent Culture
No one ever said gospel singing was subtle. From the moment eight members of The Forward Ministry gathered in a semi-circle for their inaugural Sunday recital at London's Pelican Restaurant, the word was God. 'Jesus will fix it for you / He knows just what to do' ran the opening refrain, accompanied by a slow stomp. Beaming at the diners in the pseudo-art deco restaurant, the Forward Ministry was clearly not just there to provide dulcet background music. 'Feel free to do whatever you feel like doing,' the onlookers were commanded, as choir mistress Marcia Quarry exhorted the singers to let rip ('let Him fix it . . . Let me hear it one more time'). In a self- proclaimed carbon-copy of New York's Hallelujah lunches, genteel conversations over Caribbean prawns were soon drowned out by the joyful noise of 'Kumbaya', 'What a friend we have in Jesus' and, of course, 'Whatever it is (Take it to the Lord in Prayer)'.

'The worst thing is when people just look,' Isaac Robinson, the group's only male singer, declared during the interval. 'It's an audience participation thing.' Having spread 'the Word through song' outside Victoria coach station, the Royal Albert Hall and countless shopping centres, the Ministry evidently saw the Pelican as yet another challenge. 'The joy of the Lord is our strength,' added Robinson, who, like the others, had come straight from a Pentecostal service without lunch.

The more wine they consumed, the more eager the audience seemed to participate. Several danced round the tables. 'It's better than having some third-rate Edith Piaf,' said one man, nodding in time to the music. Never was a truer word spoken.

Gospel Sunday lunch, 1.00pm-3pm Pelican, 45 St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (071-379 0309)

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