Lessons for what has been traditionally church and spiritual music are being sold almost in the terminology of aerobics classes. A 10-week course which started yesterday at the Jacksons Lane Community Centre in Highgate, north London, proclaimed in its advertisements: "Enjoy the exhilaration . . . breath control, gospel harmonisations, vocal technique and projection . . . join this soulful, melodic, funky and inspiring session."
Tutor Delrio Levale stresses that he wants students who do not come from a conventional religious background to enjoy the music and celebrate a positive message.
Mr Levale grew up singing gospel in a black gospel church in London, affiliated to an American church. He was then part of The Inspirational Choir, a gospel outfit that sang on a record by the group Madness called "The Wings Of A Dove". Now he runs the first gospel singing classes to be accredited as an examination course.
"I've long felt that there's a need to bring it out of the church," said Mr Levale.
"For a start, the gospel is supposed to be taken out of the church. But this is not a religious class. It's a music class. On the social level it's an enjoyable free for all. On the singing level it is based on new breathing techniques. And there is a spontaneous live feel, and experience of what it is like to be in a gospel choir with the clapping, the swaying and the dancing."
One convert is Helen Woodock, 30, a musician, who wanted to take up a singing course and had never done any gospel singing before. "I believe in God but I wouldn't say I was religious," she said.
"The point of this is that it's so positive and soulful it puts you on a natural high. The gospel music took hold of me because of the power in it. It must have been lovely to have grown up in the atmosphere of a black gospel environment.
"The class has all occupations, nurses, clerical workers, students. And it has black, white, Greek, Jewish, a 50-year-old and a nine-year-old, all clapping their hands and singing. It's a great atmosphere.
"And the words we sing as `if you should go astray you can always come back home' are spiritual, but not too in-your-face religious."Reuse content