Themba Mvula and Lichfield Gospel Choir

Led by charismatic, inspirational Musical Director Themba Mvula, Lichfield Gospel Choir seemed completely unphased by the constant setbacks and hurdles of lockdown. The choir were straight out the gate in the very first days, instigating online rehearsals that would continue every week throughout the last year. Driving the activity with Assistant Musical Director Gabriella Liandu, Themba produced multi-layered accompaniments and lovingly-detailed directions for new and old songs to learn, as well as backing materials to help choir members record parts for their vivid series of virtual performances.

Wherever a safe opportunity presented itself, they were quick to find ways to re-emerge and sing in person once again, most recently adopting a temporary rehearsal home at a local barn, ensuring those who could not attend could still participate live via Zoom. But the choir’s achievement is not just in what they managed to do this testing year: there is a captivating, infectious joy about them and a palpable sense of togetherness, belonging and purpose. Instantly evident in everything they have shared through the pandemic, their ethos is to create a space where each member can participate equally, regardless of ability or being able to read music. In their own words, ‘there is a place for everyone in this choir’. It’s no surprise therefore that they have in fact increased their membership in the past year. Local people discovering them through this nomination may feel the urge to join in too.

‘Themba has pulled off something extraordinary over this very strange time - he has managed to fool us into almost believing that he is in our rooms with us instead of on a Zoom screen. His enthusiasm and energy have kept the joy of singing in a choir alive, and rehearsals have been full of laughter too.’
Emily and Peter Bacon, members, Lichfield Gospel Choir
‘Themba is not only a wonderful person with charisma and charm, but a highly talented musical director. He is always pushing us as a choir to excel and we always respond with great positivity and a determination to "go that extra mile". During lockdown we have truly needed and benefited from singing together, and we could not have achieved this feeling of wellbeing and self-worth without Themba.’
Carol Cahn, member, Lichfield Gospel Choir
Themba Mvula and Lichfield Gospel Choir

Public voting for the 2021 RPS Inspiration Award has now closed and the winner will be announced at the RPS Awards at Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 November. Here you can read about the other five shortlistees: