Viewpoint from Ken Burton
Ken Burton, Choral Director for the
London Adventist Chorale,
Croydon Gospel Choir and the Adventist Vocal Ensemble (AVE)
My Kind of Music
The government has recently set aside a sum of £332 million to get the country singing and playing instruments again. Their aim is to have all primary school children involved in some singing activity every day at school. If the government had announced that, in my time, I would have gladly told them to keep the money! I grew up in a West Indian Christian home, which could only mean one thing when it came to music and singing - there would be lots of it!
My parents sang continually, and as a family, we had worship in the morning before school, evening after school, and extended worship on Friday evenings as it was the commencement of Sabbath, then there were the church services - three of them on a Saturday. After the services we would get changed and then have fun playing table tennis, snooker, and community games which involved - singing.
For the twenty-first century child, the prospect of having to sing as a family every morning might be enough to put them off their Rice Crispies, yet for me it was (mostly) enjoyable and the start of my life in corporate singing activity. At the age of nine I became part of something exciting - a newly formed youth choir in my church, ‘The Croydon Seventh-Day Adventist Youth Choir’, formed by Ainsley Stephenson, (grandson of a current Lowestoft resident), and my older sister Vanessa.
This group soon became my second family; I recall the buzz I got even after a simple rehearsal. It was becoming clear quite early that my life was going to take a choral path. In 1985, I was appointed as director of the choir, when the former directors went to university, and later on married and had families. We were growing up fast; the choir dropped the 'youth choir' in its name in favour of 'gospel choir'. Recordings, TV appearances, performances for royalty were regular activities for the choir, a real testimony of perseverance and progress.
It didn't end there, in 1990, I was invited to take up the role of director of a choir that was turning heads everywhere it performed, the London Adventist Chorale, which became an amazing phenomenon in the choral world winning awards and competitions, such as the prestigious Choir of the Year in 1994, and captivating audiences worldwide, from the US to Australia.
The bug for choirs didn't stop there. In 2002, I formed the Adventist Vocal Ensemble, (AVE), and a broadcast choir which draws singers largely from the Croydon and London choirs (and from Ipswich, for a recent programme). AVE has numerous television appearances, mostly on BBC Songs of Praise, and has been nicknamed Radio 2's "resident choir" for 'Good Morning Sunday', presented by Aled Jones. From the early experiences in the home to the amazing experiences performing in Sydney Opera House, Buckingham Palace, the Royal Albert Hall, to the soul-lifting and rewarding experiences performing in a Kent prison, Croydon hospital, or a Nairobi orphanage, my music making has been my expression of my life and faith. I'm humbled, touched, and elated when audiences and viewers relate how their lives have been impacted by the power of music.
Photos and music by courtesy and permission from Ken Burton