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Tony Backhouse

Composer • Vocal Arranger • Singer • Author
Choir Director • Workshop Leader

Tony Backhouse, BA, B.Mus, is one of the leaders in the Australasian a cappella movement.
He founded Australia’s foremost a cappella gospel choir Café of the Gate of Salvation in 1986, and directed it for 21 years. He arranged and composed the bulk of their repertoire and still writes music regularly for them. He founded a cappella choir the Honeybees and has directed and sung with reclusive male a cappella group the Heavenly Light Quartet since 1996. In demand for his inspiring teaching style, Tony has run more than 2000 vocal workshops throughout the world for the public, for festivals, schools, universities, churches, organisations and corporate training events. 

Tony currently lives in Napier, New Zealand, where he runs a community choir, the Napier Gospel Choir, and an as yet un-named 8 -voice a cappella vocal ensemble. 

'Backhouse is Australasia's premier arranger and teacher of a cappella gospel. Tim Finn says he is quite simply the finest vocal arranger he knows and Sam Neill reckons he's a national treasure.'
Roi Colbert, New Zealand Listener

'Tony Backhouse has been, and continues to be, a major influence on music in Sydney and beyond. The a cappella revival is almost entirely due to him.'

Martin Wesley-Smith, composer, Australia

'Tony Backhouse's voice can be heard several times on The Cafe of the Gate of Salvation and each time he manages to cleverly shape otherwise simple melodic lines. He's very effective at blending into the ensemble and then appearing again, wrapping around notes, gliding above the sopranos, growling between the tenors and baritones. Few ensemble leaders have as clear an understanding of their group's sonic spectrum, and how their voice fits within as a soloist.'
Contemporary Acappella Society of America

What he does:

Vocal workshops (Black gospel and other funky stuff) in:       
New Zealand

Skype consultations: arranging, teaching songs & interpretation

Arranges and composes:
for choirs, string quartet, solo guitar and other projects

Singing tours to exotic places:
USA (Gospel tours)
Australian outback & heritage towns

The Heavenly Light Quartet
Blessed Relief (with Peter Dasent)
Guest appearances with the Café of the Gate of Salvation (Sydney) and other choirs
Solo performances
Bass, guitar & vocals with No Engine (Napier)

Recording projects:
Blessed Relief (with Peter Dasent)
BEND (with Fane Flaws & Peter Dasent)

A cappella - Rehearsing for Heaven (songbook and companion CD)
Move on up (songbook)
Freeing the song (an approach to directing vocal groups)
Australian Companion to Music and Dance - entries on a cappella and community gospel choirs

Past highlights

Festival performances include:
Womad New Zealand
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
WLOK Stone Soul Music, Memphis
East Coast blues and Roots Festival (Byron Bay)
West Coast Sacred Music Festival (Vancouver)
West Coast A cappella Summit (San Francisco)
World Choral Symposium, Sydney
Jazz-en-Souillac (France)
Festival of Voices (Tasmania)
Roses Blues and Jazz Festival (Spain)

TB has been the subject of various TV programs including Compass, Healthy Wealthy and Wise, and Channel 9's Today Show, and was the consultant for NZ documentary Strictly A cappella.

Compositions and arrangements for:
Sweetie (Dir: Jane Campion)
Rodney and Juliet (Dir: Fane Flaws)
Brain Dead (Dir: Peter Jackson)
The Crocodiles
Renee Geyer
Song Company
Sydney Childrens Choir
Choirs throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the UK

Recordings include:
Mammal & Sam Hunt - Beware the Man (TB, piano, guitar, vocals, music)
The Crocodiles - Tears (TB: guitar, vocals, music)
The Crocodiles - Looking at ourselves (TB: guitar, vocals, music)
The Café of the Gate of Salvation - (TB: vocals, choral direction, music)
The Café of the Gate of Salvation - A window in heaven (TB: vocals, choral direction, music)
The Café of the Gate of Salvation - Deluxe (TB: vocals, choral direction, music)
The Heavenly Light Quartet (TB: vocals, arrangements)
Guided Meditations (with Stephanie Dowrick) (TB: piano, vocals, music)
Paul Capsis live - choir direction, arrangements
Bend - the Underwatermelon Man (vocal arrangements, vocals)

Vocal arrangements and vocal backings for:
Tim Finn

Renee Geyer
Margaret Urlich
Vince Jones
Kate Ceberano
Joe Walsh
Justine Clarke
Dave Dobbyn
Harry Manx
Jenny Morris
Peter Dasent (Umbrellas, film music)
Paul Capsis
Annie Crummer
Andy Anderson
and others

See also:


DESIGN FOR LIVING, the first album by Blessed Relief (

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