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Heavenly Light Quartet

The tightly-arranged, yet passionately-sung Black gospel style of the '40s male quartet had a major influence on R&B, soul and popular music that has lasted to this day, yet is now rarely heard outside the church. The traditional a cappella arrangements build on call and response patterns, rhythmic grooves, swapping parts, alternation of leads, and a high level of independence in the parts allowing for improvisation and embellishment. The Heavenly Light Quartet formed to explore the intricate, rhythmic and fiery songs by such seminal groups as the Golden Gate Quartet, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Swan Silvertones, the Spirit of Memphis Quartet or the Soul Stirrers.

Formed as a quartet in March 1996  the Heavenly Light Quartet first sang in the Sydney Town Hall at the Great Big Gospel Night (a remarkable event directed by Stuart Davis, with vocal arrangements by Tony) with Kate Ceberano, Lily Dior, the Café of the Gate of Salvation and others. They have sung at WOMADelaide, the Melbourne International Festival, East Coast Blues and Roots Festival, the Sydney and Melbourne A cappella Festivals, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Apollo Bay Music Festival, Brisbane Biennial Festival, Festival Fremantle, Wangaratta Jazz Festival, jazz and rock venues in Sydney and Melbourne, and broadcast on 2BL, Radio National, 2SER, Channel 10's 'Monday to Friday', and Channel 9's 'Today Show'.   
    Since 1999, with the departure of the great tenor soloist William Selwyn, they continued to perform successfully as a trio. Due to their other musical commitments, the Heavenly Lights tended to perform only on rare occasions, since 2001 appearing at the Queensland Biennial Festival of Music, the Camden Haven Music Festival, the Brisbane Sacred Music Festival, the Goulburn Blues Festival and at the Sydney Festival. In July 2003 the trio performed at jazz and blues festivals, concerts and clubs in Spain and the south of France. They toured with Harry Manx in NSW in January 2004.
    William Selwyn rejoined the group in November 2011 at the time of the Café of the Gate of Salvation's 25th anniversary and they now perform again as a quartet.

Be it huge outdoor event like Hallelujah! Logan (in the Queensland Biennial Festival of Music) or the Sydney Opera House, folk festival tent, intimate jazz club like the Basement in Sydney, formal event, party, wedding or church service, the group communicates with passion and energy. The group can step out of their usual genre to sing pop, jazz or rock: eg. backing René Geyer at the Basement on ’Shakey Ground’ or 'Heading in the right direction' or at the 1997 Jimi Hendrix Tribute night (a benefit for the Sydney City Mission Benefit at Sydney's Hard Rock Café with Ian Moss, Jack Jones etc.) they sang Hendrix' 'Angel' a cappella.

Workshops: as all members are experienced musical directors and workshop leaders they can create dynamic workshops for singers of all ages and levels. Previous workshops include Festival Fremantle, Campbelltown School of the Performing Arts, Newtown School of the Performing Arts, Queensland Sacred Music Festival and Hastings Music Festival.

Sessions: The Heavenly Light Quartet excels in the studio, and as session singers and arrangers can create fresh harmonies on the spot: among those they have recorded with are Tim Finn, Harry Manx (Live at the Basement; Road Ragas; West Eats Meat -, Margaret Urlich, Charlotte Yates, Kate Meehan and actor/singer Andy Anderson.


Their self-titled CD was released in 1997. They can also be heard on the compilation A cappella Bondi, recorded in 2003 at the Bondi Pavilion, Sydney, singing ‘Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb’.

Watch HLQ live in NZ on YouTube here.

Listen to a track on YouTube here

Tony Backhouse
Baritone/lead and musical director

William Selwyn

Rob Maxwell Jones

Bass/lead Rob Maxwell Jones is active in seven groups (jazz, Sephardic, gospel, pop) as both an instrumentalist or singer and directs choirs in Sydney.
Contact : Rob Maxwell Jones

Stuart Davis
Singer, arranger and choir director, Stuart sings with two groups – The Lounge Quintet  and The Heavenly Lights – and directs three adult community choirs, one high school choir and a youth choir.
Contact : Stuart online