Gospel Tour 2021

“One minute we were a circle of strangers all staring at each other. 10 minutes later we were a throng of worshipful singers revelling in some of the most glorious harmony singing of my life. What Tony offers is stunning.”                                                                  
Clare Grayson, activist, UK

The 11th US Gospel Tour is planned for September 2021 


Experience the passion and depth of the black gospel tradition — join musical director Tony Backhouse to sing in black churches and on quartet programs, attend choir rehearsals and workshops with local music ministers and singers. 18 days of rich gospel music and soul food in Memphis, Chicago and New Orleans. Sing with (and to) a Baptist congregation in Memphis, attend a quartet workshop, visit a huge church in Chicago, and get uplifted at the Holy Ghost HQ in New Orleans! Participate in workshops with music ministers and singers from the most dynamic singing tradition on the planet, and then join them afterwards for fried chicken, macaroni cheese and mustard greens…. 

   The US Gospel Tour is for all of you who want to not only experience the African American church but want to participate in it. We will form a choir and sing at numerous events (on previous tours the group sang at a neighbourhood festival in Chicago, on TV in Memphis, at a gospel music festival in Alabama, at a quartet anniversary in Chicago, at a gospel ‘musical’  in New Orleans and in numerous church services, workshops and rehearsals) — however, singing is voluntary and non singers are welcome. There are no auditions, and the tour is open really to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the black gospel tradition.
    Once you have signed up, you will be given access to the tour’s  private webpages where you can find detailed information about our destinations, travel tips, and scores and recordings of the repertoire we plan to sing. If his itinerary permits, Tony will meet up with participants before the tour. He will also be available via Skype to answer questions or help with songs.

    Tony says: ‘I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for anyone excited by African American musical traditions to explore the world of black gospel in some depth, and as a participant rather than as an observer. I’ve been visiting black churches on and off for 30 years and the experience of being in the midst of such celebration, commitment and energy never fails to blow my mind. I feel privileged to have made friends from the tradition who have welcomed me into their worship services, rehearsals, anniversaries and homes, and their generosity has always extended to the visitors I bring into their world.’

For Tony’s report on the last Gospel Tours in 2009 and 2012, check the blog archives.

Draft itinerary:

Destination 1 Meet in Memphis-welcome drinks & snacks, first rehearsal
– stay Memphis for six nights: 
– sing at gospel concerts, Saturday & Sunday nights 
– church service on Sunday
– workshop with a female quartet
– visit Civil Rights Museum at Lorraine Motel

Destination 2: fly to Chicago for six nights:
– attend choir rehearsal at a huge historic church
– seminar with a prominent musicologist at the Center for Black Music research
– rehearsal workshop with gospel choir Saturday afternoon
– Sunday: two churches & soul food lunch

Destination 3fly to New Orleans for six nights:
– workshop with musical directors of a historic Baptist Church
– attend choir rehearsal
– sing at a ‘gospel musical’ night with local choirs
– Sunday 25: two churches  & farewell meal

 Cost: AUD$7,200 +gst TBC

The cost includes:

–  all internal flights from Memphis-Chicago-New Orleans
– ground transport (from Memphis onwards)
– twin-share hotel accommodation (single supplements also available)
– breakfasts
– workshops
– entrance to the Civil Rights Museum and certain other group activities
– scores and MP3s of repertoire

– regular rehearsals and training with Tony while on tour

–  international flights
– your travel to Memphis, Tennessee
– your travel from New Orleans at the conclusion of the tour
– meals (other than breakfasts)

For more information contact Jann: tonyjbackhouse@gmail.com

What previous participants have said: 

Being part of Tony’s gospel choir was pure pleasure but it was heightened by the (unexpected) emotional involvement in some of the church services, broadened by the historical learnings we gained in places like the Memphis Civil Rights Museum and deepened by the musical and cultural knowledge we absorbed in other museums and events, particularly the New Orleans and Memphis Music Festivals. I am blessed to have seen and felt how singing can be such a lived, fluid and whole-body experience and how spirituals, gospel and the use of music in black churches historically has underpinned and fertilised all evolutionary lines of Western popular music. It is an incredible story and it was sensationally brought to life by all our experiences on tour. 
(Jan Buhrmann, Brisbane)

‘Thanks Tony, for this rich and deep slice of African American life which we were welcomed into, thanks to your connections. I came home totally energised, and when I listen to my recordings, I’m right back there. Loved it that we got church in such wide variety, concerts, choir rehearsals, festivals, workshops on top of that… and time in between to relax and absorb the flavour of three very different cities. A perfectly conceived and organised tour. Can’t wait for the next one!’ 
(Fiona Walker, Wellington)

‘I have never been on a group tour before and didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. The pre-distribution of our parts meant that Tony was able to weld us together as a choir on the first day. His skill, enthusiasm and compassionate treatment of everyone ensured that we were a happy group for the whole tour, and the balance he achieved between singing engagements, educational gospel-related experiences, music festivals and free time for the wide range of suggested other activities kept us busy and enthused for the whole tour. Thank you for a wonderful experience.’
(Roger Wooler, Brisbane)

‘I think I am likely to run out of superlatives in my attempts to describe the 2012 Gospel Tour that you conducted. It was life-changing in so many ways but particularly in my understanding of African-American music and Gospel music on particular. The tour was flawlessly run. It was the best holiday I have ever had. I can’t thank you both enough for the experience and I’d do it again in a
(Sue Sweetman, Auckland)


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