Tony Backhouse
 Baritone/lead and musical director
William Selwyn
Rob Maxwell Jones
Stuart Davis Tenor/lead

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 Lights 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 since sung at WOMADelaide, the Melbourne International Festival, the Sydney and Melbourne A cappella Festivals, Wangaratta Jazz Festival, as well as jazz and rock venues in Sydney and Melbourne. Due to their other musical commitments, the Heavenly Lights tended to perform only on rare occasions, but did rouse themselves in 2003 to perform 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.

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, they sang Hendrix’ ‘Angel’ a cappella.

The Heavenly Lights excel 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, Margaret Urlich, Charlotte Yates, Kate Meehan and actor/singer Andy Anderson.

Their self titled CD was released in 1997, and is now available as a download from Bandcamp. 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.

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