I was at the Café Arts project at Hounslow Methodist Church a few weeks ago, watching Gospel singer Sandra Godley perform. Last time I came to the Saturday night project was during my final year at university. I studied Journalism and Spanish at Roehampton, and visiting Café Arts is one of my favourite memories, as it was a refreshing break from my final deadlines, and an easy story for a budding journo. It was good to be back.
Sandra kicked us off with an introduction to her life and how she’d recently been praying fiercely for God to intervene and change something. She used the story to transition to her first song, ‘Miracle’, the eponymous track from her new album.
So the backing track started. She encouraged us to clap along. We shuffled awkwardly. Her rich, powerful voice wasn’t stirring much reaction. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the night would be a one-woman band. Would the atmosphere ever rise to meet Sandra’s bubbly personality?
Fortunately, the star performer was having none of it. It turns out audience participation is obligatory at Sandra Godley concerts. She soon had us up to tell funny stories, sing solo or as an impromptu catering choir, or do some ballroom dancing. I had to duck as I moved about to take photos just to avoid being nabbed.
But we weren’t entirely coerced, as this was all driven by Sandra’s positive energy and openness, which proved to be as compelling as her voice. She interspersed each song with episodes from her life, taking us from her staunch family upbringing through to the trials and successes of her on-going singing career. She once worked as an events manager at Coventry Cathedral, working alongside Archbishop Justin Welby. It’s easy to see her enthusing down the phone about the potential of the Cathedral, irresistibly winning people over. She was keen to point out to us which of the songs she was singing were featured on her new CD.
Among her repertoire was the popular favourite ‘Amazing Grace’. She sung this for us just after explaining the hardship of being with her father as he died of cancer. There was a good dose of sharing the battles she had faced in her faith and life, as well as practical advice, in what she said. “Sometimes you might need to close a door, sometimes you might need to open a door” was one of her tips.
Sandra finished by telling to us that God loves us. The way she said it seemed to indicate that she was not simply affirming that truth, but urging us to marvel at it, if just for a moment.
Written by Nick Dawson. Café Arts is a series of concerts and performances by a huge variety of different Christian artists. To find out more or book tickets to our performances please visit the dedicated Café Arts website: www.cafeartshounslow.co.uk.