Updated: May 6
I was only about 8 years old.
I had on a mint-green, puffy shouldered, bridesmaid looking dress, that was full to the brim with organza, lace and decorative matching coloured satin belt.
The body of the dress felt tighter and tighter around my ‘pop belly’ as my heart raced and my throat became dry.
The packed church was now silent and I tried to clear my throat to speak whilst standing in front of my seat. I was in the front pew amongst the other choir members.
‘God bless you brethren’ I managed to shout out and sound more confident than I felt. I had learnt to project my voice and speak clearly especially when addressing the church.
‘Bless you’ they responded almost in unison
‘Im thanking God for keeping me during the week at school and at home, and for my testimony i’d like to sing a song!’
The church resounded in a choral yet scattered ‘Amen’. ’Thank you Jesus!’. **tut** “Thank you lord’. ’Bless her father’.
(The **tutting** was an expression that individuals did when they could 'feel God’s presence in the atmosphere'.
Its kinda hard to explain, but don't worry it was a good thing! lol)
‘Go to the front and take the mic’ someone shouted from somewhere amongst the many voices.
I knew better than to disobey, and started my walk towards the pulpit.
It was convention time at ‘ The Croydon Church’ I called it.
For us this was where various pentecostal churches from London would congregate to have a week or sometimes a weekend of services each night, usually based on a chosen topic / story from the bible. It was often long, energetic, vibrant filled evenings of singing and dancing and exclaiming Hallelujahs in praise.
‘Testimony time’ happened each night too, and brethren were able to stand randomly, and take it in turns to share with the church, their feelings of how God’s been good to them and brought them through the week, …
‘….He’s kept me through many dangers toils and snares’ was a sentence that was often quoted.
This particular night, I bravely stood up, of my own accord, as I felt the urge to sing...on my own!
No one told me to, or forced me. I just wanted too.
I had already been singing in the church choir a lot, and pretty much since I could make a noise, but this was the first time I chose to sing... alone, in front of the whole church!
This was so different to singing surrounded by voices of the fellow choir members who were all adults.
I was the only child in the soprano section of the nearly 20 people strong choir (which sounded like it was 1000!!!!).
With my God-father as the choir director, often sitting facing the church with a keyboard, his strict directions and intense stares bid you to sing at the top of your voice, and sing almost like you were the whole choir in your one body.
I looked at him for an unspoken approval, after all he was the reason I was in the choir at this point. He looked at me and squinted, and then smiled.
I took that as a ‘Yes go 'head chile’
From birth, I was used to choir rehearsals being held at my parents house in the back room downstairs.
There’s a tape recording somewhere with me singing at 9 months.
I was in my high chair, and sitting amongst one of the many rehearsals held at my parents house in the living room. My God-father gave out the starting notes to each section in the choir.
‘Ahhh, ahhhh, ahhh’ he sang, noting the 1st note imitating a chord for sopranos, altos and tenors.
‘1..2..…' he shouted!
Before he could say 3, I copied him in that split silence… ‘ahhh, ahhh, ahhh’ in perfect pitch!
9 MONTHS OLD!
By the time I was about 2 years old, I had my own seat on the choir.
I couldn’t quiet keep up, but was literally being put in the position of the ‘way that I should go’ (Another bible quote)
I'd sit next to my sisters, cousins and other church members or even on their laps.
When it was time to sing I tried to keep up with my God-fathers directions as much as possible.....errrrrm ........ as long as I wasn’t feeding or having a nap!
He’d point and jump up and down sweating, and doing all sorts of acrobats and we would interpret his gestures in great triumphant harmonies, vibrato and volume!
I just loved the thrill of making such a loud vibrant sound coming out of my mouth and tried so hard to mimic the fellow choir members mouths and voices!
Sometimes we would wear gowns.
They were long and heavy and flowed with the choirs movements as they clapped energetically in sync. The majority of the gown was purple (There goes that purple thing again) with red accents and were made out of weighty Satin.
All the ladies wore purple berets and they looked like frisbees perched on their heads.
I got to wear one of my sisters spare ones. It was little bit big, but I didn’t care, I belonged here!
Of course I didn’t have a gown as I was way to too small so I remember being taken to a bridesmaids shop where I wore a (very itchy) dress made out of the same colours!
As if I didn't already stand out enough! - lol - The smallest, the only child and in a bright red dress with purple accents!
I always stood right in the middle of the soprano section.
Each section had ONE microphone and everyone was forced to sing into that one mic.
They would stretch their necks out and huddle together all around that one microphone and sing out from the bottom of their stomachs. It was ALOT of breath around one mic! Well i thought so anyway! lol I couldn’t reach the mic at such a young age, but I would look up at it and copy how everyone else positioned themselves almost like I had the mic to myself.
I wasn’t going to let height nor age get in my way!
ONE pet peeve I had was that my head was used as a hand rest.
I think it was meant to be endearing of some sort, from the adults, but it was SO annoying!!!
I remember moving my head, cautiously trying not to appear rude, but I needed to stretch my neck and mouth towards the mic to get the notes out just like you guys!!! Gosh!!! lol.
How on earth could I do that with your hands on my head restricting my neck!??!! duuuuuuhhhhhh **sigh**
Here I was now, at the front of the church, 8 years old with the microphone in my hand and looking out towards the sea of brethren /congregation, and it grew quieter in anticipation, waiting for me to sing.
I looked to my left at my Godfather looking at me, urging me to ‘start then’ … I knew he would find the key if I started a-cappella.
I took a deep breath and opened my mouth and sang in my strongest soprano
‘Yeeeeeeeeeeees, Jeeeeeesuuuuuuuus looooooooooves meeeeeeee!
oooooh yeeaaaaahhhh, Jeeeeeesus looooooves meeeeeeee……’
My godfather started to play along on the keyboard, and opened my eyes still singing.
I looked at the congregation as they swayed along to my rendition in agreement.
…..’Yeeeeeeees Jesusssssss looooooves meeeeeeeeeee, for the biiiiiible telllllllllls meeeeee sooooooooo!!!’
Now they were shouting out, ‘Sing!’… ‘Amen’!
I continued and started the verse,
‘Jesuuuuus loves me this i knowwwww
for the bible tells me soooo
littlllllle ones to him beloooong
they are weak buuuut he is strong’
The church and choir joined in for the last round of the chorus
I held out the note for the last word of the sentence for as long as i could
’for the bible tells me sooooooooooooOOOOOOOO…….’
‘Pray for me in Jesus name’ I said into the mic and handed it back to the service leader.
The church erupted in an uproar of ‘Amens, claps, blessings and Hallelujahs!’
I made my way back to my seat amongst all of the spiritual outbreak, and all i could think of was how amazing that felt!
I had just sung, on my own, in front of the whole collection of churches and my mummy and daddy and some of my family.
My stomach flickered with excitement and I remember clearly the feeling and satisfaction of an unexplainable release.
My whole body tingled and I was so pleased with myself.
Yes, everyone was clapping and cheering and praising God, but I was so ecstatic at the feeling of singing and releasing my voice into that microphone and closing my eyes and delivering my very 1st solo.
I mean I loved the choir, but I LOVE LOVE LOOOOVED singing on my own too, and in the MIC!!! WOW!
Another night, not long after that my God-father taught me a song on a long journey home in the car.
Line for line.
He played a line, and stopped the tape, and I would repeated. Adlibs and all!
Then that became the song I would sing with the choir backing me when we went out to sing at other churches.
It was called ‘All of my life, ill say yes Lord’
There are no recordings of me singing it at that age, (that i know of-lol) but here is the recording of the version he taught me. This is exactly how I learnt to sing it.
Below you will find a video of me performing the same song (A little more of 'The Phebe way') At a family concert in 2007.
At such a young age, 8 years old, this was what I knew I wanted to do.
Sing my heart out.
That feeling it gave me, when I closed my eyes when I sang out at the top of my voice was indescribable. It was always in my heart and mind to sing as much as I could and I knew I would always do it from that day.
From the church choir, to singing at different church conventions and youth services, this was my solo.
That experience I am so grateful for and the surrounding of a musical family and musical upbringing contributed to my career now.
I still get that bubbly feeling now when I sing.
I sing to release my feelings and help others through my gift.
Purple Love x
Pic 1: Me as a baby in my sisters arms, mouth open wide, probably trying to sing!
Pic 2: Baby Me. The expression on my face could possibly be 'Erm, where's the microphone please?'
Pic 3: Young Phebe in one of her very many 'Sunday bests' dressed for church, Beret and all! lol
Phebe Singing 'All of my life' at a family concert in 2007.
(I do not own the rights to the songs in this video)