Since the beginning of lockdown, Pat Allerton – a vicar in Notting Hill – has been taking to the streets of London. His mantra? 'If people can’t go to church, church must go to the people.’ Dubbed by the media as The Portable Priest, Allerton has been playing a recording by American singer-songwriter Judy Collins of Amazing Grace, and then inviting residents to join him in The Lord’s Prayer. By the end of April, he had cast his net beyond Notting Hill, visiting Chelsea, Kensington, the City of Westminster, Wandsworth and Shepherd's Bush, including seven hospitals, a care home and a prison. But it was his visit to residents near Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham on April 2 that sparked an unprecedented response. When a home video of Amazing Grace filling the streets was posted on Facebook, it went viral and has now been viewed by more than five million people.
And momentum is still building. Half a century after its initial release, Judy Collins will be re-releasing her version of Amazing Grace as a single on Friday May 29 with added vocals from the Global Virtual Choir. Anyone can participate, so long as they submit their performance by 9am this Friday, May 22 – two days before the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. Collins, whose original 1970 version – part of her album Whales and Nightingales – achieved global success, says: ‘I recorded Amazing Grace with a group of friends at Saint Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia University campus in New York City … It was written by John Newton in 1772, a man who evolved from a slave ship captain to a writer of powerful hymns, and changed his entire life, became a model for spiritual transformation. That’s what we need today once again. Stay safe, help others and pray for the planet … We will survive this with love and music and amazing grace.’
Submissions have already been coming in thick and fast, from amateur and professional singers alike – including the Gramophone Award-winning vocal group The Sixteen. The actor Alan Cummings has also made a submission, motivated by the song’s Scottish associations and the chance to say thank you to the World Health Organisation. So, if you’ve ever wanted to sing alongside an Award-winning ensemble, now is your chance! Simply visit the Global Virtual Choir website to choose your part – once you’ve learnt it, video yourself singing it and submit it. All recordings will contribute to a new version of the single, complete with 3D Visualiser Video, which will be available to stream and download from May 29.
Find out more at https://www.globalvirtualchoir.com/