From The Salvation Army to the Charts
The race to be number one in the UK music charts for the weekend of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee is hotting up. Among the household names hoping to make it is a singer who can more often be heard at The Salvation Army in Enfield, north London – Lissa Hermans. Her version of ‘God Save the Queen’ was released to celebrate the jubilee after the Queen herself was touched when she heard Lissa singing the national anthem earlier in the year.
When a trustee at the Chickenshed Theatre Company – which Lissa is a member of – asked if she would be willing to record the National Anthem as a charity single to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the first thing Lissa did was pray about it. ‘Mum and I asked God if recording the song was his will, and if it was, that he would let it go ahead,’ says Lissa, 30, who has been blind since birth and also has autism.
‘We really wanted to know if making the single was the right thing to do,’ adds Jane, Lissa’s mother. ‘So we prayed about it – and then kept on praying.’
Speaking together and finishing each other’s sentences, Lissa and Jane explain how the single came about.
‘Back in February, I took part in a Charles Dickens bicentenary celebration in London,’ says Lissa. ‘The Queen was there. The organisers wanted me – along with a group from Chickenshed – to sing at Guildhall. I sang the first verse of “God Save the Queen” as a solo, then everyone else sang the second verse with me. Afterwards, we were presented to the Queen and she shook my hand.’
Not long after the event, the trustees at Chickenshed – an inclusive theatre company – held a meeting. Some of them mentioned how touched the Queen had been after seeing Lissa’s performance.
Jane remembers: ‘One of the trustees who works in the music business suddenly piped up: “Why don’t we release the National Anthem as a single?” He said that Lissa could sing it, the single could raise money for Chickenshed and it could be ready for the Diamond Jubilee. Then someone from Chickenshed rang Lissa and asked her if she would like to do it. That’s when we prayed.’
‘I made a demo in March,’ says Lissa, ‘then I did the photo shoot for the CD cover. In April, I recorded the song for real. I was accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra, who were recorded in Prague. The whole process happened very quickly.’
As well as keeping busy at Chickenshed, Lissa and Jane are also committed to their church – The Salvation Army at Enfield. They remember the first time they went.
‘When I was six, Mum saw an advert for a Salvation Army Christmas concert in the local newspaper,’ says Lissa. ‘She took me along. She wondered how I would react to the brass band. I absolutely loved it.’
And they never looked back. Lissa and Jane began attending weekly services. ‘I liked the way everyone made us feel at home,’ says Lissa. ‘It felt so comfortable. It still does. And I like the music.’
And whether she is releasing singles for royalty or singing with the Salvation Army junior choir, making music is what brings Lissa the most pleasure. She reveals that she would love to release a CD of Christian songs.
‘I know that God is my friend and that he is with me wherever I go,’ she says. ‘I do wish that I could see – but maybe God is teaching me and telling me to wait. Maybe he is planning to use me to help others a bit more, just as I am.’
From an article by Claire Anderson first published in ‘The War Cry’
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