Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus debut recording forceful and exuberant

In the Sanctuary
Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus
Barbara Allen – director

Reviewed by Major Len Ballantine –
Secretary for Music and Gospel Arts
Canada and Bermuda Territory

By all that is normal in the world of music and recordings, In the Sanctuary should not be possible. I mean, I simply cannot believe that this is the debut album of a youth chorus with a mere four-year history, let alone the fact that a single congregation spawned its membership and resourced its entire instrumental backing. If this is what Barbara Allen and Pasadena Tabernacle are capable of, then I can only wonder what amazing ministry will come from this bunch once they really get rolling!

From the outset I was struck by the sheer forcefulness of their authentic gospel choir sound. It is one of uncontained youthful exuberance, a total abandonment of soul and body, which flies in the face of the well-rehearsed rhythms and rich harmonies of the genre. Quite simply, these guys sound like they are having the time of their lives, and their leader has wisely harnessed rather than shackled that quality.

The songs themselves were well chosen for their impact, and each contributes to the rich diversity on offer. I remained engaged throughout, and noted with surprise the apparent level of difficulty of some. In an age when the average choral anthem has been bled of interest and intricacy in favor of an easy sing, these songs were demanding for the performer and engaging for the listener. Full marks for not shying away from hard work!

Having not heard this group live, I brought a certain expectation to my first hearing of In the Sanctuary, shaped by the title itself and by the low-key graphic design of the cover. I thought, mistakenly, I was going to encounter cloistered reverie and high-arched choral lines. Boy! Was I shocked!

In truth, I found nothing of calm transparence in this project. Rather, it is imbued with the drive and dynamic of emboldened youth, a generation which strides unselfconsciously into the very sanctuary of God’s presence, and dares to dance, praise, sing and play in the manner of its own culture. It seems to me that that is exactly what propelled the early-day Salvationists into ministry unique for their times. And I am inspired to think that this generation is capable of doing no less.

Congratulations to Barb and Steve and the Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus on an excellent project, the first of many to follow, I trust.

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