The UK Pioneer Series- Celebrating John Fisher
by Natasha Ferguson
First Published: 27/04/2019 in 2BRealMagazine
2BRealMagazine is about honouring those who paved the way before us within the Christian and Gospel community.
The Christian and Gospel industry have been a pillar to the UK. There are trailblazers and visionaries who have proudly shared their ministry has influenced the world, which is why we wanted to celebrate the achievement of those who have done exactly that in this brand new series.
2BRealMagazine want to share the truth, the milestones the challenges it took along the way to bring some of my personal role models to where they are today. We pray that this series will be an inspiration to you and that their story will bring perspective to wherever you are in your journey.
Kicking off our series is none other than the incomparable John Fisher. The principal music and choir director of IDMC Gospel soul choir has been in the business for over 40 years. And so for us gleaning from this entrepreneur, musician and music teacher is the reason why we wanted to share his story with you.
To follow new updates from John and IDMC head over to their Instagram page here at @IDMCGospelUK.
2BReal: Tell me, what did UK Christian music sound like to you when you were growing up?
JF: Coming from a West Indian background and attending a Pentecostal church from young, the music culture was a mix of reggae, ska, and calypso. As I got a bit older and started to go to concerts I realised that the American influence was very evident when it came to youth choirs, and groups.
2BReal: What was it that inspired you to get into the music industry?
JF: I actually fell into music, following on from my father who was a well known musician within the New Testament church circle. I followed his inspiration and learned guitar and then drums. From there various opportunities came for me to play for many groups and choirs as I was seen as a good musician.
2BReal: What were some of the challenges that you had to overcome as you began to grow quite notably within the industry as choir director and artist?
JF: I feel that I wasn’t taken seriously, in the beginning with IDMC, there were circles of influence, and for a long time I wasn’t part of that, so we couldn’t get concerts or bookings. Lots of times we just asked if we could just be a part of the event and didn’t ask for a fee just so we could be known. This was quite hard. In our early days IDMC experienced resentment from many of the choir leaders and churches that it was born out of, which for a while really saddened me. Members of the choir were told by their pastors or choir directors that there were not allowed to be in IDMC, and so for a season we were black listed from churches, with people who were I thought friends smiling with me, then talking about us behind our backs.
2BReal: What have been some of your most memorable moments that have been achieved throughout your career to date?
JF: The most notable has got to be singing for the Late Luciano Pavarotti’s wedding back in 2004, a moment that totally launched IDMC, and made us one of the most celebrated gospel choirs throughout Europe. More recently touring with a great Danish artist Lukas Graham and performing seven shows in front of a combined 195,000 audience was a totally amazing feeling. The list of artists we’ve performed with is quite extensive, and we are so proud of this.
We also feel proud to support numerous charities throughout the year lending our gifts to many children based organisations and mental health organisations like, Operation Smile, Lupus and homeless charities too.
2BReal: Over the years your gift has allowed you to cross over into so many different areas of the ministry. How has this trained, developed and nurtured you to teach those coming up behind you?
JF: The experience gained from working in so many different field is priceless. I’m so happy sharing these experiences with many artists I come into contact with. Things like personal discipline, time keeping, preparations for your events, thinking big, remaining honourable, acknowledging that the devil is in the detail, being firm, having a vision for yourself or your project, and so much more.
2BReal: In your opinion, how has the evolution, influence and church ministry impacted the UK Gospel music scene?
JF: The church in my humble opinion has been both good and bad for the UK Gospel music scene. The church is were many of us as artists have been able to develop our craft and we will always be grateful for this. Some of the best gospel concerts have over the years happened in church, but on the flip side, many of the prominent churches started bringing in gospel artists and preachers from the USA paying them extensive fees, and wanting UK artists to be the support acts and play for free.
The church also could open doors by helping promote artists, getting congregations to sow in and buy products, but they don’t in many cases, and so you have many guys like myself having to work outside of the church ecosystem. I’m blessed in that, because of my longevity and profile from the many awards and world wide accolades, we are not getting ignored anymore, and will not be treated in this way, but it’s not the same for so many others.
2BReal: Watching the new generation of music creatives rise up in their careers, what are some of the noticeable differences that you think both generations take for granted today?
JF: I think that we can forget sometimes that the customer is king as well as and who is our target market and the people we trying to reach. It is so important that before you write an album or a song, release a single, or put on a concert, that you know the answer to these questions. It does not make sense in you releasing a great hardcore hip hop song, and look to go to a Pentecostal church with a congregation of mainly seniors to perform and try and sell cd’s, as most of the congregation will cover their ears waiting for the noise (in their eyes) to stop!
2BReal: Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your musical and ministerial journey and why?
JF: I have a few, My pops was one of my church organisations first musicians, performing all over the country, but getting paid nothing more than a pattie and a ginger beer for his time. He and his friends were sold out for God and used their gifts to create a special sound that after 50 years people of that era and those younger still talk till this day.
Bazil Meade OBE. He is a total general and godfather of UK gospel music. I actually learned at his feet as I toured playing the drums for him for eight years. He could work an audience and get the most out of them, but he also has a sound that he has created for himself and is a total legend.
Noel Robinson. We both toured together as musicians for Bazil Meade and LCGC and became best friends. He has spoken into my life so many times, praying for me, advising me. If we had a bad performance, he would just tell me. He has been an massive force in IDMC’s growth and development.
Marvin Winans jnr. His style, flare, musicianship, song writing and ministry has always been an influence on me.
The late Walter Hawkins. His songwriting and the development of the Love Centre Choir from the the Love alive series of albums helped educate me and showed me growth from his first project to the 5th.
Last but not least Howard Francis. Musician and songwriter. He is a great friend and a massive musical influence on me. In fact, half of my chord progression in over 30 songs I have written are taken from his playing or the spirit of how he plays.
2BReal: What advice would you give to those who are looking to get into music through ministry. What do they need in order to serve and survive within the music industry?
JF: They have to have a plan, scripture says, “where there is no vision the people perish”. Translated, “if you don’t have a plan your thing will crash”. If you don’t prepare prepare to fail, be diligent with everything you do, know your market, and do your research. Also, remember that education is everything, work smarter not harder, don’t be afraid or feel ashamed to ask for advice or help. The most important piece of advice I would give is to always put your plans before God, make sure that your vision lines up with scripture, and that in all things God gets the glory.
2BReal: What is favourite scripture that always delivers what you need and why?
JF: Psalms 34:1-8 just reminds me that in all things I should give thanks to God, in my good times and bad, and also that I should always boast about the Lord, or said in another way “Make God Famous”.
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