On the morning of Freedom on the Tyne we held a special gospel mass in the foyer of Sage Gateshead, little did we know it would lead to working with Sting. Upstairs in the Northern Rock room Sting was overseeing a rehearsal of the Last Ship when he heard the choir singing out across the Sage concourse. Intrigued he asked to meet the choir leaders Mattie and Chichi who told him about Freedom City and the 50th celebration of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle.
The following February Sting was back in Newcastle for the first run of the Last Ship at Northern Stage. Sting contacted Mattie and Chichi and asked them if the choir would join him for a fundraising concert for the Graham Wylie Foundation. Originally just scheduled to sing, “Fields of Gold” together Sting got on so well with Mattie and Chichi the choir ended up singing a full set of Sting’s greatest hits with him. As Sting said at the time, “I am so pleased to bring you the Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir led by their fearless leader Mattie who like me comes from Wallsend.” Sting took time to talk to the choir asking how they came to Newcastle and was fascinated by Mattie’s history of growing up in apartheid South Africa before moving to Wallsend. They bonded as they talked about the concerts Sting had performed in the fight against apartheid.
In May 2019 Sting was back in Newcastle with Shaggy performing at the O2 Academy, the first call he made was to the Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir who joined the duo for stunning versions of “If you love someone” and “Every breath you take”. At the after show party Sting took time out to thank us for sorting out the choir as well as taking time out to talk to young rappers Kema Kay and Kay Greyson. We are incredibly grateful to Sting for championing our work and supporting Voices of Virtue on their journey.