‘My goodness, this is church as black people know it…’


Residents from South London were at the heart of the gospel rendition of Stand By Me sung at the royal wedding.

Mark De-Lisser, born in Streatham, was approached by Clarence House five weeks ago to arrange the song that was chosen by Prince Harry and the now Duchess of Sussex.

Vocal coach, music producer and arranger Mr De-Lisser’s gospel version of the Ben E King hit has gone viral since the wedding and has reached number seven on the iTunes charts.

The 44-year-old, who was schooled in Brixton, said: “I don’t know how they found out about me, but I was honoured.

Mark met Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex a month before Saturday’s wedding to arrange Stand By Me to be sung before they made their vows.

Mark De-Lisser, left, with members of the Kingdom Choir and, fourth from right, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason

He went to the now closed Tulse Hill Boys Secondary School in Brixton.

He said: “I didn’t account for how the song was going to affect the world.

“For me as a lowly South Londoner, born and bred here, it is unbelievable.

“I grew up as a poor kid in South London and now I’ve got a song at number seven in the charts.”

The song had gone through several versions before the final piece was performed by the Kingdom Choir at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

Jeanette Young and Karen Gibson

Mr De-Lisser arranged a meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex before the wedding.

He said: “They were really involved. They tried a lot of different things.

“Let’s just say quite a number of versions went backward and forward between us. I was like, wow, this is another level.

“So we had a meeting in Kensington Palace. They are lovely people, really warm and kind. It was great to sit and have a conversation them.

“They are a departure from the norm for what the monarchy does and this song says that whatever happens they’re going to stand by each other.”

Arranging a song differs from composing as it does not involve writing new lyrics or melodies, but rather using musical techniques such as harmonies, solos and unisons.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss outside St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding.

Karen Gibson conducted the song which was performed after Bishop Michael Curry gave his sermon.

Mr De-Lisser said: “It was already groundbreaking, but when the minister started speaking I was like ‘my goodness, this is church as black people know it.’

“This is what we grow up with. This is a regular weekend for me as a child.

“For me and a majority of the members in the choir, this would have been their childhood and we were standing there just going ‘huh, where are we? Are we at our church or a royal wedding?

“It was beautiful. Just for Brits to see what it is like for many people from Afro-caribbean descent.

“It’s not that everybody has to change and suddenly become gospel people, come to church on Sunday and clap.

“No. Just appreciate that cultural differences exist.

“Then as soon as you heard the first singer you realised this is a gospel choir, not a classical choir, not a Gregorian chant choir.

“That synergy of original monarchy and the new British culture coming together was just one of the most amazing parts of that whole wedding.”

The choir was dressed by Jeanette Young, also a South Londoner.

She met Mrs Gibson, the conductor, at their church in Tooting and she asked her to dress the choir.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex told her they wanted the choir to be “Natural Glam.”

Ms Young said: “The song and the way the choir looked was a big gift for Harry and Meghan. We wanted to give them the best we could offer.

“I wanted to make them look glamorous but keep the clean religious feel. So, I used a lot of blush pinks and baby blues, sequins and feathers.”

Ms Young was also struck by the wedding’s inclusion of Afro Caribbean church practices such as Bishop Curry’s sermon.

She said: “It was quite a refreshing and relatable service. It made a lot of black people very proud and it allowed us to feel more included than we have in other royal weddings.

“It felt like we were part of it.”

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