In a world that so often seems drowned in darkness, Edwin Fawcett has become a gentle beacon of hope leading others to the love of God through his gifts as a singer, songwriter and producer. Unique to the international gospel scene, Edwin’s ministry draws from the wealth of his background experience in liturgical music within the Catholic tradition. He successfully marries in flavoursome fusion a contemplative, subtle form of prayerful devotion, with the appetizing and liberating rhythm and harmony found in the soulful sounds of contemporary gospel.
Edwin’s ministry has grown over the last decade into a fruitful labour of love and commitment. He says, “Through my music I want nothing more than for the listener to be brought into closer communion with God, for HIS glory. That’s what I’m committed to doing, because I’ve been assigned to do it!”
In September 2010, this commitment led Edwin to be chosen to confidently minister before Pope Benedict XVI to 80,000 people gathered at central London’s Hyde Park. Around the same time, he independently released his second full-length album of psalm settings Stronghold, which together with his debut Soulpsalms, now talked about and heard across six continents, mean that he is arguably one of the most innovative praise and worship ministers the Catholic Church has to offer.
While perhaps still a foreign concept for some gospel fans, the association between ‘gospel’ and ‘Catholic’ has rarely been stronger than it is now. Edwin observes, “There’s a shift happening which is so exciting to be a part of! Music opens doors, and the doors of people’s hearts are opening.” A part of this shift must be due to Edwin himself unleashing his spirited soul into his music; taking influence from the freedom of the jazz-based improvisation and harmony that he says so greatly interested him during his teenage years.
It comes as no surprise that Edwin’s musical creativity stems from a colourful childhood background. Born in west London, but growing up in the countryside, Edwin was home schooled with his eight other siblings, who were all encouraged to nurture their artistic talents. At 5 years old, Edwin took to the piano. By 7, he was composing his own pieces. He discovered the music ministry of Youth 2000, and at the age of 16 had a very powerful experience of God’s personal love at one of their weekend retreats.
After finishing his A-levels, Edwin began sharing his gift for evangelising through music all over the UK as part of the Youth 2000 mission team. In 2004, “Rock of the Anointed”, a musical based on the life of King David, was written with the help of his drama friend Tillie Callaghan, then performed in London and later in Cologne for 2000 people at World Youth Day in 2005.
Following a path of divinely ordained circumstances, says Edwin, “I have come to write songs which could be categorized in the gospel genre for two reasons. First because I fell in love with the gospel sound – it resonated with my lived experience. I could identify with the idea of God bringing victory through struggle because I could see it to be true in my own life, as I dealt with the effects of addiction and mental health issues within my circle of family and friends. Second because I have had access to great vocal ensembles that can perform my music, for example the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, who I became involved with during my degree in London. I wrote and arranged a lot of stuff for them in their early days.”
Edwin has since written material for other ensembles including the 606 Gospel Group (the house choir at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea, London), and UK rising stars Pure Wisdom. This material can be heard on both of Edwin’s albums.
Since 2008, when Edwin graduated in composition, his vision for integrating gospel-flavored music into ordinary Catholic worship has continued to be realized via his pastoral work at the church of St Antony in Forest Gate, East London. There he started a youth gospel choir which fosters an environment for a layered approach to catechesis and evangelisation. The choir creates opportunities for young people who might otherwise drift out of faith to come together and experience community, encouraging them to speak and learn about faith in a natural way related to the content of what they sing.
For the Catholic Church, Edwin’s music encourages a renewal of relationship with the scriptures, called for by Pope John Paul II, and succeeds in bringing a greater degree of groove into contemporary church music. This is evidenced particularly on his latest album Stronghold, where such bluesy tracks as Full of Compassion are found alongside vibrant and steadily upbeat numbers such as May your love be upon us.
“There is a power that gospel arrangements can generate during prayer and worship. If I can tap into and deliver this energy from within the musical structures of my own work, my hope is that salvation will be presented in new ways to the listener, even while the lyrics, often taken straight from God’s word in scripture, are old and unchanging.”
Undoubtedly, Edwin’s music, which sounds like water flowing in the peace of a secret oasis, will continue to touch many hearts with an overflow and outpouring of the Holy Spirit who brings all people into communion with Himself.