Blog: Philippa Hanna Album Preview Night

Mar 29 2013

Ahead of her forthcoming new album 'Through The Woods', Philippa Hanna held an album preview evening on 27th March 2013.

With amp stacks traded in for squashed blue sofas, cables coiled and microphones pushed aside in favour of paper lamps, the Steelworks Studios in Sheffield had been transformed into a cosy venue. The occasion? A small audience of family, fans and friends gathering to catch a glimpse of gospel starlet Philippa Hanna’s forthcoming album, Through the Woods.

Amongst the 50 guests were many of the fans who had contributed the Kickstarter campaign to fund the album, along with musicians and journalists. Many had travelled to be a part of the event: Yorkshire was of course well-represented, but we spoke to fans from as far afield as Peterborough and Sunderland - though Winnie Lam from Hong Kong takes the title of farthest-flung fan of the night! I speak to Sarah and her family, who first got to know Philippa as members of the same church. Like many there, Sarah has followed the singer’s journey for a number of years, and believes the new album will be a tipping point for even greater things.

After a brief introduction from Philippa’s manager Andy Baker, we were passed to the capable hands of Eliot Kennedy, the producer of the album. The audience were led through a labyrinth of corridors, the numerous gold disks adorning the walls testament to the pedigree of Kennedy and his team. Packed into a hi-tech control room, he explained that the intention was to offer a glimpse into the process behind making the record as well as a preview of the music. He also showed his recognition to Philippa: "I've had the privilege of being her producer for a few years," he smiled, "but the honour of being her friend for a lot longer than that."

Kicking off with lead single Lighthouse (noticeably altered since its first airing on Songs of Praise), five tracks are played back over the studio sound system to applause from the guests. The team occasionally make eye contact with one another and grin - the pride they take in the project is clear and well-deserved. Philippa points out long-time friend and guitarist Roo Walker after his solo in Apples, and between tracks tips her hat to the musicians, some of whom are amongst the guests. There is a particularly strong reception to suggested singles Fire and Hollywood, with several guests commenting on the strength of the production.

Returning to the live room by way of the refreshments, the audience settled into their seats in anticipation of a live set from Philippa. Flanked by guitarist Roo and keys player Jim Jayawardena, she delivered four new tracks with her characteristic passion. Stripping the songs to their bare bones, the live set offered a counterpoint to the pop production offered in the album mixes. As those who saw her supporting Lionel Richie well know, it’s an area where Philippa really shines. Closing number Just a Song makes a real impression, delivered with characteristic honesty that leaves the whole room reeling.

The evening continued beyond the set with the event photographers capturing all the guests with Philippa, and guests mingle to reflect on the new material they have heard. I chatted to Matt and Adam, founders of Christian music website M-Brio, who have championed Philippa since her first album. I ask if they think the upcoming album could see Philippa catch the attention of a more mainstream audience. Adam grins. "The world's her oyster!"

By Ian Griffiths
Storm 5 Management

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