MUSIC INTERVIEW: ‘A wonderful evening of songs and storytelling’

Philippa Hanna performs during her Speed of Light Tour concert at Spalding Baptist Church.  Photo supplied.
Philippa Hanna performs during her Speed of Light Tour concert at Spalding Baptist Church. Photo supplied.
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Philippa Hanna - Speed of Light Tour at Spalding Baptist Church

When award-winning Christian singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna finished her encore number at Spalding Baptist Church last Thursday, seven words summed the night up.

Ben Clarke, co-organiser of the Speed of Light Tour concert in Spalding, described it as “a wonderful evening of songs and storytelling”.

Just days before she was named Best Female Artist at the Eden Awards 2017, organised by UK Christian books and music retailer Eden, Philippa charmed her audience with an access-all-areas account of her life and faith.

Interspersed with songs spanning ten years as a recording artist, Philippa and husband Joel Cana (of Sheffield band The Gentlemen) were as unconcerned about promoting her fourth full-length album, Speed of Light, as you could get.

Before the concert, South Yorkshire-based Philippa said: “We’ve been doing these types of local church concerts in tandem with the big, mainstream venues arena shows for a long time.

I’m living a life that feels very full of purpose and one which I never imagined when I was going through a very difficult time in my life

Singer-songwriter Philippa Hanna

“It provides a place where I can meet people who are going through things and be in an environment that’s a safe place where they can meet people in a more intimate setting.

“It’s not possible to hide the real you, most times, but God doesn’t love me because I’m perfect or I behave perfectly, but because I’m His.”

Just three of the songs (the Katy Perry-like Arrow, Speed of Light itself and Perfectly) came from the album as Philippa seemed set on sending a far deeper message.

She said: “One of the main reasons why I like to tour and tell my story is because finding contentment in life has been really difficult.

“I became a Christian through meeting some people who had helped me through a very difficult time.

“You don’t just belive because someone else tells you to believe, but it was at that point when I felt as if I’d come home.

“Becoming a Christian did divide my family a little bit because whilst my mum was a believer, not a churchgoer, my dad wasn’t.

“They thought I’d been brainwashed by this passionate youth movement until they began to see the fruit in my life and it’s been an interesting process to look back on as they realised it wasn’t a phase.

“My parents started to see this good fruit grow out of my life, I was a bit more balanced and they also realised that this group of people who had come into my life had helped me see the bigger picture.

“But now I’m living a life that feels very full of purpose which I never imagined when I was struggling with mental health issues.”

The songs, from the country-influenced Off the Wagon and Lighthouse, to the autobiographical Raggedy Doll and Happy In My Skin, were secondary to Philippa’s greater mission of showing her audience that “I’m just like you”.

She said: “I thank God for the opportunity to perform alongside Little Mix because I feel like my job is mission-centred, not just to the audience but the people around us as well.

“It’s a great opportunity to show some love to the sound engineers and to be an example to others as well.

“On the stage, it doesn’t necessarily feel terrifying to be out in front of folk outside of church.

“But in some ways, there’s a battle with what guides you inside of church because the spiritual battlefield is everywhere.”

The acoustic and percussion-only concert confirmed that Philippa’s vocals sound remarkably similar to The Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs.

But the concert was much more memorable than that, with time too for Philippa to explain her support for Christian charity Compassion UK which invites people to sponsor children in poverty-stricken countries.

Philippa said: “A record producer in London told me I was just too ordinary for the music industry.

“I was too much of the ‘girl next door’ and ‘your face is the problem’.

“I did everything I could to change the problem but when I found faith, I was able to find this amazing, new peace and my life had a plan.

“Both myself and Joel have had personal challenges that have humbled us and we’ve become so grateful for what God has provided to keep us grounded.

“I hope that everyone who came to Spalding Baptist Church was blessed and encouraged by my story, message and songs.”

Review and interview by Winston Brown