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"Tony Backhouse is a national treasure"

Tim Finn

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About Tony Backhouse

Tony Backhouse

In the late '80s, after all the amplified bands and the attendant lugging,Tony went a more portable musical route: he founded a cappella quartet the Elevators (1985-1990), and a cappella gospel choir the Café of the Gate of Salvation in1986. He directed the choir and provided almost all their originals ongs and arrangements for 21 years, resigning in 2007. In the '90s,he co-founded (with Stuart Davis) the Sydney Acappella Association which he co-ordinated for five years. Tony's music was featured in the series of multi-cultural vocal concerts initiated by Stuart Davis and Tony at the Sydney Town Hall, called Choral Sea.

 He founded a cappella gospel choir the Honeybees and directed them for their first six years. His gospel quartet Heavenly Light Quartet formed in 1996 and released one CD in 1997. He has appeared at WOMADelaide four times, with Caféof the Gate of Salvation, Heavenly Light Quartet and national choir, Gospel Nation, and at WOMAD NZ in 2006 he ran workshops and appeared with the Jubilation Gospel choir.

He performed as singer/musical director for the first a cappella musical in Australia, Steve J. Spears' Namatjira Park (1992), and he researched and coordinated the 1993 TVNZ documentary on NZ vocal traditions, Strictly A cappella.

Tony was the recipient of the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America's 1993 Contemporary A cappella Recording Awards for Best Song and Best Soloist (Runner-up); the Café of the Gate of Salvation received Best Album (Runner-up) Award.

He has received composer commissions from the Song Company, from the Australia Council to write music for the Café of the Gate of Salvation (who released CDs in 1992,1995 and 2004) and the Sydney Children's Choir, and in 1990 he received an Australia Council International Study Grant to research Black gospel traditions in the USA.


Tony has made several research trips to the USA. He has sung solo and with Black choirs in churches in the USA, and taught and performed at the 1995 West Coast A cappella Summit, California. He has led the Café of the Gate of Salvation and the Band of Angels (WA) on research/performance tours of the USA, and directed New Orleans choir the Heralds of Christ at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Gospel Tent.


He has acted as tour leader and musical director for several gospel tours of the USA, taking participants from outside the tradition to sing and immerse themselves in the Black church culture in New Orleans, Memphis, Birmingham, Chicago and New York. Since 1987, Tony has run vocal workshops throughout Australia and New Zealand, as well as Canada, the UK, Italy and France.


He takes singing tours to Samoa, Fiji, Bali, and remote Australian areas to interact with local communities and occasionally performs solo (guitar and voice) at festivals and venues thoughout Australia. He also performs and records with pianist/composer Peter Dasent under the Blessed Relief umbrella, with Fane Flaws in No Engine and with both Peter Dasent and Fane Flaws as The Bend.

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