About SHARON RILEY
For close to two decades Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale has established itself as Canada’s premier gospel group. Their name speaks volumes about a journey which has been characterized by struggle, longevity, and untold blessings-the stuff of unshakable faith. In the aftermath of a terrible car accident in 1990, Sharon Riley was left to reevaluate her life. …”It was devastating. I woke up in the hospital, and it was a total miracle of God that I even survived,” she said. “I was totally unable to walk. Both legs were severely damaged. I had to learn to sit up, remain sitting, stand up and eventually walk again.”
Although she was physically broken, Sharon’s spirit and her faith would not be diminished. While still recovering, she began to take part in a Toronto-based gospel ensemble that would eventually become known as Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale. “The core group was a mixture of friends I’d worked with before, and other talented people who heard about the choir and wanted to participate,” said Sharon. Still recovering from her accident, Sharon drew strength from the group and she was genuinely honoured by their willingness to look past her disability: “I started the group when I couldn’t even walk and watched the evolution over the years into a successful group.”
Of course this evolution was not an overnight process, and much like Sharon’s recovery, it has been a steady progression. From those initial days with Sharon in a wheelchair, until the present day where she can be seen exuberantly sashaying across the stage aided only by a cane, Faith Chorale has seen its share of success and change.
The milestone of being Canada’s first gospel group to sign an international contract is amplified by the long list of awards and achievements the choir has amassed in over a decade of groundbreaking work. It has graced both the big screen and small screen, appearing in the blockbuster film The Blues Brothers 2000 and HBO’s Light to the Power of Two. Working alongside Paul Schaffer, Sharon co-arranged the soundtrack “John The Revelator” for The Blues Brothers 2000, and she along with the choir appeared on the Grammy Award-nominated soundtrack alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu, James Brown and Eric Clapton.
Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale also made a monumental appearance at the 1999 Grammy Awards, where it provided choral support to “Shenandoah”, the lead single from the project Long Journey Home. The album was recorded by the acclaimed Celtic sensation The Chieftains. The work of Faith Chorale, along with Van Morrison, garnered a nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Song. Riding high on the success of its Grammy appearance, Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale would receive a Juno Award for Best Gospel Album in that very same year.
But what is success or evolution without change? Original members have left, new members have joined, and a new youthful pulse has been added to the group. Founding members have grown older, but after 19 years their enthusiasm has not diminished. “I believe there’s many more years for Faith Chorale. It’s not over; it’s just the beginning,” says one long-time choir member. In the face of change one thing remains the same: Faith Chorale’s foundation. “I felt that I had gotten to the point when my foundation had crumbled, but I felt that God reminded me that He was my foundation,” says Sharon. On September 30, 2006 Sharon received the “COURAGE” Award from the Canada’s acclaimed MAJA Awards for her courage in continuing on even the face of a life changing accident.
With God as its foundation and Sharon as its rock, Faith Chorale will continue to affect and change lives with through their music. The great achievements and longevity of this group has solidified itself as a unique Canadian talent, with a new perspective and vibrant music Sharon Riley & Faith Chorale’s journey is just beginning.