Our Story

Heaven Bent emerged out of an Auckland singing workshop led by a cappella ‘gospel guru’ Tony Backhouse in 1996.  Inspired by the music, a group of participants decided to sing together on a regular basis. This group was eventually to form Heaven Bent.
The choir began to perform, encouraged by enthusiastic responses to early gigs at the Alleluyah Café and other venues. The exacting work of preparing for performances did not diminish the experience of singing “just for the joy of it”.
Over the years some very talented musicians have led us and we pay tribute to: Nick Prater, Louise Haywood, Rick Bryant, Jeni Little and Max Maxwell.

Under our current musical director, Jill Haywood, our focus on African American gospel music remains, while we continue to expand our repertoire and fine-tune our sound to include African, Maori and Pacific sacred songs, along with some of Phil May’s contemporary arrangements. Over the years Heaven Bent has sung at a huge variety of venues and events and the choir warmly supports a number of charity functions and fundraisers.
singers pic

Heaven Bent performance highlights include:


Opening for The Heavenly Lights Quartet, a Sydney-based gospel group formed by Tony Backhouse (2012)

Celebrating Heaven Bent’s 15th Birthday with guest performer Tony Backhouse at Holy Trinity Church, Devonport (2011)

Heaven Bent with A Taste of Africa, Liberty Church, Avondale (2009/2010)

Heaven Bent with guest artist Tony Backhouse, Church of the Holy Sepulchre,Khyber Pass(2009)

“New Gospel Blues” featuring commissioned works by Stephen Matthews, All Saints Church, Ponsonby (2008)

Joint concert with award-winning Hatea Kapa Haka group at Holy Sepulchre Church, Khyber Pass 2007

International Blues Festival, Sky City, Auckland (2007)

With the Whiffenpoofs of Yale University (2005, 2003)

With Main Street Singers from Los Altos, California (2002)

African Rhythm & Gospel Spectacular with Tamani African Drummers

Apra Silver Scroll Awards, singing with Tony Backhouse and Jenny Morris

Corporate gig for IAG NZ Ltd, Auckland War Memorial Museum (2009)

Evening of Song, Clevedon Bar and Café (2009 and 2010)

Regular performances at Alleluya Café, St Kevin’s Arcade, Karangahape Rd


Auckland Anniversary Day Concert “Music in the Park”,Auckland Domain (2004)

The Auckland Festival AK05 and AK03

Rotorua A Cappella Festival (2003)

St. Colomba Choral Festival (2000)

Grey Lynn Festivals ((2000 and 1999)

Sweetwaters Revival Festival (1999)

Hamilton Gardens Summer Festival

WOMAD, Auckland 1999

Charity concerts

Annual thanksgiving services for the National Transplant Donor Association, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell, (1998 – )

Christchurch Earthquake Relief Concert (May 2011)

Child Cancer Charity Fundraiser, North Shore (2008)

Thanksgiving and Blessing of the Animals, SPCA, St. Matthews-in-the-city (2006-2011)

Trade Aid Concert, Botany Town Centre (2005)

Tsunami Relief Concert (2005)

Fundraising concert for the children of East Timor (1999)

Television appearances

Praise Be, TV One, (2008, 2005, 2003)

Documentary “The Waiting List” (2004)

The Mika Show (2003)

Other events:

Rugby World Cup Fan Trail (October 2011)

The Edge: Auckland City Council’s Pick and Mix Series (2010)

Waitangi Day service in the Treaty Grounds and concert in Paihia, with Kapa Haka champions Hatea (2007)

Community Day celebrating restoration of Glen Eden Railway Station (2001)

Pridelands Promotion,AucklandZoo

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