BGT tour slot for Hanna after Norfolk date
Christian musician and songwriter, Philippa Hanna, has wowed international audiences and appeared at the O2 with Lionel Richie but in November she took centre stage at Mulbarton Village Hall before embarking on a whirlwind tour with Britain’s Got Talent winners, Collabro, in the New Year. Sandie Shirley reports.
Pretty, blonde and talented, the thoroughly modern lass from Sheffield is stirring hearts and souls with her unique musical talent that flows out of her love for her creator who has taken her from heartbreak to the sounding gate.
Philippa’s songs are a harvest of restorative joy telling out her turnaround from a depressed adolescent who watched TV and took Prozac and later escaped from a difficult relationship.
“She says: “It is never too late to turn everything around after failure and difficulty and start again - my life is unrecognisable from a decade ago.”
Her resounding message of hope is sown into every composition after receiving a dramatic shift in her circumstances when she placed her life in her maker’s hand. He has healed her heart, made her bold and taken her into arenas of influence that she could only have dreamed about. It has included authoring her life story and becoming an advocate for Compassion UK, travelling to the poorest hemisphere of the world to help alleviate suffering.
As she sings to audiences, she says: “I can feel God’s love and affection and how he dotes on us for we are all beautifully and wonderfully made and God’s workmanship.”
Her four albums, tours and book Following the Breadcrumbs – charting her journey from darkness to light - are now impacting the generations. They give hope to broken women and turn grown men to tears particularly when she sings one of her favourite songs – Raggedy Doll - which took barely an hour to compose. “Whenever I play it there’s a crazy reaction as its simplicity awakens something of the child within us. Once I owned a doll that lost all its hair but it was my favourite toy; the song is really a metaphor about how God loves us warts and all.”
Her life-changing compositions reveal her former struggles. Beginning secondary school she was lonely and adrift, knowing none of her peers. “I used to dread school – the pressures of wearing the right shoes and getting my hair right. I found school difficult socially and academically and I felt like the odd one out - a bit awkward and not perfect. I put on an attitude and felt out of my depth and rebelled before knuckling down in the fifth year, scraping the qualifications needed to study pop music at college.”
But when news of the outbreak of the fatal CJD disease hit the media, Philippa was gripped with fear and anxiety about her health which led to depression and anti-depressants. “I dropped out of college at 16 or 17 afraid of life and I was not certain that I would reach adulthood. When the medication kicked-in I stopped taking it. I was convinced it was not the answer, knowing I had to address what was in me. I auditioned for girl bands, concerts – anything I could – but my confidence was knocked severely when there were no openings.”
At 18 she began song writing for someone else and was “trapped” in a two-year, fruitless relationship that ended in tears. Philippa was searching for life’s answers when she met a new friend who had recently found his Saviour.
“I saw something in him that I had not seen in anyone else. He had trouble in his life but he was living with peace and freedom. When I met his church friends, I saw the same thing, thinking maybe Jesus and this freedom is the answer.
“Eventually I felt my heart melt while singing songs about Jesus. I needed to be found and rescued and in my heart I asked that if God was real he would get through to me and give me a new life.”
Philippa’s difficulties began to change. “I found I was not helpless any more. Tiny bits of God’s plan followed as he put people and scriptures in my path. Initially my music represented heartache and disappointment and that I was a failure and a loser. I was prepared to give it up but I saw that God created me with musical talent.
“I knew I should be a songwriter so I let him move me into church worship which reawakened my talent where I was wrapped around by a loving community who loved my songs. It was the first time I was encouraged apart from my family and the odd fan. My singing emerged as my voice changed as though I was a bird released from a cage and I took up the guitar.
“The songs are a way of storytelling - denoting the little milestones in my life of self-esteem, family and marriage. A lot of healing has come from being married to a pastor’s son who is the ultimate gentleman, showing me how a woman should be treated.”
Philippa is working on her new album for next spring that will continue to tell her story of struggle, triumph and God’s goodness. She will be touring the country from January 26 – March 8 next year with the 2014 Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro, sharing her music with millions. “I love people – everyone’s on a journey and I am very respectful of that,” says Philippa.