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Everything We Know About Kanye West’s Sunday Service

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Back in January, Kim Kardashian-West started sharing Instagram stories of Kanye West staging gospel choir performances of his songs. These performances were often in rooms lit to suggest that a James Turrell glow is the modern-day equivalent of a Catholic rose window. (West is an avowed Turrell devotee.)

Since then, West’s so-called Sunday Services have become one of Hollywood’s most mysterious and strange events. Is it a party? A new kind of church? One of those “normal” things celebrities do that cannot ever seem normal to the rest of the world? Rick Rubin, Courtney Love, Kid Cudi, and Katy Perry have all attended, and the celebrity and celebrity-adjacent attendees alike have shared images and videos from the services, which are splashed every Monday across the Daily Mail’s website. A Montreal-based student named Wilhens Norvil has collected most of this content on the Instagram account @kanyessundayservice.

This coming Sunday, West will headline Coachella with his Sunday Service. Unlike the usual Sunday Service, it will be open to the public and, presumably, will not require attendees to sign an NDA. But there will obviously be a few surprises: merch, at least, and maybe even a few new songs.

It’s pretty weird that two of pop culture’s most prominent iconoclasts have ended up in two of the most establishment, conservative fields in our country: something approaching religion, for West, and law, for his wife. But of course, West never does anything the way you’d expect him to.

I reached out to a handful of choir members as well as people who appear to help organize the event, who kindly informed me they couldn’t speak to me because they had signed non-disclosure agreements. But I spoke to Norvil—who hasn’t attended a service, but is sort of the project’s unofficial curator or amateur scholar—and did my own social media digging. Here’s what we know about Kanye’s Sunday Services.

The Basics

The service has been held every Sunday afternoon in Calabasas since January 6, per a Twitter announcement from Kim Kardashian-West. It is invitation-only. The location varies every week, and is allegedly selected by West’s assistants. “One guy named Nico Ballesteros seems to do the scouting,” Norvil says. Ballesteros is something like West’s personal videographer. He selects the location “one to three days before the service is done. They don’t like to stay at the same place a lot, because people might figure where it is.” Over the past month, most of the services have been outside, in spots in the remote hills of Calabasas that bear an eerie resemblance to a Microsoft screensaver. The spaces, including the interiors, are designed by TrasK House, a stage design firm that produces a number of West’s live shows.

The services appear to be produced by a social media manager named James Tyler Fazio, who wrote about his experience on LinkedIn (?!), and who serves as the primary contact for attendees and the choir.

The concert experience includes the approach to the service’s remote location: in one post, you can see West walking up a palm tree-lined path with Rick Rubin, the architect Francis Kere, and others last week, for example. This is where most of the paparazzi images seem to come from; who knows who’s tipping them off.

It’s Not a Church—It’s a Concert

The run of show is pretty much what you see on Instagram. This is not a full-fledged church service, with gospel readings or sermons. Instead, the gospel choir sings for about sixty minutes. It is decidedly a concert—not the “new church” people have speculated about. West sometimes speaks in between the songs, but this is more in keeping with the tradition of gospel choir concerts (or Kanye’s signature extemporizing) than a sermon per se.

Everyone involved is insistent that it is not a church. The World Famous Tony Williams, who is West’s cousin and often sings on his records, recently did an interview on Instagram live while getting a new tattoo (I know!!!) explaining the Sunday Services, and said that “we don’t even pass a plate,” meaning the offering plate traditionally passed during Christian church services. The show’s music director—more on him below—has been similarly resolute, saying that people “see it’s on Sunday morning. They think, ‘Oh, he’s starting a church.’ But you can’t just call it that.” But he added that for West, “in his mind, metaphorically speaking, it is a church.”

https://www.gq.com/story/kanye-west-sunday-services

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