A gospel trio from Melbourne was dumped last week from one of Australia’s most popular TV singing competition, due to reservations about singing particular styles of music. But He Planned Us is not dwelling upon the negative reaction it received from commentators and fans of The Voice.

“Going into the show, we didn’t just plan to sing gospel,” explains one of the group’s three singers, Celina Talo Mo’unga. “They also knew we were prepared to sing secular music that had strong positive messages such as Where Is The Love by Black Eyed Peas, The Climb by Miley Cyrus, Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.”

Celina’s sister Crystal continues: “As a group, He Planned Us sing gospel music and songs with a positive message.”

“Just for a gospel group to be asked to go on The Voice was an honour for us.” – Shari Talo-Leniu

Selected to be part of “Team Kelly” – a group of Voice contestants coached by Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland – He Planned Us caused a stir when it raised concerns about performing soul classic Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Uncomfortable with the song choice as it seemed to be steering them from their preferred style, He Planned Us and Rowland awkwardly negotiated the trio singing the song. But the impression of being difficult to work with caused Rowland to drop He Planned Us from The Voice.

“The experience was amazing as it was the first time we had ever been involved in something like this,” says Shari Talo-Leniu, cousin of the Talo Mo’unga sisters. “But we do have mixed feelings about it. We were assured from the start of the show that we would be allowed to stay true to who we are as artists; in that sense, we enjoyed the experience.”

“Just for a gospel group to be asked to go on The Voice was an honour for us; to share our artistry and who we are and our message, alongside other artists.

“I’m sure you’ve seen the backlash from the crowd and even those that have watched the show, but The Voice really did welcome us and were good to us.”

“We’re going towards having a huge impact worldwide, not just here in Australia.” – Celina Talo Mo’unga

The three members of He Planned Us are youth ministers at Gen12 Church, a creative arts church in the Melbourne suburb of Cranbourne. Started in 2012 out of a Bible study meeting in a loungeroom, Gen12 has been the stage from which He Planned Us has started to seek bigger audiences. The trio is committed to the Christian standards they have set for itself and doesn’t want to compromise the music or gospel message it is eager to uphold.

“To be persecuted for Jesus is an honour and we’ve always known that,” responds Shari to how He Planned Us feels about any negative reaction it received from The Voice. “It’s an honour to do this for God.”

What He Planned Us plans to do next involves local youth and global musical impact. “As youth leaders, we hope we will be able to reach out to more young people and troubled youth – we definitely have a heart for that – through our music,” says Celina. “As well as teaching them that they can stand for something good – and bringing them to the Kingdom of God.

As for music, He Planned Us maintains that Christian artists can survive and make a splash in the mainstream. “We’re going towards having a huge impact worldwide, not just here in Australia,” says Celina. “We want our message to really go out and help people. That’s what we’re about: helping people through positive music and the gospel.”

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