Illustrated banner with two women and the word devotional surrounded by stars

Past exhibition archive
16 June - 25 November 2007

Room 37a

Devotional represented an ongoing dialogue over a decade between members of the general public and the artist Sonia Boyce, about collective memory and music. In 1999, Boyce developed a workshop involving a group of women brought together to sing and recall the first record they ever bought. As a closing act to the workshop Boyce asked the group to name a black British female singer. In answering this question the Devotional series was born. From the first name nominated to the most recent, a growing number of people joined the process of adding their favoured artists to this list.

Eighteen singers are represented here with photographs from the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. These women have entertained millions during the course of their musical careers. Like the gathering of these names, Boyce’s drawing style responds organically to these performers and the photographs on display. The elaborately hand-drawn installation took over two weeks to install and was created, using carbon paper, ink and pencil.

This special installation by the artist, paid homage to the great musical tradition created within the African Diaspora following the period of the transatlantic slave trade, and highlighted the wealth of creative talent in Great Britain.

Born in 1962, Sonia Boyce is a British artist of African-Caribbean descent, living and working in London. Boyce’s earlier works include: Missionary Position 2 (1985), Tate Collection; Lovers’ Rock - wallpaper (1998), Victoria & Albert Museum Collection; Devotional (1999-2004) and Devotional II (2005), Government Art Collection.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Inspire Fellowship Programme

Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce is a British Afro-Caribbean artist, living and working in London. Her early pastel drawings and photographic collages addressed issues of race, ethnicity and contemporary urban experience, questioning racial stereotypes in the media and in day-to-day life. More recently her work has shifted to incorporate a variety of media that combine photographs, collages, films, prints, drawings, installation and sound. Sonia has worked with other artists in improvisational collaborations, bringing the audience into sharper focus as an integral part of the artwork and demonstrating how cultural differences might be articulated, mediated and enjoyed.

Honours and Tributes

Researched and compiled by Stephen Bourne

HRH Queen Elizabeth II honoured the following in her New Year’s Honours and Birthday Honours lists:

1979 Cleo Laine OBE
1994 Shirley Bassey CBE
1997 Cleo Laine DBE
2000 Shirley Bassey DBE
2001 Joan Armatrading MBE

Royal Variety Performance

The Royal Variety Performance is a gala evening held in Britain once each year, usually in a theatre in London’s West End. Comics and other entertainers perform before royalty and a television audience. The first performance took place in 1912. In 1951 Adelaide Hall became the first Black female artiste to take part.

Adelaide Hall (1951)
Winifred Atwell (1952)
Shirley Bassey (1961, 1965, 1971, 1976, 1987, 1994, 2000 and 2005)
Cleo Laine (1962, 1977 and 1980)
Elisabeth Welch (1979 and 1985)

Desert Island Discs

The popular BBC Radio 4 programme has a simple format. Each week a guest is invited to select eight records they would take to a desert island. The man behind the tropical idyll was Roy Plomley, who presented the show from 1942 to 1988. Sue Lawley replaced him and remained the presenter until 2006. Elisabeth Welch and Adelaide Hall are among the few guests to have made two appearances.

1952 Elisabeth Welch (1st appearance)

1. Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine”
2. Noel Coward’s “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart”
3. Johann Strauss’s “Emperor Waltz”
4. Ravel’s “Cat Duet”
5. Gracia de Triana’s “Rincon de Espagne” (Corner of Spain)
6. Puccini’s “In Questa Reggia” from Turandot, sung by Eva Turner
7. “La Golandrina”
8. Ivor Novello and Christopher Hassall’s “Fold Your Wings” from Glamorous Night, sung by Mary Ellis and Trefor Jones

1952 Winifred Atwell

1. “Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” sung by Fats Waller
2. “Delicado”
3. “Deep River” sung by Marian Anderson
4. “Danse Espagnola”
5. “How High the Moon”
6. “Unforgettable” sung by Nat King Cole
7. Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, 1st Movement”
8. “I’m the Guy Who Found the Last Chord” sung by Jimmy Durante

1958 Cleo Laine

1. “A Fine Romance” sung by Ella Fitzgerald
2. “Trick or Treat”
3. “Autumn in New York” sung by Billie Holiday
4. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Sonnet for Hank Cinq” performed by Duke Ellington
5. Ravel’s “La Valse”
6. “I Won’t Dance” sung by Frank Sinatra
7. “Shiny Stockings” performed by Count Basie and his Orchestra
8. Excerpt from Noel Coward’s Private Lives featuring Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward

1960 Shirley Bassey

1. “Charmaine” performed by Mantovani and his Orchestra
2. “Because of You” sung by Sammy Davis Jnr.
3. “The Chipmunk Song” performed by David Seville and the Chipmunks
4. “Lonely Town” sung by Frank Sinatra
5. “Clair de Lune” performed by Liberace
6. “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” sung by Judy Garland
7. “We’ll Keep a Welcome” sung by Harry Secombe
8. “A Foggy Day in London Town” sung by Shirley Bassey

1972 Adelaide Hall (1st appearance)

1. “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” sung by Malcolm Roberts
2. “The Lord’s Prayer” sung by Mahalia Jackson
3. “You’re a Lady” sung by Peter Skellern
4. “That Old Feeling” performed by Brian Lemon Half Dozen
5. “And This is My Beloved” sung by Moira Anderson
6. “The Great Wall of Harpenden” performed by Morecambe and Wise
7. “Yesterday When I Was Young” sung by Shirley Bassey
8. Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It” sung by Noel Coward

Book: A history of the United States Luxury: A bag of sewing needles and a lot of wool to knit and darn

1989 Joan Armatrading

1. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto
2. “That Old Black Magic” sung by Ella Fitzgerald
3. “Madame George” performed by Van Morrison
4. Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G Major
5. The Magnificent Seven theme music
6. Verdi’s Requiem
7. “I’m a Man” sung by Muddy Waters
8. Dvorak’s New World Symphony

Book: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? By Agatha Christie Luxury object: my guitar

1990 Elisabeth Welch (2nd appearance)

1. Stephen Sondheim’s “Broadway Baby” sung by Elaine Stritch
2. “April in Paris” sung by Cleo Laine
3. “Little Girl Blue” sung by Mabel Mercer
4. Noel Coward’s “A Marvellous Party” sung by Beatrice Lillie
5. Ivor Novello and Christopher Hassall’s “Waking or Sleeping” from Arc de Triomphe sung by Mary Ellis
6. “Don’t Smoke in Bed” sung by Peggy Lee
7. “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?” sung by Peter Sarstedt
8. Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” sung by Frank Sinatra

Book: Who’s Who in the Theatre Luxury object: Mama’s photograph

1991 Adelaide Hall (2nd appearance)

1. “Sophisticated Lady” performed by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
2. “Fever” sung by Peggy Lee
3. “A House is Not a Home” sung by Pearl Bailey
4. “Your Feet’s Two Big” sung by Fats Waller
5. “Bring Me Sunshine” sung by Morecambe and Wise
6. “Tea for Two” performed by Art Tatum
7. “Strollin’” sung by Flanagan and Allen
8. “Lady Be Good” sung by Ella Fitzgerald

Book: A history of The United States

Variety Club of Great Britain

The Variety Club of Great Britain’s show business awards, the Silver Hearts, were first presented in 1952. Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth were named joint Show Business Personalities of the Year in 1977, and in 1988 Elisabeth Welch was honoured with a Special Award for services to the entertainment industry. In 1994 Shirley Bassey was named Show Business Personality of the Year.

This is Your Life

Launched on BBC television in 1955, this half-hour ‘live’ show surprised a celebrity with a party of his or her friends who recount the guest’s life story. The BBC axed the show in 1964 but in 1969 Thames Television re-launched it. Eamonn Andrews hosted the show for many years, including the following programmes. In 1985, Elisabeth Welch’s guests included Adelaide Hall and Cleo Laine.

1962 Cleo Laine
1972 Shirley Bassey
1985 Elisabeth Welch


Gold Badge of Merit

Since 1975 the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) have celebrated the work of men and women in the music industry with Gold Badge of Merit awards. In 1991 they honoured Shirley Bassey and Elisabeth Welch. In 1992, at the age of 90, Adelaide Hall also received a Gold Badge of Merit. She said, “I was so proud to be acknowledged. They said, ‘You look like a Queen. You don’t look more than fifty or sixty. You look so well.’ I wore a sequin suit – different colours – it glittered. I must have been the oldest one there! I ate everything that came along.”

Ivor Novello Awards

1996 Joan Armatrading Outstanding Song Selection

Guinness Book of Records

In 2003 the Guinness Book of Records honoured Adelaide Hall with the following citation: “Adelaide Hall is the most durable recording artist having released material over eight consecutive decades. The jazz singer’s first record ‘Creole Love Call’ was recorded with Duke Ellington on 26 October 1927, and her last was made on 16 June 1991 at the Cole Porter Centennial Gala.”


The Grammy Awards (originally called the Gramophone Awards, are presented every year by the Recording Academy known as NARAS (an association of Americans professionally involved in the recorded music industry) for outstanding achievements in the recording industry. It is one of four major music awards shows held annually in the United States.

1980 Joan Armatrading nominated for Rock Vocal – Female for How Cruel
1983 Joan Armatrading nominated for Rock Vocal – Female for The Key
1985 Cleo Laine winner for Jazz Vocal – Female for Cleo at Carnegie: The 10th Anniversary Concert
1985 Sade winner for Best New Artist
1993 Sade winner for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance for No Ordinary Love
2001 Sade winner for Best Pop Vocal Album for Lovers Rock


Broadway theatre’s equivalent of the Oscar.

1986 Cleo Laine nominated for Actress in a Musical for The Mystery of Edwin Drood
1986 Elisabeth Welch nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical for Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood

Laurence Olivier Award

1985 Elisabeth Welch nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Musical Kern Goes to Hollywood