The 2012 Competition

On Friday 20th July, the Peacock Theatre in London’s West End saw universities from across the UK battle it out to become 2012’s University Gospel Choir of the Year. After the success of last year’s inaugural event, expectations were high as there were shoes that needed to be filled.

Manchester, Nottingham, Coventry, Portsmouth, Royal Holloway, City, Canterbury Christchurch and Imperial College were in the building and the atmosphere was growing fast. With all of our competitors ready with their game faces on, sound checks and rehearsals soon commenced. We then had our choirs take part in a special workshop, headed by UK gospel giant Muyiwa, fresh from his “All Around The World” tour. The result of this would be a surprise ensemble performance at the end of the night’s proceedings.

THE DAY

With spirits high and levels of anticipation and excitement rising, it was time for the doors to open to the public. With our judges – Ayo & Stephanie Oyerinde, Andrea Encinas and Mark De-Lisser, our hosts – Ashley John-Baptiste and Rachel Kerr and our surprise guests all in the house, UGCY was well underway.

The first of our surprises, Joelle Moses of BBC’s The Voice, opened the show and her powerful performance of Gary Oliver’s “I Will Trust In You” was definitely the perfect way to get the ball rolling. Our hosts then took to the stage for the first time to introduce the show, judges and get the audience excited for the night’s proceedings. Our chosen charity, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, also provided a brief insight into their amazing work, which outlined just one of the reasons why UGCY begun in 2010.

Royal Holloway were the first of our choirs to perform. Off the back of a massive year for them since winning the competition last summer, they came back strong singing one of their mash up arrangements again proving exactly why they became our UGCY 2011 champions.

Next up was VeraCity Gospel Choir of City University. They showed that strength doesn’t always come in numbers, delivering a solid performance as the smallest choir in the competition.

Nottingham’s Revival Gospel Choir was next to take the stage. As a 2011 finalist, they came back even stronger this year and delivered a fierce cover of the well-known song “Something Inside So Strong,” by Labi Siffre.

Portsmouth Gospel Choir (PGC) closed out the first half of the show with an awesome cover of Trey McLaughlin’s “In Awe Of You.” They proved that they were more than just UGCY first-timers, but very strong contenders in the competition. The judges gave their thoughts and feedback after each performance, which was certain to encourage each choir in their endeavours, as well as give the remaining choirs something to think about!

After a brief intermission, our second surprise guest, J Marie Cooper, also a finalist of BBC’s The Voice opened the second half of the show with a beautiful rendition of an original song, “Shine.”

Next up was Coventry University’s Gospel Rhythms, who delivered an extremely heartrending and emotive performance of God’s Chosen Love Medley, which left everyone inside the venue speechless.

Following this performance was Canterbury Christchurch. Their talented lead singers stunned the audience with their vocal skills, before beginning the second half of their performance which was an all singing and all dancing extravaganza, making much use of the judges feedback from UGCY 2011.

 The hosts then introduced Imperial College Gospel Choir (ICGC), a choir well known for the Afro influences in their music. After a stunning solo from their Musical Director, they soon had everyone inside clapping and moving along with them.

Manchester University’s Harmony Gospel Choir (HGC) was the final choir to take to the Peacock stage. As a 52-strong choir, they were the biggest of our 8 finalists. HGC stretched across the entire stage and hitting us with an absolute wall of sound lived up to their name beginning with an excerpt of “Agnes Dei,” by Donnie McClurkin which was then followed by the end piece of “Total Praise.” Just as the audience began to roar with applause, HGC surprised us with Israel Haughton’s “All Around” and finished off with “Imela,” an Igbo (Nigerian) word for ‘thank you.’

As the judges deliberated, the winners of the video competition were announced. We asked each of our choirs to create a short video introducing them and summarising their history, their goals, and their ethos, with each video being shown prior to the choir’s performance. After an audience vote, Coventry and Nottingham were announced as joint winners taking home £100 each.

Muyiwa was then introduced and joined the choirs on stage to lead them in an elevating mass rendition of “Joyful Joyful” from the hit film and UGCY’s inspiration “Sister Act 2.” As an added bonus, we had two very special guests from the UK gospel scene join us to perform the rap element of the song. Faith Child and Lyrical Soldier did an incredible job. Together they helped to bring the house down.

CONGRATULATIONS

After such an electrifying performance it was time for the UGCY 2012 champion to be announced. As nerves ran high, the hosts finally announced Nottingham as UGCY’s 2012 second-runner up and Coventry as first runner-up.

With everybody now on the edge of his or her seats, it was now time for the UGCY 2012 champion to be announced. As the atmosphere thickened with tension and the drum rolled, Manchester was crowned the winner of University Gospel Choir of the Year 2012 and presented with the coveted winner’s trophy.

Once the crowd’s ovation lessened (even if it was by just a small way!) Manchester HGC took centre stage once again to give the Peacock Theatre an encore performance of the dazzling arrangement that had won them the title. Such was the party atmosphere, that the UGCY team joined them on stage in a gospel azonto! It was an explosive end to what had been an incredible night.

The likes of London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) founder Bazil Meade, members of LCGC, producers from BBC’s The Voice, Songs of Praise as well as representatives from Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Barclay’s and the Spirit of London Awards (SOLA) to name just a few joined us on the night.

UGCY once again delivered on the motto to leave audiences uplifted and inspired even more so than in 2011. With so much more to come from UCGY this year, be sure to keep your eyes peeled and ears opened for exciting updates.

We would like to thank our sponsors MVLS and British Gospel Arts and everyone who helped to make this year’s show an absolute success:

  • Revelations Media UK Ltd
  • Toks Fashunu Photography
  • Charlie Kang Photography
  • Claudia Sophia Photography
  • Shine Media
  • Media Tribes
  • JC Henry
  • Nu Levites Band
  • Atimbee Cakes & Catering
  • The Abstract Portrait
  • Event on Wheels