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Gospel competition raises the bar

WELL DONE: Maxine Brooks, director of Birmingham Community Gospel Choir takes a bow after their performance

THE FINEST gospel singers in the land raised the roof at Birmingham Town Hall during a recording of BBC’s Songs of Praise competition to find the Gospel Choir of the Year 2013.

The packed audience’s spirits soared as they clapped and sang along to uplifting performances from six choirs who reached the finals, but the winner will be announced on Sunday October 13.

The celebrity judges who included singer, songwriter and actress Ruby Turner and Bazil Meade, London Community Gospel Choir supremo, admitted they were ‘blown away’ by the high calibre of the performances.

“If it doesn’t lift you, it’s not gospel,” said Turner. “But these choirs have connected with us and harnessed that raw emotion unique to gospel music. They have been an absolute knockout.”

The two 35-minute programmes will be broadcast on October 6 and 13 and will be presented by 1980s singing star and vocal coach David Grant, whose wife Carrie was also a judge in the competition.

Grant, who has coached contestants on Pop Idol and BBC’s Fame Academy, said: “We’ve heard some amazing choirs tonight which has made the judges’ job very difficult.

“For a lot of people now, the real soul music is gospel music. It has a raw emotion and there’s an incredible level of talent out there that never gets exposed.

“This is why this competition is so important – to showcase this talent on one of terrestrial TV’s most watched programmes. The winning choir will have an unrivalled springboard to international recognition.”

David Taviner, Songs of Praise series editor, congratulated Birmingham for providing two of the six finalist choirs.

TOUGH JOB: Competition judges Carrie Grant (top), Bazil Meade and Ruby Turner

“The sheer quality of these two choirs meant that they had to be in the final,” said Taviner, who added that it was the first time in the programme’s 52-year history that a recording had been made in the city.

This was music to the ears of Birmingham’s Community Gospel Choir, led by Maxine Brooks, a practising nurse and pastor at the House of the Lord UK in Nechells, Birmingham.


Maxine’s choir, who sang her specially arranged versions of Guide Me O Thy Great Jevovah and What a Friend We Have in Jesus, said: “Gospel is all about spreading the good news and that is what we love to do.”

They will be back at Birmingham Town Hall on November 5 in a ‘gospel goes charity’ fundraising event.
Birmingham’s second choir, the Town Hall Gospel Choir, led by Colin Anderson, said they found the event less nerve-wracking as they were singing on home ground.

Anderson, who lives in south London, but spends half the year in Birmingham, said: “The relationship and the camaraderie we have as a choir goes far beyond our singing.”

There were powerful performances from London-based Faith Works, led by Marcia McPherson, who said her choir’s first song Pass Me Not O Gentle Saviour was especially poignant for her as it helped her to come to terms with her mother’s sudden death.

Dagenham-based choir Fountain of Praise, who are all from the Church of Pentecost UK, sang two classic favourites The Old Rugged Cross and Blessed Assurance. Their director Daniel Akakpo, who is also a church elder, said: “To win this competition would mean the world to us. We pray together and for one another, and we socialise. We are a family.”

Hope Community Gospel Choir, from Nottingham, gave a stirring performance of Wade in the Water and Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Preston-based One Voice Gospel Choir nearly missed the competition as they had to take a diversion after a fatal accident closed the M6. They arrived with barely time to rehearse, but arrived to be the ‘surprise of the night’ according to judge Bazil Meade.

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