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Six choirs to battle for BBC songs of praise title

JUDGING PANEL: Sharon D. Clarke (left), Muyiwa Olarewaju and Carrie Grant

TONIGHT SEES the screening of BBC TV’s Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition.

Six leading amateur choirs can be seen giving the performances of their life at London’s Hackney Empire in their quest to become crowned champions.

This year’s competition attracted more entries than ever before and the standard of singing has reached new heights.

The show’s executive producer Dave Stanford said: “BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition is now in its third year and it continues to grow in popularity. This year’s event comes from the Hackney Empire and is very exciting as six incredible choirs will compete for the coveted title.”

“It is apparent from all those involved how much gospel music can really enhance people’s lives. From leafy Surrey to inner-city Birmingham, the music’s infectious and inspirational qualities are abundantly evident. Although all those involved are amateurs, I think the audience will be astounded by the brilliance of all their performances.”

The show is hosted by David Grant, alongside Connie Fisher, who gets the backstage reactions from the choirs after each of their performances. The individuals given the task of choosing the winning choir are: Olivier Award winning West End star Sharon D. Clarke, TV presenter and vocal coach Carrie Grant, and gospel singer-songwriter Muyiwa Olarewaju.

The choirs taking part in this year’s competition are from across the UK. They are:
The Godalming Community Gospel Choir, from Surrey. It was founded by Emma Sue Prince when she moved from London. It now has 100 members (though 31 people performed at the Hackney Empire) and a waiting list of people wishing to join.

IN HARMONY: The Emmanu’-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy choir from Leicester in action

London-based choir Get Gospel is the smallest choir in the competition with just six singers. They are led by Jules Rendell and rehearse in her flat in south London.

The BIG Sing: Gospel Voices is based in central London and comprise singers ranging in age from 23-60 and nationalities from around the world. They have grown from eight members to a 30-strong choir of singers who want to explore singing that little bit further.

The Reading Community Gospel Choir is led by Choir Director Colin Anderson. They were formed in 2007 on the back of a community project for Black History Month. The Reading Community Gospel Choir is a mix of ages, abilities, ethnic backgrounds and cultures.

The Birmingham Community Gospel Choir featured in the final three years ago, when the competition was first staged at Birmingham Town Hall. Maxine Brooks, the musical director, founded the choir in 2005. This year marks their 10th anniversary.

The Emmanu’-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy is a church-based choir from Leicester. They rehearse at De Montfort University, and include some students among their members.

This year’s competition promises to be a musical feast, and as far as Muyiwa Olarewaju is concerned, the competition is great news for gospel. “It’s a good thing because it brings awareness and shines a national spotlight on the many great developments happening in the UK gospel scene. Although this competition is about choirs it sheds light on UK gospel as a whole, as well as bringing to the fore the stories of those who perform the music and their own unique journeys.”

The BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year will be broadcast on BBC 1 Songs of Praise on August 30 and September 6.

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