BIMM Birmingham Gospel Choir takes top prize at UGCY 2024

Wow, what an incredible evening University Gospel Choir of the Year (UGCY) 2024 was! Each choir delivered a testament to the theme of Proverbs 3:5, showing what can come from trusting in the Lord.  

One of the wonderful things about UGCY is that it isn’t just a competition, it’s a community. This was evident throughout the day in the inter-choir icebreaker activities and joint worship session. The mass choir pulled each choir member together, moving past the competition to return to the heart of why we sing gospel music: to glorify God. This makes UGCY such a special event, as everyone is working towards the same goal, regardless of which university they go to or the choir they support.  

So many incredible people were involved in putting this event together, and none of this would have been possible without them. At the heart, of course, we have the founder Lorraine Wright MBE, whose original idea for this competition (inspired by ‘Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit’) has led to us now being in the 12th edition of University Gospel Choir of the Year in partnership with AStepFWD.  

Another woman who embodies the values of UGCY is Heavilyn who – having been in UGCY with Portsmouth University Gospel Choir back in 2015 – not only directed the mass choir this year but also the first ever UGCY Anthem Choir (Melodees from Heaven) who opened the second half with their stunning medley.  

This year, we had Jason Nicholson-Porter as our incredible opening act, Rachel Kerr hosting, and a fabulous panel of judges: Anu Omideyi, Howard Francis, Karen Gibson MBE, Russell Scott and Becca Folkes.  

On top of that, for the first time ever, we had an award for the Best Band judged by David and Stephen from The Compozers, celebrating the musicians behind the choirs. Peace from Keele University Gospel Choir led their band to victory, which was well deserved after all the hard work he put in. Peace has been a fundamental part of KUGC for the last two years, helping to arrange the medleys and creating backing tracks, and it was wonderful to see his hard work recognised.  

So, on to the choirs!  

Reigning champions Kent Gospel Choir blew us away with their opening performance, mixing old and new in a beautiful fusion, which honoured the Lord at the heart. No one can deny how amazing they looked in their navy outfits, or how slick their movements were, literally leaning on God in their dance routine. Their hard work landed them third place in this year’s final.  

University of Warwick Gospel Choir gave us such beautiful blends in their medley, pushing the boundaries by coming up with their own unique harmonies.  

University of Birmingham Gospel Choir (UOB) performed next, declaring that we can trust in God who is the Alpha and Omega, smiling boldly as they sang about the Good News.  

Kings Gospel Choir, self-described as a “small but mighty” choir, gave an amazing performance of a set they only finalised in the past two weeks. The soloists in this choir really wowed us with their subtlety and range.  

Keele University Gospel Choir (KUGC) took us back to school to give us a lesson in trusting in God. As a member of KUGC myself, of course I am biased about how well I think our choir did, although these feelings were confirmed by the encouragement we received from the judges, and the fact we placed second in the competition. Our performance was such a massive improvement from last year’s UGCY final and it has been incredible to see how our choir has developed and grown in the space of twelve months. Our wonderful vocal director (and teacher) Amanda pulled us together to deliver a cohesive, storytelling medley that reflected the journey of our choir in coming to UGCY and needing to trust that God would work it out.  

Personally, I am so grateful that God allowed me to stand rather than sit for this UGCY medley, and was overwhelmed by the response I received from the judges for dancing with my stick. It is only through prayer and the support of my fellow choir members that I had the ability and confidence to do so, and having this recognised and described as inspirational by the esteemed judges was an unbelievable experience for me.  

BIMM Birmingham Gospel Choir’s performance left no doubt about the incredible musical talent they had on display. Becca Folkes rightly described this performance as a radio cut, something almost impossible to achieve on stage. Furthermore, they wrote their own song for the end of their medley, declaring that joy will come in the morning – or, in their case, at the end of the night when they won first place.  

Durham Gospel Choir gave a stunning close to the show, with beautiful tonal harmonies and arrangements, including some impressive acapella work that set them apart from the rest of the choirs.  

The mass choir performance was the perfect way to end the night, with all the choir members coming together to sing about the joy the Lord has given us – a joy that was palpable on the stage and in the audience. I pray that as we return to university or daily life, we will not forget the joy and hope we experienced so vividly throughout this event, nor the message to trust in God.  

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13  

Photos courtesy of Ritzy Pictures

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