After plenty of anticipation the annual University Gospel Choir of the Year competition came back around on Saturday 5th March, for its 6th show – and it was worth the wait! You never really know what each choir is going to bring to the table and this year’s programme was packed with plenty of surprises, lots of dancing, big vocals and even a bit of rapping! All the participating choirs did very well (and dressed very well!).
Props to the founder Lorraine Wright and her team for once again pulling off a great event, from the choice of guest artists and choir line-up right down to the theme – this year 2016 was dubbed #TheThankfulYear. Definitely the perfect choice of theme as it really brought out the worshippers in the choirs, even more so than last year, and created a fantastic atmosphere of worship to God.
Hosted by MOBO-Award winner Rachel Kerr and founder of award winning gospel group ‘Raymond & Co’, Isaiah Raymond, the event held in the 3000-seat capacity, Hippodrome in Golders Green was not lacking in attendance as many came from far and wide to support their friends, family and university choirs. Judging the competition was Mark De-Lisser (vocal coach and founder of ACM Gospel Choir), Ayo Oderinde (DJ/musician/producer AKA – Ayce ‘The Beat Junkie’) and new judge Anu Omideyi (singer/song-writer/producer and choir director of The Reapers Choir).
The night kicked off with a powerful ministration from Byron Cage’s ‘I Will Bless The Lord’ of Time 2 Shine and The Voice UK’s Aaron Hill with the support of Uplifted Voices Choir and house band. This was followed by performances from the 8 finalists which included: Canterbury Christ Church Gospel Choir, DMU Gospel Choir, Portsmouth Gospel Choir, MDX Gospel Choir, ACCF Southampton, DMU Student Choir, Coventry University Gospel Rhythms and defending their 1st place from UGCY 2015, Leicester University Voices (LUV).
It must be said that all the choir directors did an amazing job at leading the choirs! Having seen the efforts of our own director, I believe that they all worked just as hard to bring out the best of everybody in their choirs; the passion could be seen as they led on stage. Job well done by all the musicians too; the bands really helped bring the sets to life.
Canterbury Christ Church brought a song of worship and a song of praise with some powerful vocals and vibrant soloists. Just seeing the way they enjoyed themselves as they sang about the gospel, showed their authenticity and passion. Singing songs such as ‘More Than Anything’ by Lamar Campbell and ‘Great Is Your Love’ by The Walls Group was Portsmouth Gospel Choir and ACCF Southampton respectively, bringing a real atmosphere of worship. First time finalists MDX Gospel Choir also brought that worship and cranked up their energy when it was time to praise.
It would be an understatement to say that Leicester was represented at UGCY – there were not only 1 or 2 choirs from Leicester but 3! And there had been a lot of buzz surrounding this, more so over the fact that 2 of them were from
De Montfort University.
As usual at UGCY, no two choirs were the same and even though some had similar song choices, everyone brought their own style and flavour. Defending Champions, Leicester University Voices, came back with even more energy than they had last year, powerful soloists, a little praise break and even a bit of rapping! DMU Student Choir also returned to the finals for the second year running despite only being a fairly new choir, and showed much improvement since UGCY 2015 coupled with bolder song choices such as ‘Total Praise’ and ‘Let Everything That Hath Breath’ along with powerful vocals. Some say it was a Midlands take over as Coventry University Gospel Rhythms also represented and brought some beautiful worship, especially with Travis Greene’s ‘Made A Way’ and Hezekiah Walker’s ‘Grateful’.
Of course, all the choirs did well in expressing ‘thankfulness’ with their individual sets and arrangements of songs, but when it came to crunch time there could only be one winner…
Coming in the position of 2nd runner up was Canterbury Christ Church Gospel Choir. 1st runner up went to last year’s winner, Leicester University Voices and finally, stealing the title of University Gospel Choir of the Year 2016 was first time finalists, DMU Gospel Choir! A well-deserved win following standing ovations from the judges and the audience and everyone left in awe after the delivery of their set, which was excellent and showed a strong passion for the Lord and what they do! They set the bar very high with their range of powerhouse soloists, diverse song choices of gospel, contemporary and African flavours, energy, enjoyment and dance ministration. Not only did they win the title but they also managed to bag the prize for the most viewed promo introductory video – double victory!
The night ended with a fun celebration of praise and dancing just before the winners of UGCY 2016 were announced. All the finalist joined together for a mass choir song led by founder and front man of Volney Morgan & New-Ye. Volney Morgan himself ushered the choirs into a time of exuberant praise with one of their own songs, ‘After All’. It was the perfect song choice to close the night because although we were in a competition, all choirs were unified and focused on celebrating and praising God! Volney also gave a word on the importance of having a relationship with God, reminding everyone about having a heart of worship – God was glorified.
There was also an announcement that the grand finale of UGCY Africa – Ghana edition would be taking place this following weekend, on Sunday 13th March!
Following the success of the show in the UK, surely UGCY Africa will be a success too and there will be bigger things to come! With #UGCY2016 posts flooding the TL and other social media, even days after the event, it can be said that everyone clearly enjoyed it! UGCY continues to prove itself a great platform for University Gospel Choirs across the UK to showcase and develop their talents, it is definitely going to be a huge contributor to the growing UK Gospel scene…
Well done to the UGCY team, they really delivered. Looking forward to even greater things from UGCY in the future!
Event review by Sharon Tembo
DMU Student Choir
Editors Note: Sharon is also a chart topping artist in the UK Christian Chart for January 2016