EVENT REVIEW: Relive the electrifying energy of UGCY 2024 on YouTube

Wow! What an event! Months of practice from the seven choirs culminated in the grand finale back in March at the beautiful Oasis House in Croydon a venue befitting of hosting the prestigious University Gospel Choir of the Year 2024 – coined as the X Factor of the UK Gospel scene.

From the exuberant choir uniforms to the locked-in bands and from the wide range of vendors, to the expert opinions of the judges – the UGCY 2024 had it all. 

To put it simply, above all, God was glorified and if you weren’t in the house you missed out.

Although doors opened at 5:30pm, the choirs had already set up shop in the venue many hours prior, repeatedly going over their performances. Hopeful that they had a winning formula, they practiced and they prayed and they practiced some more.

Fast forward to the main event. With the auditorium starting to fill up, Jason Nicholson Porter took to the stage. With a perfect introduction to the night, he served the audience with the full range of vocals. I would have been satisfied if the show ended after his performance. It’s only a matter of time before the world finds out about this gem. 

We were then introduced to this year’s host Rachel Kerr, British singer, songwriter, celebrity vocal coach and entrepreneur with a MOBO Award to her name. Kerr then introduced this year’s judges. We had:

Howard Francis – one of the UK’s top keyboard players and gospel songwriters

Anu Omideyi – choir director for Repress all-female choir and plays a key role in Liverpool Gospel Music Festival.

Russell Scott – founder and producer for UK Choir Festival.

Karen Gibson MBE – conductor of The Kingdom Choir, best known for leading the choir at the royal wedding

Becca Folkes – multi-award-winning singer and songwriter and vocal powerhouse.

For the first time ever, the bands were judged, with Stephen Asamoah Duah and David Melodee from the Compozers who have performed at the biggest arenas and know what it takes to be a successful band.

The 2024 show kicked off with last year’s winners Kent University determined to retain their crown. They brought clean transitions, in-sync choreography and the vibe by ‘leaning’ with it. A brilliant performance by KGC who put themselves in contention for the coveted 1st place. Overall a great way to open the night.

Following Kent was the University of Birmingham choir who really blessed the Lord from the depths of their souls. A favourite highlight of mine was the animated choir director whose passion shined through. 

After Kent, Kings College London took the stage and to quote Judge Anu “when you’re having fun, we’re having fun”. The audience was certainly treated to a fun performance, consisting of a spoken word segment, strong soloists and an all-round strong performance from KCL. Despite being small in numbers compared to the other choirs, KCL served up a mighty sound.

Next up was Warwick Gospel Choir who started nervously but improved as they became more comfortable and confident. They were encouraged to push boundaries and can be proud of their performance in this arena. It was a great way to build on last year’s performance. 

After Warwick was a well-deserved break which presented a chance to network and explore the vendors. Three jollof rice vendors was a dream for some, but would have been the worst nightmare for the indecisive person. The vendors had something for everyone and added to a great night.

After the break, the competition recommenced and we were treated to a special performance from the Anthem Choir. Led by Heavilyn and accompanied by rapper Suavo, the audience received a sneak peek to ‘Messiah’, the UGCY theme. After their performance, I definitely want to be like thee. The Anthem Choir were definitely one of the highlights of my night.

After the Anthem Choir, the competition continued with Keele Gospel Choir bringing the ENERGY. Matching in red, they made us want to ‘praise the Lord for the rest of our days‘. A special shout out to their band who were awarded the best band on the night as they had Stephen and David leaving their seats in admiration. The entire choir received a deserved standing ovation, but a special shout-out must be made to choir member Miriam. This is a woman who moved like she had no hindrances but was in a wheelchair prior to the event. A living testimony, a woman of faith and a true inspiration who brought the judges and many in the auditorium to tears.

After the Keele was BIMM Birmingham Gospel Choir, who for me probably served the best vocals on the night. They gave us a professional performance that oozed class and technique and were fully deserving of the standing ovation they received.

Last but certainly not least, Durham Gospel Choir concluded the university performances. They showed us that it does not matter how big the problem may be and each member performed with the joy of the Lord.

Before the winners were announced, the seven choirs joined forces to perform and create the ultimate sound and a glimpse of what heaven will surely sound like.

Then, tension filled the room as it was time to hand out the trophies. Last year’s winners, Kent finished in 3rd place. Keele took the 2nd spot trophy as well as the best band, whilst BIMM Birmingham Gospel Choir was deservedly crowned champions of UGCY 2024

An all-round amazing event and it was clear that the diligent preparation from the UGCY and AStepFWD teams contributed to this year’s success and the advancement of God’s agenda.

A massive shout-out must be made to the founder of this special vision, Lorraine Wright MBE. Lorraine is really doing a special thing. A 12th year signifies consistency but this is only the start because I know that Lorraine has goals of making Jesus known and taking this competition global.

If you do take away one thing from last Saturday’s competition, then it should be that Gospel choirs are here to stay.

I’ll catch you at next year’s UGCY!!! In the meantime catch the re-broadcast from today 7th April. Click image below.

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