Ellah Kandi, choir leader of Making Music member group Emmanu’-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy (EAGA), takes us through her group's journey to winning the BBC Gospel Choir of the Year 2023 award.
When we heard that we've been shortlisted for the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2023 competition, the entire choir became ecstatic and eagerly anticipated the challenge. We've been part of many competitions before, but Songs of Praise is the longest running religious television programme in the world, and so our entry into this prestigious competition induced something a lot more special amongst the members.
As we prepared for the finale, we definitely pushed ourselves more. The choir collectively focused on the great task ahead, while individually we practised ardently. The more we rehearsed, recorded our parts, reviewed the sound, and followed our musical director’s feedback, the easier it became to minister the songs. As a result, our signature wall of sound was strengthened and balanced even further, as we all learnt to pay attention to our singing notes and environment. The result of this was such a heavenly sound that presenter Gareth Malone said it sounded like 60 choristers were ministering rather than 30.
MD Jordan Anderson leads the EAGA choir through their performance at BBC Gospel Choir of the Year competition
Upon arrival at the magnificent Manchester Monastery, we were mesmersed by this masterpiece of architecture. During our stay, we met the competing choirs, and there was a constant display of lively vocal serenades. There was an almost tangible atmosphere of humility mixed with much hope of a victorious outcome amongst our choristers.
Then came the time we had all been waiting for. Introducing his choice of songs, our MD Jordan Anderson said that he wanted the audience to experience church as we do every Sunday morning. Our reportoire was influenced by the diversity of our choir, including pieces inspired by South African culture and Zulu songs. As we ministered our two powerful medleys, the audience went wild, praising God, cheering and applauding heartily. In these televised moments, we took all who were gathered there to church.
'A deep sense of fulfilment suddenly hit the chords of my heart, as we stood in one accord, with one heart. Each member, a piece of a jigsaw puzzle fitted into their rightful position, gave it their all.' - Ellah Kandi
Finally, all the choirs that featured in the competition were summoned back onto the stage for the the award ceremony. We had now reached the critical moment where the choir that performed the best were going to be crowned. As we stood together, some squeezing each other’s hands, some praying, we were ever so hopeful. Drawing a large moment of suspense, Mica Paris announced that we had won the competition. The glorious trophy was presented to our overjoyed MD.
This was such a significant moment in the history of the EAGA choir, as this year we're also marking our 20th anniversary celebration. It also seemed to be a special stamp of approval from our God in recognition of our dedicated years of service to the UK community. This win is indeed a testament of EAGA choir’s talent, dedication, and passion for gospel music.