By Ellie Buchdahl

09 iunie 2018 - 10:45

Maxine Brooks Portrait
 ‘We want to share our music and our experience with our family in Romania,’ says Maxine Brooks, founder of director of the Birmingham Community Gospel Choir which comes to Sibiu International Theatre Festival in 2018. ©

© Ian Quashie

The explosive energy and inspiring performances of Birmingham Community Gospel Choir are known to people across the UK – not least since they won the BBC’s Gospel Choir of the Year title in 2015. Now seven top members of the choir are coming to Sibiu International Theatre Festival to perform ‘Gospel in Praise and Worship’.

Choir founder and director Maxine Brooks will be with them. She tells us why Romania is so important for the choir – and why you might want to see and hear the choir at Sibiu.

We feel as if we’re going to our family in Romania

There is a large Romanian Christian community in Birmingham. We have had several singers in the choir over the years from Romania and we’ve heard that there’s a big gospel presence in Romania too. This is why we’re particularly inspired to be coming here.

This will only be our second trip overseas and we are so looking forward to sharing our music and our experience with people who we feel are like ‘family’. We feel sure people will connect with what we are doing – this is our experience with the Romanian Christians who we know from home. 

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There’s a reason we were named ‘Gospel Choir of the Year’

Some audience members at our concerts weep because they are so moved by the music and the message we communicate. For others, they’re laughing and dancing and joining in.

It’s my belief that anyone can sing and praise God – it doesn’t matter whether their voices are beautiful or not, or whether they are in tune if they are making a joyful noise. 

But we are a bit more than that. We are really talented. We have excellent voices. We rehearse, we get our harmonies together, and I make the choir work really, really hard.

When you have a group of people singing together who have such a connection to the meaning of what they are singing, then this gives them a connection to each other and to their audience. And when they are really good singers too – that is what makes a difference.

 We want the audience to feel part of the choir

As choir master, I’m not straight laced at all. I actually talk to the choir during the performance – I say things like, ‘Stand up straight!’ and ‘Keep your head up!’ and ‘You’re not in line there!’ Audiences find it funny because it’s sincere. 

We don’t want to build up a wall where we just deliver some polished, cold performance. We invite the audience into our choir. We want them to feel a sense of connection and belonging. We want to join with you, and for you to join in with us, to praise – and to have a good time. 

We hope to inspire love, joy and peace in the hearts of our listeners

Gospel in itself is the message of the hope and peace of Jesus. We sing songs about Jesus and God – but we also sing a lot of inspirational songs, such as Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror or Lean On Me. We have original songs of our own, as well as some traditional songs, modern ones, and adaptations. 

Much of the work we do in the UK is for charity. We’re a voluntary choir and making money for ourselves is the last thing on our mind. What drives us is our common goal of singing for God and encouraging people. 

We do performances in small church halls to raise money for repairs, for example. We love to sing for good causes. Each year we have an annual fundraising concert at the Town Hall Birmingham on 5 November, called Gospel Goes Charity. Of course, we do some weddings where we make money that pays for things like our rehearsal space, or for our microphones, but the bulk of the choir work is to sing for different causes. 

And we hope this trip to Romania is just the start of our spreading the message of love further and wider. 

My heart has always been in gospel – and Birmingham

I am Birmingham born and bred, and was raised in a part of the city called Nechells. I was only 13 when I was asked to be lead singer in a reggae band called Musical Youth at my high school, Duddeston Manor. 

Musical Youth went on to get a UK number one hit called ‘Pass the Dutchie’ – but I didn’t want to sing reggae. I knew I wanted to sing gospel. I wanted to sing for God.

I am comfortable with my decision. The band went on to fame and fortune, and I do what I love, which is gospel.

A great Romanian praise

We’re coming to Sibiu because we want to share our music and our experience with our family in Romania. We may see something new, we may not. We may bring something new to the table, we may not. It’s just about sharing. 

We’re trying to join in, strengthen, and encourage – and we hope we will be something unique to everyone in Romania. We want to learn, embrace, be embraced, and give a great Romanian praise.

‘BCGC SEVEN’ from the Birmingham Community Gospel Choir will perform ‘Gospel in Praise and Worship’ at Sibiu International Theatre Festival 2018 on 15, 16 and 17 June.