Vocal powerhouse, Wayne Ellington, is the leader of Manchester Inspirational Voices community choir and winner of BBC’s Gospel Choir of the Year 2016. Ahead of a singing appearance in Manchester we got a chance to catch up with Wayne to find out more about what’s been happening with him and the choir since their big win.
Your choir, Manchester Inspirational Voices (MIV), was crowned BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2016. How did you feel when you won?
It was wonderful feeling! It was such an honor to take part in the competition and share a stage with so many other talented gospel choirs across the UK. The whole event was really inspirational and provided a platform for us to grow as a choir, socially, vocally and spiritually.
It’s a pretty big deal, right! How does it feel to be one of the country’s leading choir directors?
I feel choirs, and gospel choirs especially, can play such an important role in enriching people’s lives. I feel really blessed to have an opportunity to share some of my gifts on a weekly basis with a beautiful group of people, of all ages, different backgrounds and the experience of singing. The UK has a rich talent of gospel choir directors, Audrey Mattis (AMC Gospel Choir), Tosin Akindele (Harmony Gospel Choir) to name just two based in Manchester so it’s a great time for gospel choral music in the UK.
Does the choir have any other big wins like this and will you be entering any other competitions this year?
The choir have been focusing on building links with other choirs around the world. I regularly lead gospel workshops across Europe, in Italy, Poland, Germany and France, and as far afield as New York. As MIV has grown this year they’ve been able to join me at workshops in Europe sharing what we do and connecting with like-minded singing communities across the world. This, alongside taking part in a number of concerts and events closer to home in Manchester, has been our focus this year. We decided not to take part in Gospel Choir of the Year this year but would urge any choirs to enter as it’s a wonderful experience.
Tell us a little bit about the choir, how big is it and what kind of people are in it?
MIV is made up of people from a diverse range of backgrounds from across Greater Manchester and the North-West. We regularly have 80 people at our rehearsals. Members come from as far away as Rochdale, Bradford and Stoke. We welcome people from all faiths and none. There’s no audition so no previous singing experience is necessary all we ask that people come with a willingness to try, give their all and enjoy being a part of our community, because that’s what we are, a welcoming, singing community made up of inspirational individuals. Each with their own voice, their own background but whom together make a wonderful, harmonious sound.
We’ve heard that you believe that EVERYONE can sing. Is that really true? I’m sure a lot of people would beg to differ!
EVERYONE can definitely sing! If you can speak you can sing. My voice might be different to yours but they’re each beautiful in their own way. I feel singing should be a part of people’s lives not just at a football match or for singing happy birthday to someone, as important times for singing as these may be. I feel community choirs provide an opportunity for everyone to find their voice, to love their voice and to share their voice with others, growing in confidence as they do so.
You’re an amazing solo singer in your own right, so how and why did you get into choir directing?
Singing has always been a part of my life, since as long as I can remember. I count myself really privileged to have been raised in a loving church community where music and singing played a such a big part. This meant I had the great fortune of being inspired by so many wonderful voices growing up and a wonderful church who gave me opportunities to learn to sing and then learn to lead others in singing from a very early age.
You have worked all around the world as an artist. What is it that keeps you coming back to the community choir?
I love going around the world and connecting with people from all different cultures but I feel supported and inspired to do this in part through the local connections I have where I live in Manchester and MIV is a key part of that. Meeting regularly as we do on a weekly basis means we all know each other well, we share in life’s rich tapestry of experience, good and bad. Supporting each other through the harder times and celebrating together though the joyful times.
MIV will be performing this August Bank Holiday at the Shine-A-Light Gospel Showcase in Central Manchester. For anyone who has never seen an award-winning choir perform live, what could they expect if they came to see MIV?
Foot-tapping, feet-dancing, soul-uplifting – the Shine-A-Light concert is certainly going to do all of these! I hope people can come and be filled with joy, optimism and hope though hearing great gospel music. It’s a real honor for our choir to sing at this event and share a stage with the likes of Michelle John, Guvna B, Sandra Cross, Ni-Cola and Cavell. We can’t wait!
As a Manchester based choir, do you get a lot of love in this city?
Manchester is a warm and loving city and we hope to reflect that through what we do. We find audiences to be really responsive to our music. We’re made up a of a bunch of ordinary people which we hope reflects the city as a whole and we love representing the city which is our home.
What’s next on the cards for MIV, maybe an album?
We’ve got so many exciting things on the horizon. More international trips. The choir are off to Novara Gospel Festival in October in Milan, Italy. We’ve also got a big event coming up on the 13th December at Bridgewater Hall. So who knows, maybe a live album from there?! Watch this space.
Finally, Sir Wayne, what is it that makes you and MIV juicy?
Haha! Well juice is good for the voice but so is water so perhaps water mixed with a splash of inspirational voices! 😉
See Manchester Inspirational Voices at Shine-A-Light Gospel Showcase in Manchester, 28th August 2017.
August Bank Holiday Monday sees a new dawn fall on the North West as Shine-A-Light comes to Audacious Church bringing you a night of amazing gospel artists.
Book your tickets for the event here: Skiddle.com
Over to you
Will we see you there? Tell us in the comments below.
Have you got an event coming up? Submit the details today to Vinejuice for a free event listing