Deriving from the Emmanu-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy (EAGA), DMU Gospel Choir was set-up in 2004 as the first choir on campus at De Montfort University. We speak to members Pastor Samuel Gapara and Hikima Jewu about the choir’s successful journey.
Since their humble beginnings 15 years ago, DMU Gospel Choir has transformed what was a small and vibrant community into an international sensation with followers stretching from Africa and the Caribbean Islands to Asia and New Zealand. The group was formed with an aim to promote community cohesion and aid students who were feeling the pressures of studying or suffering from homesickness. Today, the choir consists of around 40 members, which includes students, staff and alumni.
Hikima shares what encouraged her to join: “I was inspired by the joy, passion and love of existing members of the choir towards music. This was infectious and it was a great distraction from the student clubbing scene and other environments which often lead to anti-social behaviour. Joining the choir helped me to stay focused on my studies and kept me uplifted.”
Meeting twice a week for practice and performing almost every weekend at various events including fundraisers and workshops, occasionally the choir is split into smaller groups to meet the demands of their growing popularity. Pastor Samuel reveals what makes the choir stand out: “What makes us unique is our selflessness. We are in this to make people joyful- that is our mission. Many people can’t understand why we don’t charge for our services and only accept donations, and this sets us apart from other groups.”
It’s certainly been a successful few years for DMU Gospel Choir; they were crowned winners of BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2016 and were finalists of Britain’s Got Talent 2018: “It is always an exciting experience going to competitions. Winning is a bonus but the task is always to enjoy and believe the message behind our songs and share it with our audience. Competitions are a great platform and an opportunity to reach people we wouldn’t normally,” Said Hikima.
Whilst raising the spirits of Leicester City Football fans outside the King Power Stadium in 2016 just before the teams triumphant premier league win, the Choir were approached by legendary local band Kasabian. The meeting led to recording on their album ‘For Crying Out Loud’ as well as joining the band on their UK tour: “The whole experience is still surreal and one that has earned its place on the choir’s archives.”
When asked which songs they loved to perform, both members replied with Rise Up and Oh Happy Day: “This song is certainly the reason we sing. Happy day is for everyone- If you’re having a bad day, we’re there to inform you that it doesn’t have to stay like that- let’s all change it into a happy day.”
The choir’s schedule is in full swing, and they have no plans of stopping, with events ranging from concerts to weddings in the pipeline.
By Jessica Challoner-Sterland