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BellaRome shines at Chorale contest

By Innocent Anoruo
15 August 2021   |   2:55 am
It was winner-takes-all in both the individual and choir categories of the maiden Music and Chorale Competition 2021 organised by the Dominican Media at the University of Lagos

It was winner-takes-all in both the individual and choir categories of the maiden Music and Chorale Competition 2021 organised by the Dominican Media at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) auditorium on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Ekiti State Cultural Ambassador and performing artiste, Akinlade ‘Gaise’ Ibuoye (right); Conductor of Bellarome Chorale (second right), Godsave Tamara; Chief Executive Officer, Royal Roots Production, Debbie Odutayo and others celebrating with Bellarome after the choir won the maiden Music and Chorale competition.

The visiting BellaRome Chorale carted away all the prizes to the surprise of St. Cecilia Choir, UNILAG, host of the chorale contest. While Onyinye Ginikanwa of BellaRome went away with the N250,000 prize for the solo category, edging out Christiana Uche of UNILAG, BellaRome choir clinched the grand prize of N1 million.

The opening prayer that kick-started the event was led by one of the judges Rev. Fr. Victor Ukoh.

The Dominican Media is a media arm of the Catholic Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, in Nigeria and Ghana.

With Project Fame West Africa’s Dean, Benneth Ogbeiwi, as compere, the judges were the Chief Executive Officer, Royal Roots Production, Debbie Odutayo; Rev. Fr. Victor Ukoh and Akinlade Ibuoye (a.k.a. Gaise).
The show

After the opening prayer and the National Anthem, the seven individual contestants filed out for the preliminary stage, which threw up Christiana Uche, Onyinye Ginikanwa, and Solomon Ofem.

Then came the four choirs. Only St. Cecilia Choir, Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech), was eliminated in the preliminary round, setting the stage for UNILAG choir, Elite Chorale, and BellaRome.

Before the winners started emerging, Mr. Ogbeiwi gave out mobile phone chargers and power banks from one of the sponsors of the show, after spoken word artiste and contortionist, Mayowa Da-Costa, had thrilled the audience with her form of abstract dance.

Having served the audience Ave Maria by William Gomez, Ginikanwa came up with In Christ Alone written by Stuart Townend. She raised the bar with her sonorous voice, which even sensational Uche of UNILAG could not beat with her final rendition, His Eye is on the Sparrow, a gospel hymn written in 1905 by Civilla Martin. Expectedly, the audience could not wait for Ginikanwa to end the song before interrupting with a thunderous applause.

The second interlude was utilised by The Voice Nigeria Season One first runner-up, Cornel Ogar. After singing When a Woman Loves and I believe I Can Fly, both by R. Kelly, he taught the audience a quick new song, See You Finish, which was rendered in four-part harmony.

Elite Chorale’s Teta by Sam Ojukwu and UNILAG choir’s Exodus Medley could not stop BellaRome, who rendered Indodana by Michael Harriet. The interdenominational choir’s first outing was with Frederick Handel’s coronation anthem, Zadock the Priest.

With the grand price in their cart, the winners said the competition was indeed a great platform for them to showcase their musical talent and express their love for music.

One of the music directors of BellaRome Chorale, who conducted the choir at the contest, Godsave Tamara, said: “Winning a competition is not something you can predict. You only but prepare very well and hope for the best outcome.

“We did our part by working very hard to attain the best choral blend we could in both genres of music (we rendered). I feel that was what gave us the edge over other groups at the competition.”

The choir, according to him, dedicated the win to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that make up the Blessed Trinity, “for what seemed impossible was made possible.”

On the red carpet
After the event, one of the judges, Gaise, who is not a Catholic, told The Guardian that the competition “gives expression to the different talents in the Catholic Church,” which hosts the event. He said the classical, traditional and contemporary gospel songs coming predominantly from the Catholic Church were refreshing.

“I am personally blessed,” he added.

Fr. Owoh told journalists that the essence of the competition was to promote talents among the youth for positivity, good morals, and values.

His words: “The idea of the competition came from our benefactors. They asked if a talent hunt contest could happen within the church and see young people use their talent to praise God. Looking at the Dominican Media, we felt that we could handle such.”

“Basically, there are lots of talents in this country that need encouragement and support; I mean talents that promote good moral values. Also, there should be talent appreciation for human empowerment and development. Initially, we wanted to restrict it to the Catholic Church, but our benefactors said there’s need to open it up to other Christians who have inspirational songs to present for a wider demographic.”

The lead judge, Odutayo, stated: “It was awesome and amazing seeing these young ones perform. It is something new that we are looking forward to, especially this period when so many things are happening in the world. It was a healthy challenge and we need things like this to challenge the younger ones.”

Last line
The contest has been won and lost. But since the organisers, according to Owoh, plan to make it a yearly event, if they get sufficient support, The Guardian went behind the scenes to find out what did not happen at the show.

Two of the judges, Gaise and Mrs. Odutayo, pointed out the poor publicity of the event. They advised the organisers to employ more media and publicity strategies in subsequent editions.

On the disappointment of UNILAG choir, while the leaders believed that they prepared well enough to clinch the grand prize, some of the choristers complained that the organisers did not respond to their inquest on songs selection on time. Some of them told The Guardian that it was only two days to the competition that they were told not to render a hymn medley, which affected their performance.

However, they were optimistic about clinching the trophy in the next edition.

BellaRome is an interdenominational choral group led by Tamara and Valentine Uche, after a merger of Bella Voce Chorale led by Uche and Royal Opus Musical Ensemble (ROME) led by Tamara to foster unity and healthy relationships among music lovers.