Andy Silver, (former musical director. Elmwood Church), Salford, was asked to form a gospel choir specifically to sing with Russell Watson at the Opening Ceremony of the Manchester Commonwealth Games on 25th July 2002.
Andy said at the time,
‘I didn’t want a group of traditional, classical gospel singers. Instead of simply combining several existing choirs, I decided to form a brand new one which was unique to the Games.’
The Commonwealth Games Choir comprising some 280 singers from different backgrounds and churches all over Greater Manchester was created. Word of the choir got around and they performed at a variety of events in some fantastic venues that summer, including The Bridgewater Hall and The Lowry and appearing on the BBC’s Songs of Praise and Radio 4’s Sunday Worship and Daily Service,
‘What thrills the socks off me is that the choir did not exist in January and now we have had national coverage and it’s changing people’s lives. It’s a great success story for the Games, Manchester and everyone involved.’
A Change of Name – the ‘Manchester Gospel Choir’
As the Commonwealth Games take place every four years in places around the world it was obvious that we couldn’t use the title forever, so the choir adopted the name the ‘Manchester Gospel Choir’. Most of the original members had committed their time for the duration of the Games and the following two years only, so the current choir numbers around 30 which is much more manageable and easier for organisers of local events to accommodate.
Since 2005 we have continued to be invited to work with the BBC for their Sunday Worship broadcast from the Keswick Convention, which we’ve contributed to on several occasions.
When Andy formed Pop Connection in 2005/6 the new venture meant less time directing the choir. However, all were relieved and thankful that choir member and fantastic professional singer Margaret Ferguson stepped in and has continued to direct the choir, though Andy gets a warm welcome whenever he’s around. We were also doubly thankful because Margaret introduced us to Jonathan Ellis, our hugely talented pianist.
The Manchester Gospel Choir continues to sing and share together in fun and fellowship and would welcome others to join them!