On a fresh Autumnal evening, the expectant crowds gathered at the Grays Baptist Church Hall in Hathaway Road for an exhibition of entertainment that was both heartwarming and mind-boggling. Grays Has Talent was conceived not only as a charity fundraising event but also as a genuine platform to showcase the fact that yes, Grays has talent.

The hall was heaving in anticipation as compere for the event, Grays’ answer to Bruce Forsyth, Gareth Marsh – a.k.a. Sensation Smith, an established and some would say gifted musician in his own right – got things underway with a flourish of dry humour which aptly whipped the audience of more than 60 into enthusiastic interaction.

All the proceeds from the event was to go to supporting the local hospices of St Luke’s and Little Havens, charities that the church are supporting as part of its 125th Anniversary celebrations throughout 2010.

IMG1625First up was Melodie George – a more than appropriate name for a young lady with the singing voice of a nightingale. Being the first act to tread the boards, there may have been a little nervousness, but Melodie held her melody and rounded the song off to rapturous cheers and applause from an appreciative audience.

This was followed by an item by Matthew Hughes, who offered and interpretation of a song   from the hit Lloyd-Webber show Phantom of the Opera. He was accompanied on piano by Jane Franks. Matthew’s baritone was perfect for the piece, and once again drew a good response from everyone present.

Third on stage was a young man called Jordan Birch who is a drummer. Jordan – who’d heard about Grays Has Talent while on the Bar’N’Bus at Grays Beach one evening – performed a five minute drum solo that showed up all his various skills. It was very good, and it was obvious that he’d put in a lot of practice and thought into it. This was received with the resounding applause of admiration for Jordan’s undoubted potential to maybe go onto bigger things.

Next up were a group of three young urban dancers who were a late addition to the line-up. Called Revelation, they were indeed a revelation. Two boys and a girl, they body-popped and break danced their way through a few minutes of high-octane, blood-vessel-bursting music. One of the lads was diminutive, wearing a baseball cap about ten sizes too big and a cheeky grin that endeared many. The roof nearly came off the hall as they finished their act.

As the interval loomed, Gareth announced that there was still room for all-comers to come to the ‘open mic’ in the second half. Punters were able to buy refreshments and enjoy mixing together during the break.

The second half began with a fine solo and unaccompanied rendition of Take Me Home County Road by Billy Birch, younger brother of the aforementioned Jordan. Once more, appreciation from all present was loud and exuberant.

Then came Welsh stand-up comedian ‘wannabe’ Dai Franks with a short performance that defied belief and defies description. So I won’t even attempt to, except to say that groans and moans filled the auditorium.

Relief came with another exhibition of vocal prowess, this time from two young girls, Abigail & Emily. Simultaneously cute and commanding, the duo sang their duet with a fine grasp of the song’s arrangement and voices mature for their ages. A well-earned round of applause followed.

In an act later described by the compere as ‘pure comedy genius’, the unlikely named Blind Man and a Dog – in reality three of the young people from Grays Baptist Church – came to the stage and told a joke with the aid of mime. It had everyone rolling, not just because of the joke itself, but the daft-as-a-brush way in which it was delivered. Top marks for a ‘left-field’ and highly original entry.

The final act from the Grays Has Talent section of the evening came from Edwin Hughes, dad of the aforementioned Matthew, self-accompanied on guitar, with a Third Day song. Edwin sang with conviction and an understated passion which drew a more than positive response from everyone.

Gareth then explained the points system, which was done by members of the audience throwing pound coins into buckets at the front, each of which represented one of the acts. Needless to say, Dai Franks’ bucket was the smallest! Once this was done, the money in each bucket was counted, and the act with the most money won the contest.

While the money-counting was in progress, the audience was treated to six songs and an encore by a group from Crawley called Edgson, Gruet & Nelson. Their final song, a version of the Beatles’ Help! certainly had everyone toe-tapping with gusto.

Finally, the moment came for Gareth to announce the winner of Grays Has Talent. He summoned up to the stage the three leading contestants, Jordan Birch, Revelation and Melodie George.

IMG1666“And the winner is…” declared Gareth in his best Simon Cowell impersonation, leaving just enough suspense to keep everyone hanging on in lip-biting anxiety…

“Melodie George!”

Melodie won a £25 token to spend at Lakeside, while Jordan and Revelation each won a box of Heroes.

Melodie sang her song again – this time very relaxed, very confident, and very happy, to the obvious satisfaction of the majority of people present judging by their reaction. With Jordan and Revelation very close behind, Melodie had been the most talented – indeed, Grays really has got talent!

A broad-smiling Colin Baker, pastor at Grays Baptist Church, said afterwards, “It was an amazing night of talent. The evening was a great success, raising over £440, which the church will give to the local charities Little Havens Children’s Hospice and St Luke’s Hospice. This brings our total for the year to over £2,000, so many thanks to all who have supported the events the church has held to support these causes.”

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