A Northern Ireland school is celebrating after winning the Songs of Praise Young Choir of the Year 2018.
The 28-strong all-female chamber choir from Strathearn school in east Belfast sang a gospel melody called 'Hallelujah! Get Happy' to win the coveted accolade. They beat off strong competition from Welsh and English choirs to land the title.
Music teacher Heather McIvor, who conducted the award-winning performance broadcast on the BBC yesterday, said: "It was completely unexpected. We didn't expect to get to the semi-finals, let alone reach the final - and win."
Her colleague Judith Kimber, who is head of music at the grammar school, accompanied the choir on piano.
Congratulations to the Chamber Choir, BBC songs of Praise Young Choir of the Year @BBCSoP , we are so proud of you all. #encourage#empower#excel— Strathearn School (@Strathearn_Sch) May 13, 2018
Sounding shocked at their triumph, Strathearn's Georgia McCutcheon and Lexi McKechnie accepted the award from Songs of Praise host Aled Jones.
"We're just so appreciative and grateful and shocked," Lexi said as choirgirls hugged each other and parents clapped from the audience.
Mr Jones said: I've never ever seen two more surprised girls."
Judge Ken Burton, one of three judges of the competition, praised the Strathearn performance, saying the choir had "excellent discipline" and was "wonderfully precise".
"It was a pleasure to listen to such polished, well-rehearsed singing.
"They were exemplary, effortless," he commented.
Judge JB Gill added: "You guys are such great performers with such a bright sound to your vocals."
After the award-winning performance, Strathearn pupil Phoebe Spratt commented: "I think we all did really well. We put a lot of effort into it and we really tried to get across the gospel spiritual happy sound.
"We all just really tried our best."
She added: "We've had so much support from friends and family.
"Just knowing that they are behind us and backing us all the way has been really helpful."
Speaking last night, music teacher Heather explained that they had entered the Songs of Praise competition as an incentive for the pupils in the choir to strive to be the best that they could be.
"We would never have said to the girls 'you need to go out and win this'," she added. "We don't talk about winning, we talk about doing our best. So when they won, they were surprised.
"Just before they announced the verdict, I turned to the girls and said 'Well done girls - we're really proud of you.
"So then when their name was read out - that's where the shock came from.
"The girls were already delighted with having got through to the final."
Heather revealed that the girls have had to keep the result a secret since it was recorded weeks ago, on April 22, in Wales - it was televised yesterday.
"The girls were only allowed to tell their parents - we didn't even tell the school," Heather added.