by Jean le Roux
Gems of talent are everywhere, if you know where to look. From a large Afrikaans high school from Randburg, to a praise and worship organisation from Nigeria, to an institute of health care professionals from right under our very noses. Johannesburg is a veritable treasure trove of unmined vocal talent, and Wits Choir’s Youth and Community Choir Festival brought some of this talent out into the spotlight.
Wits Choir’s mandate was clear from the beginning: gather the most diverse group of youth and community choirs, and let them shine alongside us and each other on the Wits Great Hall stage. The festival marked the inauguration of an annual highlight on Wits Choir’s calendar, and it was also the culmination of the year’s outreach programme.
Workshops were held with all participating choirs in the months preceding Sunday’s gala concert. Dalene Hoogenhout, director and conductor of Wits Choir, imparted her unique style on the participating choirs. She emphasised the importance of listening to each other and performing as a unit, while highlighting each individual singer’s defining qualities.
This is by far the most divergent group of performers Wits Choir has ever gathered on one stage – and one the most ambitious projects ever taken on by Wits Choir. Each choir performed one solo piece and one massed choir piece with the other choirs in their category (Youth or Community), singing the massed choir number taught at the workshops.
The Community category was well represented by religious organisations. Rouxville Baptist and Meadowlands Methodist Sectional choirs, as well as the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (an international group founded in Nigeria) sang the gospel with joy and fervour. SAMRO Choir and the Wits Reproductive Health Institute Choir brought new meaning to “company spirit,” proving they’re just as good together on stage as they are in the office.
A wide range of Jo’burg schools headed up the Youth category: from Randburg Hoërskool and Parktown High School for Girls, to UJ Metropolitan Academy, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls as well as Farrarmere Primary School. Nkosi’s Haven Choir gave a rousing rendition of “Ujehova Uyamangalisa” (God Is Amazing) and the St David’s Chamber Choir boys had all the girls in the audience swooning with their take on The Soil’s “Lonely Nights.”
Aside from bringing the audience a richly diverse and engaging choral experience, the festival also served to give fledgling choirs valuable stage exposure. It provided them the opportunity to explore the logistics of a big performance. In addition, performing in front of a large – and characteristically enthusiastic! – Great Hall audience was a massive confidence boost for many of the choristers.
Wits Choir sang in each massed choir piece and also performed a selection of their fan favourites. It all ended with a bang as over 400 choristers shook the Johannesburg soil with the powerful Zulu traditional wedding song, “Sizongena Laph’emzini” (We Will Enter This Homestead). The moment the final notes rang out was remarkable. The feeling of unity in diversity was palpable as each and every person in that hall sensed what it truly means to be part of this rainbow nation.
And this was just the beginning. The Youth and Community Choir Festival will continue to unearth talent in the most unexpected of places, allowing choirs to polish themselves and shine on stage with Wits Choir and with each other. Next year we’ll have even more to showcase. We’ll never stop digging for talent. It is everywhere, after all… if you know where to look.
Do you want to participate in YCCF 2014 or know of any choirs that would be interested? Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Like us on Facebook to see more photos of the YCCF: facebook.com/witschoir
Watch videos of the YCCF and Wits Choir on YouTube: youtube.com/witschoirjhb
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/thewitschoir