I was invited to attend a rehearsal of the Creative Arts Choir at the University of the Western Cape in Belleville and I was blown away by the sheer beauty of their voices, their energy, dynamics and high standard. It was very educational for me to watch the talented MD Sibusiso Njeza in action. Sibusiso is also an acclaimed composer, having written two operas, namely Madiba the African Opera based on the life and time of the great Nelson Mandela and Blood of Mine based on a story set in a small town in Botswana.
Needless to say that I was very impressed by his musicality, professional leadership skills and calm authority.
The first song I heard was a wonderful arrangement of “Stand by me”, one of the first songs we learned with our Choir With No Name in Liverpool – our version is comparably simple so this was hugely inspiring for me as a choir director and arranger. I was moved close to tears, as so often when I hear African voices united.
Sbonakaliso Ndaba was asked to teach the choir some movements and it was fascinating to watch some traditional South African moves being incorporated into the vocal performance, not just a bit of swinging left and right and a few handclaps, but quite elaborate movement sequences, including exciting highlights such as choreographed stick fights.
After the rehearsal I had a chance to meet and have a quick chat with Lebohang Mbuthuma, the chair woman of the choir, and she explained to me a bit more about the choir’s background and I learned that the Creative Arts Choir’s objectives are very similar to the ones of our Choir With No Name in UK, being an open choir with no auditions, with an emphasis on confidence building and socialising, and encouraging drop outs to rejoin academic life.
This choir is mainly funded by prize money from competitions in which they (rather successfully) take part on a regular basis, and I am sure with the added visual bonuses of exciting movements this choir will go very far.
Thanks for having me!