In the month marking the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, Tshwane is celebrating with a monumental symphony of song – as a joyous medley of voices and cultures turns South Africa’s administrative capital into the choral capital of the world during the very first World Choir Games to be held on African soil.
Dubbed by some “the Olympic Games of choral singing” (although it might be more apt to label it the choral World Cup at the moment), the 10th edition of the largest choir competition on the global calendar sees some 16 500 participants from more than 60 countries taking part in 500 competition concerts and informal performances between 4 and 14 July 2018.
This number includes 155 choirs from South Africa – and they have certainly been a massive hit so far, scooping a record five “Champions of Champions” trophies on Saturday night.
The local choirs who took top global honours in their categories included the Tygerberg Children’s Choir from Cape Town, the Drakensberg Boys Choir, the University of Johannesburg Choir and the St Mary’s Singers from St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria – the latter two choirs flying the choral flag high for Gauteng! In addition, South African choirs scored 25 gold certificates in the open section of the competition.
Check out the University of Johannesburg Choir in action here:
The World Choir Games assembles non-professional choirs from across the world in the spirit of global choir-competition organiser Interkultur’s motto: “Singing together brings nations together.”
And that’s exactly what this event is doing. As Africans, it’s no secret that music is in our DNA, and music-loving Tshwane residents have been privileged to see the world’s best choirs in action during the free “friendship concerts” that have been fanning out across the city.
But it’s not just Pretoria locals who are enjoying having their city enfolded by the strains of uplifting music – the singers themselves are clearly revelling in the experience. The warmth of cultural exchange and the genuine delight that choristers – ranging from amateur school groups to more seasoned outfits – are showing in the creativity and proficiency of others have been hallmarks of these games.
This was certainly evident during the relaxed impromptu performances by some choirs on their “day off” on Sunday, before Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga’s Mayoral Legacy Concert that celebrated Africa’s rich history of choral music at the Sun Arena at Time Square.
The World Choir Village at the Hellenic Community Centre in Brooklyn was a hive of activity on Sunday, abuzz with stalls selling food and beverages, as well as authentic African handcrafts.
Making a striking visual and aural splash was the choir from Crawford College in Pretoria, whose colourful beaded costumes were made by a Johannesburg informal trader, as conductor Lebogang Mashabela explained. Singing Sanbonaniand waving as they ascended the open-air stage, these vibrant young choristers showed exactly why they had bagged a gold diploma and a third place in the folklore/a cappella category the night before.
Afterwards, the singers from the Gumpoldskirchner Spatzen children’s choir in Austria insisted on a group selfie with the Crawford belles – the shared ties between young people on different continents epitomising exactly what the World Choir Games is all about.
Accompanied by traditional instruments such as marimbas and bongo drums, the energetic and spirit-buoying Choeur des Séraphins from Congo-Brazzaville had the crowd up on their feet, dancing, cheering and ululating.
An unseasonal drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirits of a Pretoria vocalist-guitarist and a drummer from the Congo ensemble, who put on an off-the-cuff performance despite only having met 20 minutes before!
Such is the incredible spirit of togetherness and sharing permeating these memorable World Choir Games, which has extended a warm African embrace to the world. Look out for a performance near you in the next few days – check out https://www.interkultur.com/events/world-choir-games/tshwane-2018/ for more details.