More than a 100+ University of Johannesburg (UJ) choristers united for the UJ Choir Celebration Concert that saw both the UJ Choir and the UJ Alumni Choir performing on stage, for the first time, to a packed audience at the University’s Sanlam Auditorium (Auckland Park Kingsway Campus) on Friday, 12 February 2016.
The magnificent performances, under the baton of UJ Choir Master, Renette Bouwer, and the award winning UJ Choir, illustrated the evolution of the choir that went from nearly only white to completely integrated – and globally recognised – in its first decade.
“It is more than just a choir, it’s a symbol of the country!” This was the sentiment of Talk Radio 702 host, John Robbie (Friday, 5 Feb 2016) when he conducted an interview with Ms Bouwer and UJ alumnus, South African singer, song writer and recording artist, Mr Sabelo Mthembu, as part of a prelude to the concert.
Singing both African and Western music, the choir is building bridges between cultures in South Africa.
“It was a historical event, which also marks the launch of the UJ Alumni Choir. Alumni from the seventies and eighties – young and old, making music together. As a conductor I am proud and blessed to have witnessed and be part of this incentive,” said Ms Bouwer.
Directing some proceedings of the concert, Mr Mthembu, who also joined the UJ Alumni Choir on stage said that singing with the UJ Choir (2002 to 2004) gave him some of the best experiences – it was during this time that it was his first time flying and going abroad. “It was a different environment. Choral music gave me an opportunity to explore this genre and in the process I made new friends, friend with diverse backgrounds. We had a serious commitment, and there was always order in the Choir. We sang in churches, at functions, and went on international tours,” said Mr Mthembu.
For Mthembu the UJ Choir Celebration Concert was a glimpse of the old days, the nostalgia of singing together with old mates, and experiencing the changing culture that took place after graduation.
East Rand teacher, Ms Santha Booysen, who was part of the UJ Choir for a year (2014 to 2015), said that the reunion of the choristers is an opportunity the she will cherish for a lifetime. “The Choir lays the foundation for someone that wants to be a musician. For me to get a chance to be part of this reunion, is wonderful – having people to come and experience what we can do together with some of the old members of the choir provides an opportunity of a lifetime. I’m doing this because I love music, and this is one of the things that make me tick,” said Ms Booysen.
The first half of the concert showcased works of the UJ Choir award winning 2015 Europe Concert Programme, followed by a second half where the current UJ Choir joined by the former Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) and UJ Choir Alumni members, performing Requiem for the Living by Dan Forrest .
The Alumni Choir offered a combination of various musical instruments such as a piano, violins, flutes, drums and others that added to the notes of the sopranos, tenors, altos, and baritones of the Choir.
While choral songs required more attention to detail in listening to the melodies, the African songs provided a touch of dance, rhythm, and a striking sound of ululations. A burst of African cultures ranging from isiZulu, Setswana, Sesotho and isiXhosa, the songs unfolded in enchanting transitions that were well coordinated and choreographed.