Five choirs consisting of 250 voices from the US, and 23 choirs with 1 200 voices from southern Africa will be holding a series of concerts this month to honour Nelson Mandela’s centenary. These will be held from July 1-20 across the country.
The tour will feature new works composed by celebrated South African composers who have woven the poignant words of the great leader into the songs that will be performed, according to organiser Classical Movements.
“For 25 years, Classical Movements has been bringing the world’s great orchestras and choirs to over 145 countries. We currently produce around 60 tours every year - that’s some 200 concerts every season.
“South Africa has long been one of our favourite destinations and, because our intent is to bring cultural exchange and harmony through the music and through the meeting of musicians and exchange of music, we find this a moving and rewarding trip every time,” said Classical Movements president Neeta Helms.
University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Professor Phelelani Mnomiya has composed a powerful setting of Madiba’s famous “It’s In Your Hands Now” speech, delivered on his 90th birthday during the 46664 Aids charity concert at London’s Hyde Park.
Penning his own text for the second Ihlombe! mass choir commission, award-winning University of the Western Cape Professor Sibusiso Njeza’s Uthando Nomculo (“Love and Music”) piece urges us all, in his words, “to love more, to see beyond the colour of one’s skin, religion and sexuality”.
The Ihlombe! Festival’s Voices of Hope, Freedom and Unity tour unites choirs from Baltimore, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington and Atlanta with local choirs from Eerste River, Khayelitsha and Bonteheuwel, Soweto, Soshanguve and Diepkloof in Gauteng, among others.
Two choirs from Zimbabwe will also join the tour as they perform in concerts in Soweto, Joburg, Soshanguve, Cape Town (Bonteheuwel, Kenmere, Khayelitsha) as well as George and Port Elizabeth.
Thirteen collaborative concerts with 23 African youth, church and community ensembles will exchange cultures through shared workshops, side-by-side rehearsals and outreach projects across the country.
Organisers says the high points include a performance at the Regina Mundi church in Soweto - a site steeped in protest history - as well as at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, another church which was “deeply involved in the liberation Struggle”.
The choirs will perform on July 18 to mark the birth date of Mandela. A visit to Mandela’s own home province, the Eastern Cape, also seems likely on this itinerary dedicated to the icon.