THIS year marks the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s first multiracial university choir, formed at the very start of this country’s democracy, and celebrates a journey of excellence that has taken Nelson Mandela University’s talented singers across the world.
Conductor Junita Lamprecht-van Dijk started the choir in 1994 – and continues to lead them today. “In those early days, we experienced amazing social and musical challenges because we were so far removed from one another. But it was a wonderful opportunity to introduce different music cultures to each other, and to get to know each other,” Lamprecht-van Dijk said.
“In a way, our choir has been a successful microcosm of South Africa … I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the choir, exploring this theme. As society opened up and became more integrated, the gaps became less. “But in a way, we’ve gone full circle and we’re experiencing similar challenges now (with the country and universities facing new challenges), but we are managing them,” she said.
Lamprecht-van Dijk said her main aim with the choir had always been to empower its members, enabling those who are musically talented to shine. “We have a young man in the choir at the moment, Sivuyile Mazizi, who is composing and arranging his own works for the choir.
“Another very creative choir member, Siba Ngewu, is responsible for the choreography.”
Over the years, many of the choir members have gone on to achieve further choral success.
Perhaps the most successful among them is Sidumo Nyamezele, who was the choir’s traditional singing leader from 1996-2002 and studied conducting under Lamprecht-van Dijk, before going on to teach at St John’s College in Johannesburg. “When the World Youth Choir toured South Africa, he was responsible for teaching them African music, which was a very great honour,” said Lamprecht-van Dijk.
Nyamezele conducts the acclaimed Mzanzi Youth Choir in Johannesburg.
The NMU choir’s mix of African traditional, classical, Western European and Latin American songs has led to success worldwide.
All past and present members of the choir are invited to share in its 25th anniversary celebrations, to be held on Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9. The festivities include an awards ceremony, hosted by the university’s alumni association, and a sundowner performance and dinner, which includes performances by old members at the South Campus Auditorium.
At this event, the choir will premiere a new composition, Psalmus, by Peter Louis van Dijk, while choir alumni Siphokazi Molteno, an acclaimed mezzo soprano, and Kwande Cakate, a saxophonist and member of the well-known group Just 6, which featured in the Lion King movie, will perform solo and with the choir.
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