By: Nicky Titchener
February 22, 2017
From the moment the darkness is pierced by a soaring female voice and the rhythm of a single drumbeat, you know you won’t be disappointed by the Soweto Gospel Choir. ★★★★
This choir, from the township of Soweto in Johannesburg, is well-established, with a reputation for passionate and energetic musical interpretation.
Comprising a 16-strong combination of superb vocalists, some of whom double on percussion and keyboard where backing is needed, it takes the audience through a dazzling exploration of gospel, South African freedom songs and international classics. We were welcomed in the 11 languages of Africa – and in English, of course.
Each member of the choir has their own chance to shine, taking solo vocals or playing instruments. There are also moments of mischievous interplay between characters, as well as a blatant attempt by the male chorus to win over the female audience with a “Beautiful Baby” rendition from the front of the stage.
If you are looking for brightness and joy, you will find it here in the set, the costumes, and the sheer delight in performance by these truly talented individuals.
The audience needed little encouragement to join in by clapping with the rhythm or singing with lyrics they knew. The choir’s leader brought everyone to their feet, clapping and stomping, for what was the official rousing finale, and the choir then performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as their final song to uplift, inspire and sweetly send us into the night.
This is a choir with history and tradition, and you will find it hard to resist their spirited and jubilant performance. It is music but it is also an invitation into the story they tell of their land.