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Wits Choir tours Namibia and N.Cape

- By Wits University

 It is no secret that music has always played a significant role in building bridges between people, communities, cultures and even countries. Activists, politicians, community leaders, historians and academics have noted the importance of song and music in mobilising communities, highlighting issues, building alliances, galvanising action and forging bonds. Music knows no boundaries and its appeal defies the narrow categories of race, class, gender and age.

With this in mind, and coupled with their motto “Excellence Through Diversity”, the Wits Choir and the Young Wits Choir, under the expert leadership of conductor Dalene Hoogenhout, will undertake a unique journey of musical education and exploration with several youths, churches, universities and community choirs in Namibia and the Northern Cape during their tour on 3 - 13 September 2015.

The Wits Choir has dubbed this tour ‘Tswaranang ka Mmino’, a Sesotho phrase which translates loosely as “coming together through music”. An express objective is to use their brand of music and joy of singing to share the wonderful treasure of our mostly home-grown repertoire.

The choirs will also be presenting workshops throughout their tour with much collaboration with their hosts. These are the Mascato Youth Choir in Swakopmund, University Choir of Namibia in Windhoek, the Southern Namibian Youth Choir in Keetmanshoop, Sol Plaatje University Choir in Kimberley as well as the Kimberley Children’s Choir and various other choirs in the Northern Cape.

A SHORT HISTORY OF WITS CHOIR

Wits Choir is now in its 54th year of existence!

It was originally called The Witwatersrand University Choir and was founded by students from two diverse student bodies. The first was The University Choral Society and they decided to use the profits from their 1961 production of Oklahoma to buy choral music and start a choir. On the other hand, at the same time, a group of students on the Students’ Engineering Council also decided to form a choir. Towards the end of that year the two groups combined and the Wits Choir was formed.

Wits Choir is unlike any choir you have ever experienced: it is vibrant, young, and colourful!  Membership is open to all, resulting in a fully representative choir drawn from diverse national and international cultures.

The Wits Choir motto is ‘Excellence through diversity’ and this manifests itself in everything the Choir does, be it repertoire, membership of the choir, performances. An example of this diversity is the fact that Wits Choir must be the only choir in the world who has sung for over 20 Heads of State both in Africa and abroad, and ………….. also at the opening of a sewage plant in Mpumalanga!

During the last 21 years of the newly-constituted Wits Choir there have been many highlights. To mention a few:

  • The Choir had the honour to sing at 3 occasions for Nelson Mandela and what a gracious and generous audience member he was. They also had the honour of singing at his Memorial Service at Wits University. The message of Ubuntu that he lived by, is one that the Wits Choir strives to emulate.
  • The extensive outreach programme for the advancement of choral music and conducting through mini-tours to amongst others the Cape Platteland, Mpumalanga, and northern KwaZulu-Natal has afforded the Wits Choir the opportunity to work with local choirs and conductors furthering music education and forming meaningful partnerships. The Choir also regularly holds choir festivals and workshops involving singers and conductors from church, school and community choirs.
  • The Wits Choir has often had the privilege to perform on television, with the last one being on Morning Live on SABC 2 to celebrate Freedom Day which is commemorated on the 27th  of April.
  • The Wits Choir has spread the magic of South African music and culture through tours to Namibia (1998), Kenya (2001), Argentina (2003), the Czech Republic (2006), and the Seychelles (2009).  On the Fringe of the 2008 and 2010 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and in 2011 to the USA and Canada.
  • A new Wits Choir – the Young Wits Choir was established in 2014 and it is an extension of Wits Choir with its focus being on music education and skills training, and its motto is Yearning, Willing and Committed which makes it a worthy younger sibling!

The Wits Choirs bring the music of South Africa and of our continent to audiences everywhere. It is our undertaking to show the beauty, intricacies, diversity and complexity of the music in our world.

DALENE HOOGENHOUT

Dalene Hoogenhout is the Trainer and Conductor of Wits Choir — the official choir of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg. This is her 21st year as conductor since being appointed to reconstitute the Choir as an independent and representative ensemble of high musical standard at the University in 1994. 

Under her direction, the Choir has become one of the leading choirs in South Africa, specialising in music of the African continent and particularly South Africa. She and the Choir bring the music of this continent to many audiences and other choirs both locally and internationally on the numerous tours and outreach projects that the Choir undertakes.

Dalene studied music at Wits, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree, specialising in Education. After teaching at various schools and colleges, she pursued her studies further and completed her Honours degree in Education cum laude at the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg).

At the age of 18, Dalene conducted her first choir and has since worked with many choirs over the years; among them the Kingsmead Girls’ Choir, the Raucall Choir, The Duke of Cornwall Singers and the Boys’ College Choir of St Stithians College, the Standard Bank Gallery Singers and the Johannesburg Chamber Choir. 

She is often invited to adjudicate at choir festivals and competitions and is on the panel of adjudicators of the National Eisteddfod Academy. She presents workshops and master classes both locally and abroad and has been invited as guest conductor to conduct various choirs.

In order to gain more knowledge and keep up with world trends in the field of choral music, Dalene attends numerous courses on choral conducting, both nationally and internationally.

She lectures at Wits School of Arts/ Division of Music on a sessional basis. She presently also trains the Parktown Girls’ Choir and the Bishop Bavin College Choir.

Concert Dates

5 Sep 19:00 Concert with Mascato Youth Choir, Namib Primary Aula, Swakopmund

6 Sep 19:00 Performance at Christuskirche, Windhoek

8 Sep 19:00 Concert with UNAM Choir and others at UNAM Space Theatre, University of Namibia, Windhoek

10 Sep   19:00 Concert with Southern Namibia Youth Choir and others at the Dutch Reformed Church, Keetmanshoop

11 Sep 1900 Concert with Sol Plaatje University Choir AT Mayibuye Centre, Galeshewe, Kimberley                                                          

12 Sep  Concert in collaboration with the Kimberley Academy of Music (KAM) with Ad Libitum Chorale, Kimberley Children’s Choir, Newton Kerkkoor and Kimberley Boys' High Ensemble at St. Cyprians Cathedral, Kimberley.

Enquiries: (011) 717 1372 / lerato.sekele@wits.ac.za

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