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Wits Choir’s tour of Europe a success

- Wits University

The Wits Choir has returned home after a 21 day tour of Europe.

“The tour was a resounding success on many fronts. Musically, we did 11 performances and received 11 standing ovations. We brought the music of Africa and South Africa to Europe and they loved it and appreciated it!” beams Dalene Hoogenhout, Wits Choir Conductor.

“Diplomatically, the Wits Choir was outstanding ambassadors for the University and for South Africa. We built bridges between the audience members – be they from Germany, France or Austria –and South Africa, and their impression of us was of a group of responsible, enthusiastic and musical people bringing credit to the University and our country.”

The Wits Choir is renowned for its cultural diversity and its musical repertoire, which draws from different parts of the continent. The choir also boasts unique in-house compositions.

Wits Choir in Europe

A journey of hard work, learning and healing

Taking a 21-choir member on tour is not an easy feat given the economics and human dynamics. “I would compare putting a tour like this together with building a 10 000-piece puzzle – it is a challenge, but the satisfaction of having pulled it off so successfully is priceless,” continues Hoogenhout.

For Charlotte Motsoari, a fourth year social work student, the trip has reinforced tolerance and psychological and vocal endurance and taught new important life lessons.

“It is interesting to travel the world and realise how different music is and how similar it is at the same time.”

Motsoari, whose skilful joyful ululation accompanies some songs, was pleasantly surprised to discover from one of the audience members, during their performance in France, that ululation is also used in some parts of Switzerland.

Some of the European choirs who performed used their own techniques of “unusual and weird vocal sounds” to make beautiful music, she says.

While showcasing African music was at the top the agenda, the Wits Choir undertook this journey to rebuild their morale after a tumultuous 2016 filled with student protest.

The music stopped between September and November 2016. This was a challenge for the choir, which practices regularly to deliver flawless performances at Wits ceremonies and around the country.

There was added pressure with the looming international tour.

“We had six months to prepare the repertoire that would normally take a year.  This challenge was met and musically we are stronger now that we have been in the past two years,” says Hoogenhout.

The trip would not have been such a success were it not for the kindness of hosts.

For most of their journey, the choir was hosted by communities contributing to building bridges amongst people and promoting cultural exchange.