08 Sep

The Kearsney College Choir has done it again – winning gold at the 10th Orientale Concentus International Choral Festival in Singapore to become the second most acclaimed choir in the world!

Story Hayley Dennyson, Pictures Tracey Van Den Aardweg and Hayley Dennyson

This June, 56 boys and five adults from Kearsney College headed to Singapore to compete against the best choirs in the world. Under the direction of Marshell Lombard, the choir competed in two categories, winning gold for both. They won the Folklore category, achieving a score of 92.2, with no other choir having earned a Grade 1 Gold in any category at this year’s competition. The choir came second in the Equal voices: Youth category with a score of 81.3, earning their second gold.

“We’re extremely proud of the choir’s achievements in Singapore,” said Kearsney headmaster Elwyn van den Aardweg. “The boys’ colourful exuberance, energy and vigour, matched with top-notch musical performances, highlights all that can be achieved if differences are put aside and a common goal is sought.

“The pride in African culture, the passion with which it is presented, and the obvious teamwork are inspiring. Their unity and harmony show in and out of performance,” he continued.

Prior to travelling to Singapore, the choir had achieved 13 gold and six silver medals at the World Choir Games between 2000 and 2014; the Prize of the City of Vienna at the 33rd International Youth and Music Festival; and was invited to represent Africa at the Rhythms of One World Music Festival at the UN European Headquarters in Geneva. They had also performed on Good Morning America.

There are so many positives to take from this incredible group, especially considering that they come from a traditional boys’ school, where you might expect sportsmen to take all the glory. “The choir is the jewel in our crown and the academic, cultural and sporting schedules are planned to ensure that boys are able to take part in all three,” says marketing director Robert Carpenter. “This balance is driven from the top, with commitment from the board and headmaster to give the arts status within the school.”

As a result, many boys do perform at a high level in a number of spheres, having to manage their time carefully. “Choir is a refreshing break from work and we are happy to make the time to practise,” says Emil Loubser. “It’s 100% worth it. It’s the best feeling, performing at that level, whether it’s supper theatre or on the world stage.”

The choir is tailored to suit the boys’ spirit, with a range of vibrant and appealing songs, directed by Marshell Lombard. “We had the X-factor of being the only African choir taking part in the competition, but we also combine movement and song – a rarity among serious choirs,” explains Wandile Linda, head of school and head of choir 2017. “We bring emotion, fire and soul, but are also technically sound.”

Wandile has been in the choir since Grade 8 and is magnetic on stage. “Being part of the choir is a powerful experience. It breaks down any hierarchy between junior and senior boys, and those relationships reflect on stage. It is incredible being part of something so positive,” he says.

The trip wasn’t without drama, however, and a small group of boys were trapped in a lift, just before the grand finale. “We had to come up with a Plan B – quickly – and managed to reschedule our performance,” explains Ntinga Tshabalala. “It went from the worst thing to the best thing when the guys arrived just before we were due to go on stage. It gave us all such a boost, it definitely added to our energy on stage.”

After the choir’s Grand Prix performance in Singapore, one of the judges described it as a “spiritual experience”. Having seen them perform live, it’s easy to see why.

The choir have completed their final public performances for 2017, but be sure to look out for events taking place in 2018. They will be preparing for the World Choir Games, to be held in Pretoria in July, and are sure to give it everything they have!

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