After 10 months, more than 1000 voices and 200 choirs from five countries, the 39th Old Mutual National Choir Festival reached its crescendo this past weekend at the Ellis Park Indoor Arena in Johannesburg. Trumping all others at the finals were Gauteng’s Sound of the Nation choir and Simon Estes Alumni Choir from Cape Town.
Choirs from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland have been competing for the coveted titles since the first district elimination in March. These were followed by the regional championships and then the national finals.
Each of the 20 choirs that made it to the finals, as well as last year’s two winning choirs, delivered powerful renditions of African as well as Western compositions. Their beautiful voices singing in perfect harmony thrilled the 5000-strong audience.
Karen Thomas, Old Mutual Head of Brand, said Old Mutual is very proud of its long-term commitment to this “showcase of exceptional talent”.
“Choral music has a huge following in Southern Africa and during the 29 years that we’ve been supporting this competition we’ve been able to help it grow into the biggest and best of the choir festivals. What’s great is that the festival doesn’t just promote Southern Africa’s choral tradition, it also helps to build communities, because music is a great unifying force.”
The large category presented three winners. In the first place Sound of the Nation from Gauteng walked away with R100 000, North West University Serenaders from the North West came second and took home R90 000 while the third runner-up Voices of the Nation from Gauteng left with R80 000.
The top three winning choirs in the standard category are Simon Estes Alumni (Western Cape), who take home R74 000, followed by Joyful Harmonies (Western Cape), who took home R64 000 and Prince Mshiyeni Choir (Kwazulu Natal), who pocketed R54 000.
Mohau Mogale, conductor of the Sound of the Nation choir, said: “Winning the competition is a result of hard work, commitment and determination from everyone. Each member of the choir has given their absolute best. Our passion for choral music took us all the way through the elimination process to the finals to being crowned winners.”
Highlights of the event included performances from opera sensations Pretty Yende and Nombuso Ndlandla, choreographer Somizi Mhlongo, and the final year music students of the North-West University Potchefstroom campus called Amici Group.
“Next year the Old Mutual National Choir Festival will celebrate a big milestone,” Thomas adds. “We look forward to celebrating 40 years of this beautiful cultural event.”