NMMU choir on ‘Varsity Sing’

The NMMU choir sing at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Cape Town on tonight’s ‘Varsity Sing’
The NMMU choir sing at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Cape Town on tonight’s ‘Varsity Sing’

The ‘Varsity Sing’ second semi-final kicks off in Cape Town tonight on Thursday as the choirs of NMMU, Maties, Rhodes and UWC battle it out for the final two spots in the final. The semi-final will be broadcast over two episodes, with the second episode seeing the elimination of two choirs.

Broadcast times for the second semi-final:

• Thursday, 29 September at 20:30 (kykNET, Channel 144)
• Thursday, 6 October at 20:30 (kykNET, Channel 144)

A technically adept choir ends their piece as powerfully as they began, rounding off the performance for the audience, shortly before inevitable applause breaks out. Varsity Sing is no different. Beginning more than two months ago in the Western Cape, the regular phase of the competition will end where it all began – in the Mother City – before the live final in Johannesburg on 13 October.

“More than just being impressed, I’ve learnt so much just by being here,” said judge Loyiso Bala, who was himself a member of the well-known Drakensberg Boys’ Choir. It’s been a season of learning for everyone from the judges to the choirs – even the viewers.

And that growth will be tangible when viewers witness four choirs return to the stage with a couple months of hard graft and learning under their musical belts. Adding to the anticipation of a semi-final already with so much to offer is the inclusion of guest judge Francois van Coke on the judging panel.

Junita Lamprecht-Van Dyk’s NMMU choir will set the pace with ‘Alleluia’, and viewers can expect to witness all of the African flair and power that is rapidly becoming synonymous with their choir. They are one of two choirs who will sing two of their three songs this week and they follow up their first piece with ‘Mandela-Medley’. It is as visually entertaining as it is to the ear. Listen out for words from the great Nelson Mandela himself, as NMMU use every ounce of their musical ability to communicate what SA’s incredible leader fought for. This is as good as it gets. Keep the tissue box within arm’s reach.

“This is why I love my country,” says Marvin Kernelle, following their stirring performance. “They (NMMU) represent South Africa.” Bala says that it’s the best thing he’s seen on the stage this season. While Kernelle hints that he thinks they could win the competition.

UWC follow the tough act with ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’ and viewers won’t have to listen twice to note that UWC went home, worked hard, and got better… and better… and better. Their second piece, ‘Stand By Me’, is a familiar classic and prepared without the assistance of their conductor. It is Francois van Coke’s pick of the evening.

World-beaters, Maties, move the audience with their opener, ‘Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel’. Pull on your suit and tie, and dust off the family bible. You’ll soon feel as though you’re a congregation member, dancing between the pews of a gospel Baptist church in the deep south of America. Their performance is all good news.

Rhodes close off with ‘Lux Arumque’. This piece is very delicate. Twenty-seven people are exposed with nowhere to hide within such a small choir. And 27 deliver. Rhodes and UWC were probably coming into the semi-finals a foot behind Maties and NMMU in the race for the Varsity Sing title, but after Thursday’s episode you’d be brave to call two standout candidates for the final.

The quality at this stage is staggering. The playing field level. Audiences and viewers can expect to be entertained more than ever as choirs push the boundaries and take risks in order to edge ahead in this beautiful competition.

And it’s about so much more than just a prize or a title. Nobody could have summed it up as well as Marvin Kernelle, when he reflected on NMMU’s performance.
“If we sing in choirs, like this,” said Kernelle, after NMMU’s ‘Mandela-Medley’, “we will grow together as a nation.”

UJ and UP-Tuks already secured their places in the final of Varsity Sing, to be broadcast live on 13 October.

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