20-year high note

Arts Correspondent

INVITATIONS to world events in China and Canada are a fitting celebration of the 20th anniversary of the country's first multi-racial university choir. The formation of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's multi-award- winning choir was spurred on by the arrival of democracy in 1994.

Its quick and ongoing success – the result of highly-polished performances of African traditional, classical, Western European and Latin American songs – has made it a favourite on the global stage.

"It's important to have the best singers to represent our country and continent," said conductor Junita van Dijk.

The choir has received a coveted invitation to the 12th China International Chorus Festival (CICF) and International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM) World Youth Choral Education Conference in July. They have also been invited to stage a Canadian tour in April next year – which has led to a confirmed concert with the famous Toronto Children's Choir, with another concert on the cards in Minneapolis in the US to be hosted by the world-acclaimed VocalEssence choir, conducted by IFCM president Prof Philip Brunelle.

What makes this choir so successful, said Van Dijk, was its members' love for music.

"The success of the choir can in a huge way be attributed to the dedication and enthusiasm of the singers to perform a diverse repertoire that makes an impact on those who hear it."

The choir practises six hours a week – more before a tour or concert – and the effort pays off.

The choir has notched up numerous awards, including taking the top spot at an international choir competition in Austria in 2009 and being selected as one of 24 choirs worldwide to perform at the World Choral Symposium in Argentina in 2011.

Members range from first years from rural areas with no musical training to post-grad students specialising in music. "What we have in common is that we all love music and are all working towards the same goal – excellence. We want to touch people's hearts."

The choir has produced several outstanding individuals, among them St John's College music teacher Sidumo Nyamezele, who is also the African traditional conductor of the University of Johannesburg Choir, and has conducted both the National Youth Choir and the World Youth Choir.

"He could not read music when he started singing," said Van Dijk. Six months later, he was conducting the choir's African music programme – and completing an advanced diploma in choral conducting under Van Dijk.

lThis year's auditions for the NMMU choir close on Friday. NMMU students and alumni – who can read music and have choral/vocal experience – can e-mail choir@nmmu.ac.zaor sms Junita van Dijk on 082-578-3120. Theatrical or dance experience is also welcomed.