By Patricia Kelly
10 March 2003
They swayed and swooped. They sang at full throttle. They gyrated and leaped through two hours of exuberant music-making after a lone voice piercing the concert hall’s darkness, backed by a rapid-fire volley of drum beats, heralded the Soweto Gospel Choir.
This amazing ensemble of 33 singers-dancers-musicians whipped up a storm of vocal sound, and a storm of audience excitement at their Brisbane concerts.
They perform with all their heart, soul and body, and with an easy abandonment welling from the music and dance that are integral parts of their culture.
The ritualistic actions transfer wonderfully to the concert hall milieu and while it progressed with a veneer of improvisation, music director and choirmaster David Mulovhedzi, who gave a few high kicks and acrobatic twists of his own, kept sharp control over the passionate yet spontaneous delivery of song and dance, bringing each item to a brilliant conclusion.
The singing was as vibrant as the costumes’ flashing peacock blue, lolly pink, brilliant green, deep violet, gold and orange against changing hues of the illuminated backdrop.
Like the Welsh Morriston Orpheus Choir a week earlier, although in a different vocal mode, the Soweto performers brought a depth of emotion as they sang of devotion, courtship, love, aching hearts and tender lullabies, and Jerusalem and African dreams from a repertoire drawn from 11 African dialects, and English.
An instinctive, harmonic blend infused traditional gospel songs from the Christian tradition with a compelling force.
Performers introduced each item with charm and conviction.
When the men and two female dancers strutted fearsome warrior steps ahead of the choir’s entrance for the second half of the concert, the stage erupted in a fiery frenzy that echoed down centuries of a vital culture.