By Diane Keenan
17 March 2003
The Christchurch Press
It is rare to go to a concert knowing nothing about the artists or their music and come away feeling overwhelmed by the performance.
So it was for many at last night’s performance of the Soweto Gospel Choir, its members the best talent from the church communities in the black township near the South African city of Johannesburg.
The 32-strong choir brought grassroots South African song and dance to a rapturous Town Hall audience. Any visitor to the harsh South African township has lasting memories of the smiles of its people. Similarly, last night’s audience came away inspired by the spirit of the performers and their ability to overcome adversity with song and dance.
Their voices are strong, clear, and harmonious, while their dancing is spontaneous and vibrant. They exhibit rhythm, from simple finger-clicking and hand-swaying to energetic dances.
The choir, dressed traditionally, performed songs regularly sung in church. What fun church must be. Some were sung without the backing of musical instruments, soloists relying on the harmony and handclapping of other choir members.
Many in the choir sang solo – each was as strong as the performer before, but with a different strength. The traditional African numbers were personal favourites, but English-speakers related to renditions of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Amazing Grace, and the song performed in one of the three encores, Lean on Me. The choir seemed delighted with the warm reception. During a standing ovation, its members ran into the audience shaking hands – a fitting end to a rousing evening’s entertainment.