25 July 2005
Taranaki Daily News
South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir barely had time to open their eyes to Taranaki before performing to a packed house at New Plymouth’s TSB Theatre last night.
The 26-strong choir landed in New Plymouth yesterday afternoon, after a lengthy trip from Spain.
It is the choir’s second visit to New Zealand. The singers toured here in 2003, playing to packed houses in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
The choir, which has been in demand throughout the world since first touring in 2003, made a flying visit to Taranaki last night to perform as part of the Taranaki Festival Of The Arts — despite the festival not officially starting until Wednesday.
The one-stop tour is a prelude to a major Australian tour.
Choir spokeswoman Thembisa Khuzwayo described the group, which has come together from different Christian denominations throughout South Africa, as a “giant family”.
“We love performing together, it is very, very enjoyable,” she said.
Most of the choir who performed last night are original members, who performed for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the 46664 concert in 2003 (46664 was Mr Mandela’s prison number when he was a political prisoner).
In front of 40,000 people, the choir drew praise from such music greats as Bono and Cat Stevens.
“That was huge for us, the biggest thing we have ever done. I think, for many of us, it was the highlight of our careers,” Khuzwayo said.
She said the choir had performed at some of the world’s best festivals, including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Khuzwayo, of Soweto, said things were slowly improving in the black township near Johannesburg.
“It has taken a while for us to overcome everything that has happened. People still think of us as a shanty town, but it is getting better. There is a lot of optimism.”