The Ottawa Citizen
Mar 3, 2007
Its music a glorious burst of light and warmth on a snowy evening, South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir last night ignited Dominion-Chalmers United Church with a vision of harmony, hope and joy.
It was, simply put, an inspired and inspiring performance.
The two-dozen-member choir, which has shot to popularity on the world music stage since forming a scant five years ago, danced, beat out joyous rhythms with hands and feet, and sang an exuberant blend of traditional, Christian and pop tunes from its homeland and elsewhere.
The choir’s bright, multi-coloured traditional garb swayed and floated as one member after another stepped up to sing lead. Their voices by turn plaintive, soulful, commanding, each stamped his or her performance with conviction and crispness. Time and again, the choir surged in behind the singer, its massive personality washing the darkened church in power and glory.
Choir members also doubled as backup band or dramatic, high- stepping dancers. Choirmaster Lucas Bok was a flurry of activity himself, dancing in front of the choir before adding his own voice to it.
The propulsive beat of two percussionists pushed the music onward, as if straining to an urgent higher purpose. The sold-out audience of 1,100 sat entranced, craning their necks so as to not miss a single, sensuous moment on stage.
It felt almost sacrilegious to remain seated.
Fresh from its mid-February capture of a Grammy for its album Blessed, which took the Best Traditional World Music Award, the choir covered a set list that, by press time, had ranged from a rich, uplifting Hosanna to Weeping, the South African classic written during the dark days of apartheid.
“Honouring the past while we look to the future,” as one choir member explained while introducing a clutch of songs, the choir also performed Mbube, which became the ubiquitous The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Biko, Peter Gabriel’s tribute to South African civil- rights martyr Steven Biko, and Bob Marley’s One Love.