August 23, 2009
One of the best-loved acts on the Edinburgh Fringe is giving its final performances at the festival.
The Soweto Gospel Choir first came to the Edinburgh festival in 2003, when they were little-known in the UK.
That first year, appearing at St George’s West church, was to help change the fortunes of the choir.
They have since established a global reputation and international touring commitments are making it difficult for them to spend a month in Edinburgh.
Alto and narrator with the South African choir, Sipokazi Luzipo, said the first year at the Fringe was a “scary” experience.
“Initially when we started we weren’t really sure if people would like the sound,” she said.
“We weren’t really sure of the reception we would get.”
However, five-star reviews and sold-out shows followed.
Now the choir play alongside musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Bono and Celine Dion.
And they can count Nelson Mandela as one of their fans.
It is precisely because of that success that they can no longer spend a month performing in Edinburgh.
“It is a bit sad for us,” said Ms Luzipo.
“It is our farewell year. I think that is why we are giving it so much passion.
“We are thinking we might not come here gain.”
She said she cherished the memories of six years in Edinburgh.
“It does not get better than this,” she added.
“People have been going crazy. Scotland is so special.”
Choir master Shimmy Jiyane said: “Next year is a very tight schedule for us.
“We will be touring right through and we do not have time to come here for a month.”
He said the choir would come back to Edinburgh but it may play one-off concerts rather than a long run.
“The Fringe is in our hearts and will stay with us forever,” he said.
The success of the choir has enabled it to found its own Aids orphans charity – supporting children and organisations who receive little government support.
That first year in Edinburgh raised £9,000.
Since then the choir has been able to donate more than £1m.
Mr Jiyane said: “Coming to Edinburgh helped us a lot.
“It is one of the best festivals in the world.
“When we came here we made sure we did our best and promoters saw us.”
He said Edinburgh was a “stepping stone”.
“When we came here everything started changing.”