By Gordon French
22 January 2010
Virgin Islands Standpoint
From South Africa to HLSCC
The natural voices of the Soweto Gospel Choir filled the auditorium of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College last Thursday. Although not by design, the group from South Africa created a majestic finish for the College’s Founding Day activities. Adorned in traditional African wear and combining unique dance moves with the beat of just two drums, the group was able to create a picturesque stage setting.
The Choir’s performance was part of the HLSCC’s Performing Arts Series which is being held for the 15th season. The concert opened with choir members wading through the isle as they made their grand entrance from the back of the auditorium to the stage.
“Too sweet, but too short,” was how one attendee described the 4:00 pm concert, which the Choir agreed to perform after the original concert set for 7:00 pm was sold out within days.
“I need to go Africa before I die. I am telling you I am impressed,” she continued.
The musical journey excluded pit stops for breaks although it was evident that a great deal of energy was exerted during the numerous pulsating dance moves which drew gratified cheers and applauses from the audience at the end of both concerts.
Showcasing a variety of talent, the men in the choir presented a musical skit with sounds emanating from ordinary glasses, plates, knives and forks played by the men folk who gathered around a table.
The skit drew laughs as they allowed the attendees to see a funnier and playful side of the choir. From the deep base of Lucas Deon Bok to the uplifting tenor of Sipokazi Luzipo, the choir proved its mighty vocals to the Virgin Islands and left no doubt that their two Grammy awards were well deserved.
Six languages including Venda, Zulu, Sotho, Xosa, Tswana and English were used to spread the choir’s messages of hope, inspiration and praises. Due to the language barrier, some of the lyrics of the songs performed by the 26-member choir were largely not understood, but the audience appreciated the music as they swayed, clapped and tapped to the inspirational power of African Gospel music.
The group performed without director, David Mulovhedzi, who died last month after a battle with cancer.
Vocalist Shimmy Jiyane led the choir through their performances at HLSCC. Some of the songs included the Pata Pata song, Khumbaya, The Lion Sleeps Tonight and the emotionally charged Asimbonanga.
Additionally, the choir delighted the capacity audience with their performance of traditional Christian worship songs like Oh Happy Day, Swing Down, Oh it is Jesus and Hosanna.
Choir member, Bongani Khumalo, who was born in Johannesburg and started singing at the age of 13, said he thoroughly enjoyed performing in the Virgin Islands.
“We do not go out looking to entertain and please. We try to get our messages across.
If they like our performance then it’s a blessing,” said Khumalo, who joined the choir about four years ago. He described the atmosphere at the HLSCC similar to that of South Africa where the band is always well received.
The Choir in collaboration with HLSCC also solicited monetary donation to help with relief efforts in Haiti following last Tuesday’s devastating 7.0 earthquake.
“It means a lot to us to be able to support relief efforts in Haiti. When we heard about the earthquake that shook the island we were sadden by what happened to them, but we want the citizens of Haiti to know that we support them during this time of difficulty,” Jiyane stated.
HLSCC President, Dr. Karl Dawson said the performance was well received and lamented the choir’s performance coinciding with the college’s Founding Day activities.
“It just happened by coincidence that we were able to crown this day by a great performance by Soweto Gospel Choir. We collaborated with the University of the Virgin Islands who had made plans for them to be at Reichhold Center on January 15.
They were available to us on January 14 which coincided with our Founding Day celebrations and it was an absolutely great crown to our celebrations,” Dr. Dawson stated.