By Jackie Majerus
January 25, 2010
BRISTOL — Bringing its vocal harmonies northwestward, South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir is making a stop at ESPN Wednesday.
The choir’s work will be some of the music featured during ESPN’s coverage of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup this summer, said Claude Mitchell, coordinating music director for ESPN.
“They’ll have a fairly prominent role,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said ESPN identified the Soweto Gospel Choir early on in its World Cup planning as a source “to represent the local sounds of South Africa and Africa in general.”
ESPN will incorporate “a lot of authentic African music” in its presentation of the soccer games and other programs throughout the monthlong World Cup championship, Mitchell said, including jazz, pop, urban, hip hop, reggae and rock and roll.
“I would hope that a lot of it’s going to be new” to viewers, Mitchell said, and “highlight the pageantry and emotion” of the World Cup.
According to Mitchell, the Soweto Gospel Choir combines traditional American Baptist gospel sounds, with traditional African music and pop influences.
The choir, which will perform in the company cafeteria around lunchtime, sings in some South African dialects — the country has about a dozen — and performs a lot of its music in English, as well, he said.
Much of their catalog has a religious bent, but Mitchell said the choir also draws from music traditionally used to cope with hardships and from protest music.
“They also do covers of pop tunes,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of all over the place.”
ESPN will use work from the choir’s catalog, but is also talking with them about the possibility of new songs specifically for the World Cup event.
ESPN is bringing the choir to Bristol to help build excitement among the staff for the World Cup and to give the choir a chance to get to know ESPN.
Coverage of the FIFA World Cup is a company-defined top priority for ESPN this year.