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Soweto Gospel Fans

Soweto Gospel Choir delivers a dazzling show at Winspear in Dallas

March 23, 2010

The Dallas Morning News

Manuel Mendoza

Soweto Gospel Choir could easily extend its name to include “dance troupe” and “percussion group.” Rhythms and movement routines were as crucial as vocals as the multitalented entertainers put on a dazzling show Sunday at Winspear Opera House to close the 2009-10 TITAS music series.

The 22 dancing singers, backed by a pair of singing-and-dancing drummers and a small band, relied heavily on a repertoire of South African spirituals, sprinkled with American gospel tunes and the occasional pop hit.

The vocals were earthy but sophisticated. Rather than the soul shouting of Western gospel, Soweto Gospel Choir uses a subtler approach, weaving nuanced harmonies into the melodies. Vocal virtuosity was less the goal than creating an evocative sound.

Swaying side to side in colorful, flowing gowns, the Grammy Award-winning choir opened with a suite of traditional songs, highlighted by separate a cappella showcases for the men and women. During “Mangisondele Nkosi Yam,” the guys stamped out the beat with their feet.

When the group came back together, the tempo picked up and some of the men performed a bravura dance step that they repeatedly returned to during the two-hour set. It centered on nearly kicking themselves in the face.

Toward intermission, they began mixing in more familiar songs. “Avulekile Amasango” segued into Bob Marley’s “One Love,” and the choir sang a lilting version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine.”

After the break, the comic theatrics amplified. In a routine called “In the Canteen,” three of the men sat at a table and used forks to turn a meal into a rhythm exercise. But the second half also featured gorgeous balladry, including Andrae Crouch’s “Oh It Is Jesus” and Gustav Holst’s “World in Union.”

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About The Author

From the Great White North of Canada, Elaine is the owner and maintainer of SGF. Besides being a big-time Soweto Gospel Choir fan, she is passionate about world travel, technology, all sports and above all the great mangosteen fruit. Oh, and she can't sing to save her love! :)

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