Pittsburgh Post Gazette
February 27, 2014
Rather than try to convince you to go see the Soweto Gospel Choir perform tonight at the Byham Theater, Downtown, I thought we’d examine the reasons that you shouldn’t go.
I mean, it’s not like they’re internationally known or anything.
Oh, wait. They are. Since their founding by directors David Mulovhedzi and Beverly Bryer in South Africa in November 2002, the Soweto Gospel Choir has performed its inspirational blend of African gospel, Negro spirituals, reggae and American pop music all around the world.
Is their music focused on faith and joy? Are the singers wondrous to see and are the dancers visually stirring? Do the musicians provide an experience that is uplifting and inspirational?
OK, the answer is yes. According to a review in the Los Angeles Times.
“Soweto Gospel Choir was as much to look at as to listen,” the reviewer wrote. “Clothed in brightly patterned fabrics that seemed to ripple with movement of their own, the group’s 23 members used choreographed motion to punctuate body-centric rhythms and pulled off high kicks verging on the lightly acrobatic; one fellow even did what appeared to be a modified version of the break-dancing move known as the worm.”
Evidently, they mix the African-American churchgoing experience with the razzle-dazzle of showbiz.
Yeah, but have they ever had a hit record?
Well, yes. Their first album, “Voices of Heaven,” was recorded just one month after the choir was formed and reached No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music Chart within three weeks of its release in the U.S.
But have they ever won the American Gospel Music Award for “Best Choir”?
Uh-huh, they have. As well as the award for “Best International Choir.”
Have they won a Grammy?
Another yes. In 2007, Soweto Gospel Choir received a Grammy for their second CD, “Blessed,” in the category “Best Traditional World Music.”
Those are choir awards. What else have they got?
Hmm. It says here that the choir performed the song “Down To Earth” from the movie “Wall-E,” with Peter Gabriel, and won a Grammy in the Best Movie Song category.
Well, those are Grammys. Have they ever been nominated for an Academy Award?
Oh, right. “Down To Earth” in 2009.
Yeah, so, I’ll bet they never won an Emmy or worked with ESPN. (I’m a big fan of ESPN.)
Uh-oh. It says here in their publicity material that they collaborated with U2 for ESPN’s presentation for the 2010 World Cup … and the Soweto Gospel Choir received a Sports Emmy Award as winners of the Outstanding Music Composition/Direction/Lyrics category.
U2. Heck, those guys are hippies. It’s not like the choir has ever performed for world leaders.
Unless, of course, you count Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, Desmond Tutu, and scores of others.
What about performing with superstars of the music industry? You got U2 and Peter Gabriel. Anyone else?
Well, they worked with Robert Plant and John Legend. They’ve opened for artists ranging from Celine Dion to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They’ve shared the stage with Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner and Patti Labelle.
Sure, but those are fancy to-dos that average people can’t attend. What about TV? Have they ever been on TV?
Yeah, a few times. “Conan,” “Today,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Maybe you’ve seen them.
If not, they are here tonight. And, frankly, it’s hard to think of a good reason not to see them.
The Soweto Gospel Choir will be at the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown, at 7:30 tonight. Tickets range from $20 to $45.