July 13, 2014
By Ellen Adamcewicz
Cargo Art Magazine
The Soweto Gospel Choir travelled far to bring their Australian tour to Hamer Hall, including over twenty highly skilled and multi talented singers and dancers from one of Johannesburg’s most infamous townships.
Taking to the stage in hi-sheen satins of the brightest hues trimmed with an appropriate dose of zebra print, The Soweto Gospel Choir excelled in bringing a foreign language performance to a full Hamer Hall.
Beginning with a selection of traditional gospel songs from all-over the African continent, sung in Xhosa, Swahili and Zulu, the 22 performers held the audience’s attention with their lively, engaging performance, and refusing to simply stand still.
Each choir member exhibited a talented voice, whether it was baritone or falsetto and the songs were structured in a way that duets were highly compatible and each performer showcased a charisma, which only comes with a genuine passion and talent for performance.
Holding the attention of their audience, the choir members actively engaged in a dance routine which in itself was meticulous, but still remained natural, easily making the audience forget that this was the 15th of their 47 Australian shows.
After years of performing, The Soweto Gospel Choir has crafted a live show that is unparalleled in talent and ingenuity, with the presentation of gospel songs never getting old over their two-hour show. With a welcoming demeanor, the choir excelled at involving hundreds of people whom they have never met into their world.
Broken into two parts by a 20-minute intermission, the second half held a costume change and left only the most senior choir members on stage with a set of African and English medleys.
A heartwarming, soulful rendition of Paul Simons Bridge Over Troubled Water was powerfully delivered and needless to say, multiple patrons were moved or close to tears.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot involved a gorgeous duet between a deep, authorative baritone and a strong, pitch-perfect female lead, well deserving of the applause they garnered.
Endearing to watch, the choir embodied what can only be referred to as the South African spirit. Culturally proud and explaining the songs content for an English-speaking audience, patrons were verbally guided through hymns and freedom songs alike in a celebration of humanity.
The song and simple refrain Amen was perfectly placed to ensure audience participation, sung in a way that gave the phrase a catchy hook and a toe-tapping beat.
With multiple songs being dedicated or linked to the late Nelson Mandela and true father of modern South Africa, the night did not have the strictly religious fervor one would assume of your run-of-the-mill choir performance. There is simply nothing run-of-the-mill about The Soweto Gospel Choir.
Having been performing together for over 10 years, The Soweto Gospel Choir now travel internationally, bringing their show to thousands upon thousands of people per year and raising money for programs back home.
Backed only by drums and keys, the choir did not need any more to get the whole of Hamer Hall dancing, with their dancing becoming more energetic as the night progressed. With a finesse and agility that is missed in most mainstream performers, The Soweto Gospel Choir hit every note while constantly on the move.
Patrons remained standing for their last song, the South African national anthem, showing respect, not only for the choir’s home nation, but for the choice themselves, who truly are a world treasure. A perfect selection to close the evening, South Africa’s national anthem is a true hybrid of the hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and the Afrikaans song Die Stem van Suid-Afrika.
Not specifically catering for those after a spiritual experience, The Soweto Gospel Choir appealed to both the spiritual and non-spiritual alike with their distinct blend of choreography, colour and culture.
The Soweto Gospel Choir are currently touring nationally.