Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)

Invitations to world events in China and Canada are a fitting celebration of the 20th anniversary of the country’s first multi-racial choir. The formation of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s multi-award winning choir – the very first mixed-race choir at a South African university – was spurred on by the arrival of democracy in 1994.  Its quick and ongoing success – the result of highly-polished performances of African traditional, classical, Western European and Latin American songs – have made it a favourite on the global stage.

Last month, the choir received a much-coveted invitation to the 12th China International Chorus Festival (CICF) and International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM) World Youth Choral Education Conference in July. It is the second time the choir will be attending this event – the first was in 2012, when it was the only choir from Africa to be invited.

The choir has also been invited to stage a Canadian tour in April next year – which has already led to a confirmed concert with the famous Toronto Children’s Choir, with another concert on the cards in Minneapolis, United States, to be hosted by the world-acclaimed VocalEssence choir.

What makes this choir so successful, says Van Dijk, is its members love for music. “I think the success of the choir can in a huge way be attributed to the dedication and enthusiasm of the singers to perform a diverse repertoire that makes an impact on those who hear it.” The choir practices six hours a week – more before a tour or concert – and the effort pays off. “We are very fortunate to have had many overseas invitations.”

The choir has also notched up a number of awards, including taking the top spot at an international choir competition in Austria in 2009 and being selected as one of 24 choirs worldwide to perform at the World Choral Symposium in Argentina in 2011, which Van Dijk called “the highest achievement” in her career. “It is the be all and end all for a choir.”

Members in the choir range from first years from rural areas with no musical training to postgrad students specialising in music. Many of them share their talent by teaching traditional African songs to choirs in schools in the Bay – ranging from private to former Model C to previously-disadvantaged schools.

The choir has produced a number of outstanding individuals, among them St John’s College music teacher Sidumo Nyamezele, who is also the African traditional conductor of the University of Johannesburg Choir, and has conducted both the National Youth Choir and the World Youth Choir.

Article issued by NMMU