South African choral capabilities are said to be some of the best in the world, and on 7 and 8 December the nation’s finest choirs will pull out the stops to prove they are worthy of this lofty reputation as they battle it out in the finals of the Old Mutual National Choir Festival at the Durban International Convention Centre (Durban ICC).
Understandably the competition will be fierce. Twenty-two choirs will compete for top honours. Eleven choirs each in the Standard and Large Categories have worked hard to get this far, having won from the provincial championships. Now it is time to show if they have the wherewithal to take the national honours and the cash prize. As each takes to the stage, the renowned KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will accompany the choirs.
The rewards are high and with backing from the nation’s leading financial institution Old Mutual, motivation is at its peak and the scene is set for an epic battle and paradoxically, a feast of entertainment.
The song selection sets the tone. The 2013 series has gone the high art route – challenging choristers to master the finest works of South Africa’s and modern history’s most illustrious composers. Think Mzilikazi Khumalo, Arrigo Boito, Pietro Mascagni and Richard Wagner.
The music is from some of the greatest operas. The test for each choir is thus multi-layered and rich. Whereas a full opera has the advantage of theatrical devices such as action, lavish sets and lighting to tell the tale, the Old Mutual National Choir Festival finalists only have voices and music to do the work of all the art forms combined.
Each needs to bring out the elements and arouse the emotions that make up each prescribed song. Imagine love, violence, death, tenderness, envy, life, passion and more.
In addition to the competing choirs, the 2012 Champ of Champs Winner, Gauteng Choristers will make a guest appearance and deliver bonus performances.
Old Mutual sponsorship manager Bandile Mngoma said they are pleased with the process and look forward to a spectacular event. “The finals are the culmination of a year long campaign that saw over 10 000 voices from big cities and small rural areas sing their hearts out. Choral music plays an important role in the lives of many communities – it is part of the heritage of our nation and helps efforts to build bridges. Significantly the festival brings economic and social benefits to choristers and their communities,” said Mngoma.
The winning choirs take R50 000, R45 000.00 and R40 000.00 for first, second and third place respectively in the Large Category. In the Standard Category choirs will walk away with R37 000, R32 000, and R27 000 for first, second and third respectively. Each of the competing choirs have already pocketed on average R11 000.000 from the elimination stages.
During the finals there will also be The Mngoma Award to recognise and honour individuals that have contributed significantly to choral music, locally and/or internationally. These individuals are drawn for composers, conductors, media, choristers and well-known music personalities.
Tickets for the Old Mutual National Choir Festival are from R120.00 and are available from Computicket and Shoprite and Checkers outlets.