The outstanding Soweto Gospel Choir will be in Singapore for a one-night performance on April 16 as part of the Esplanade’s A Tapestry of Sacred Music festival.
You have probably heard the Soweto Gospel Choir even though you may not know its name. This two-time Grammy Award-winning choir from South Africa has sung on TV, albums, movies and advertisements, at world events and sporting events. These choir members have been called “absolutely thrilling singers [who] need nothing but their voices to make dazzling music” by Billboard magazine.
Formed in 2002 by choir directors Beverly Bryer and David Mulovhedzi, the Soweto Gospel Choir, which has more than 30 in its ensemble, swiftly won critics’ ears and hearts with its blend of African gospel, soul, reggae and pop.
The choir recorded their first album Voices Of Heaven in December 2002 and it reached Number One within three weeks of its release. In 2003, they won Best Choir and Best International Choir at the American Gospel Music Awards. In 2007 and 2008, for two years in a row, the choir won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music for its albums Blessed and African Spirit.
The choir has performed in arts festivals the world over, from Edinburgh and London to Hong Kong and Adelaide. It has also performed at a number of high profile events such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 75th and 80th birthday celebrations, the new South African President’s inauguration in 2009 and the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert in Soweto, alongside Shakira and the Black-Eyed Peas.
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the choir collaborated with U2 on the songs ‘Streets Have No Name’, ‘Magnificent’ and ‘Boots’ for ESPN’s promotional campaign for the 2010 World Cup. The Soweto Gospel Choir, along with ESPN and U2, received a 2011 Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition/Direction/Lyrics. Their collaboration with Peter Gabriel on the song ‘Down To Earth’, which appeared in the Disney animated movie Wall-E, won a Grammy award for Best Movie Song.
The pop music world loves Soweto Gospel Choir too—they have opened concerts and performed with the likes of Celine Dion, Josh Groban, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Annie Lennox and Queen, among others. They also recorded a tribute album to jazz legend Fats Domino, together with Robert Plant, in New Orleans, with proceeds going to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In December 2010, Soweto Gospel Choir received its fourth Grammy nomination for its album Grace. It was also featured alongside the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the song “Baba Yetu” and Christopher Tin’s “Calling All Dawns”, both of which won Grammys in February 2011.
Clearly, the choir has no shortage of accomplishments. To hear them on television or on the radio is a treat, but it is their live performances that have garnered enthusiastic praise from critics all over the world. Oprah Winfrey even engaged them for a private concert for her friends, which included Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Tina Turner and Quincy Jones.
“Meticulous and unstoppable…spirited and spectacular,” says the New York Times. “A singularly joyful sound,” is O Magazine’s description of the choir. In the words of Bono, the lead singer of U2, after the choir’s performance at Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations: “The choir was brilliant!”
Classical Voice of North Carolina gave the choir this glowing review in 2012: “Presenting grace of form and grace of God in one program is a tall order but the choir pulled it off to perfection. The costumes were brilliant, the songs powerful, the sound heavenly, and the dancing exuberant.”
On April 16, the Soweto Gospel Choir performs in Singapore as part of the upcoming A Tapestry of Sacred Music, the Esplanade’s festival featuring lauded sacred music acts from the world over. Other acts in the festival include Sacred Songs of Occitan Lor Cor de Plana (France), Noureddine Khourchid and The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus (Syria), Iwami Kagura – Ritual Theatre of Shimane by Nishimura Kagura Shachū, and the renowned late British composer Sir John Tavener’s last major work Flood of Beauty, a co-commission by the Esplanade and Barbican Centre in the UK.
Tickets ($88, $68 and $48) for the Soweto Gospel Choir’s one-night performance are available from the Esplanade or via SISTIC.
COME SING ALONG WITH THE SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR!
How would you like to meet this award-winning choir up close? On Wednesday April 15 at 8pm, the Soweto Gospel Choir will be holding a workshop, “Introduction to Gospel Music”. Participants will learn the background of the music behind the Choir and get to sing along with them too!
Spaces are limited! Register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, IC, email and contact details by April 12. Spaces are allocated on a first come first serve basis.