It was a privilege to attend the concert on June 13, 2024 with the dynamic St Olaf Choir from the USA singing on the stage at Baxter Concert Hall in Cape Town, conducted by the legendary Professor Anton Armstrong. The prof has been leading the choir from Minnesota, since 1990. The 2023-24 season marks his 34th year as conductor of the award winning choir which is made up of 75 mixed voices. The choir dazzled us with its beautiful voices and delighted the audience with the scope of its repertoire with a programme which included hymns and a speech by Nelson Mandela (The Time Has Come). The lyrics for all the songs were included in a programme we that we could follow each number. In addition to performing as its own choral concert, the choir also shared the stage with the UCT Choir, conducted by the amazing Karen Schofield-Nel.

It was magic to see two choirs from different counties, unified in choral harmony. Watch the clip here in which St Olaf and UCT choirs, sing the iconic the Click Song (Qongqothwane), made famous by the legendary Miriam Makeba. See link with snippet from this incredible choral moment:

Vibrant choral choral exhange: On left, Dr Anton Armstrong, conductor of St Olaf Choir, Minnesota, USA with Karen Schofield-Nel (blue jacket) who is conductor of the UCT University Choir, on stage in the Baxter Concert Hall, June 13, 2024. In this concert St Olaf performed solo and with the UCT Choir. Pic: Laikin Photography. Supplied.

The concert was impressively staged with smooth exits and entrances by the choirs and lively choreography. It was fascinating to watch the conductors, Dr Armstrong and Schofield-Nel, as they took the choirs through each number. This concert was a wonderful opportunity to experience voice as primary instrument by these a capella choirs. (There was minimal musical accompaniment for pacing.) I was intrigued by the intensity between each choir and the conductor and how the gaze was in focus at all times on each other.

Another highlight of the concert, was St Olaf singing an awe inspiring nkosi sikelel iafrika, South Africa’s national anthem. Click here:

Thank you Classical Movements for bringing out St Olaf to South Africa. In 2023, Classical Movements, produced the tour of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Zander. Underpinning the BPYO tour and as evidenced from the St Olaf tour is the extraordinary cultural exchange which fuels each Classical Movement tour. The St Olaf choral concert at UCT, with our university’s choir is emblematic of the commitment of Classical Movements to facilitate vital cultural exchange and in doing so provide special concert experiences. In addition to the concerts, outreach and workshops are held during the tours. I look forward to future tours by Classical Movements.

✳ Featured image: Dr Anton Armstrong, conductor of St Olaf Choir, Minnesota, USA, leading the choir in the June 13, 2024 concert in Cape Town in the Baxter Concert Hall. The tour to South Africa was facilitated by Classical Movements. Laikin Photography. Supplied.

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