The Wits Choir
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The Wits Choir


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"Wits choristry brings tears to eyes"

The Wits Choir under the expert direction of Dalene Hoogenhout produced a varied, well-balanced programme in the “bawl-your-eyes out, it’s so beautiful” category yesterday in the Rhodes Chapel. Confident, relaxed and joyful choristers who have developed the art of musical communication and artistic presentation presented this deeply moving, emotional musical experience.
From the opening traditional Zulu work, Amagugu, the choir’s perfect intonation, musically blended and balanced texture, as well as their unity of attack placed them in the category of a professional vocal ensemble.
Their ability to fill every acoustic cavity in the Chapel with well-projected sound allowed the meaningful inflections, uniformly placed vowel sounds and expressively shaped phrases to soar throughout the building and reach and touch every listener.
This choir traversed a wide range of styles with a musical purpose apparent in every motif, theme and musical sentence. Consider the happy rhythmic abandon coupled to the vocal accentuation and pitch bending which made a Gospel feel come alive in Moses Hogan’s I’m Gonna Sing Till The Spirit and the controlled, blended pianissimo texture in Graham Kendrick’s Wees my Genadig (an example of phenomenal breath control).
The female chorus performed Silence is the Ukrainian Night (a work with a clear thematic reference to Debussy’s Clair de Lune) with stunningly executed expressive effects which left a haunting atmosphere lingering over each utterance. The same attention to poignant nuancing and eloquent phrasing marked a beautiful rendition of Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala’s Homeless performed by the male members of the choir.
Through making good spatial use of the Chapel the audience was provided with a variety of acoustical experiences which manifested in a tear-jerkingly eloquent interpretation of Ntyilo, Ntyilo and the presentation of subtly suggested dance rhythms within a phenomenal musical characterisation in the traditional Swahili song Malaika.
All my trials, expertly arranged by Norman Luboff, was performed with finely judged timing, perfectly tuned seventh chords and an innocent sounding soloist who added an extra dimension to the beautifully controlled atmosphere.
This reviewer will not easily forget the emotional rollercoaster ride afforded the audience in an evocatively shaped Adios Nonino by Astor Piazolla.
It is by far the finest production I have observed so far at this year’s Festival. Bravo! Bravo!

- Author: Jeff Bruckman - Cue Edition 5 2008


'Africa - Outlines Redefined', The Wits Choir (2009)



The Wits Choir is unlike any choir you have ever experienced: vibrant, young, and colourful! Membership is open to all, resulting in a choir drawn from diverse national and international cultures. We have members from as far afield as Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania. A live performance is a superb blend of melody, harmony, lyrics, gesture and dance that is a memorable experience for both audience and chorister.
The Choir was originally started in the 1960s when it was run by the Wits University Music Department. Due to various factors, it was disbanded in 1993. In 1995 a group of concerned staff and students approached the current Director, Dalene Hoogenhout, to reconstitute the Wits Choir as an independent and representative choir of high musical standard.
The Wits Choir has a large fan base and has performed by invitation at many official functions, including all important Wits University ceremonies, graduations and inaugurations. Highlights for the members have included the honour of performing for former state president, Nelson Mandela, at the South African Business Awards at Emperor’s Palace; on the occasion of his receiving his honorary doctorate from the University; and at the inauguration of current Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Loyiso Nongxa. At the opening of the Maropeng Visitors’ Centre at the Cradle of Humankind, the Choir had the opportunity of performing before former president Thabo Mbeki, and again at the memorial service for the late Helen Suzman, also attended by former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Advocate George Bizos, Justice Edwin Cameron, Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Graça Machel, Professor Ramphele Mampela, and Prince Mangasotho Buthelezi, among others. The reaction to the Choir’s singing was overwhelming. The Choir managed to touch the hearts of the thousand people who were in the Great Hall for the service.
Additionally, the Wits Choir has collaborated with several nationally- and internationally-acclaimed artists including Loyiso Bala, Skwatta Kamp, RJ Benjamin, Five Men Three Missing and Dear Reader (formerly Harris Tweed), as well as hosting numerous choirs from all over the world – The Technical University of Estonia’s Male Voice Choir, Pennsylvania State University’s Essence of Joy Choir, and the Women’s Concert Chorale from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
The Wits Choir has an extensive outreach programme for the advancement of choral music and conducting. Mini-tours to the Cape Platteland, Mpumalanga and to the Royal Bafokeng in Phokeng (near Rustenburg) have afforded the Wits Choir the opportunity to work with local choirs and conductors for the furthering of music education and to form meaningful partnerships. The choir also regularly holds choir festivals and workshops involving singers and conductors from church, school and community choirs.
The Wits Choir has spread the magic of South African music and culture through tours to Namibia (1998), Kenya (2001), Argentina (2003) and their hugely successful tour to the Czech Republic at the end of 2006. At the Fringe of the 2008 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, the Wits Choir presented a collection of shows entitled Outlines Harmonised, Outlines Redefined and Outlines Diversified, each designed to showcase a different dimension of the Choir’s versatility and extraordinary talent, and some of the World’s most beautiful music.
In February 2008, the Wits Choir completed the recording of their debut studio album entitled Outlines Redefined, endorsed by Classic fm This album features many audience favourites, including Sizongena Laph’emzini, U Kane Kameme, Wees My Genadig, and the Swahili song, Malaïka.