Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Church Choir a Hit in Prince Albert

- André Jaquet -

Listening to a choir in a church was the last thing I felt like doing on a beautiful Prince Albert Autumn Saturday afternoon. And yet, gently prodded by my wife I decided that my moaning and grumping would be more effort than just getting up and driving to the New Apostolic Church for the event.

We arrived early, to be met and greeted warmly by smiling choir members who ushered us to our places in the packed hall. Friends, kids, elderly people and in general folks of all ages, sizes and pigmentation were relaxed and chatting and the buzz of anticipation was somehow there. ‘A good beginning,’ I thought.

The 130-strong male-voice choir and orchestra of the New Apostolic Church in the Kuils River Bishop area were in Prince Albert to continue their ministry through music here. The orchestra played that morning to enthusiastic market-goers and were due to also pay house visits to members of the local New Apostolic Church congregation and spend time with Sunday School children and senior members of the church during their stay.

As the speeches of introduction carried on my enthusiasm waned, but when the choir and orchestra burst forth with their first number, ‘Dare to be a Daniel’ it was as if we all were swept off our feet on a magical carpet of sound that not only had the rafters vibrating but which penetrated our very souls. The volume was so powerful that you felt a physical impact on all your senses.

If this were the report of a music critic, I would say that the 100 choir members achieved a high degree of unity of sound, so that the harmonies struck the ear in precisely the right proportion and that only the pure voices of intended soloists were raised above the rest. Having sung in a professional choir for many years I know exactly how hard it is to achieve that.

The repertoire consisted on the one hand of joyful songs of praise as well as technically difficult choral and orchestral music. For young performers this was a truly remarkable achievement. I would love to hear a repeat performance in a year or three because believe me, this is a good ensemble.

The soloists and the orchestra deserve mention for their performances too. The violin and piano solo Czardas showed commendable technical skills. Voice soloists too were good and where there might have been some technical faults these were overshadowed by the effort and heart put into performances.

The young conductor of the orchestra impressed me by his sensitive approach and the ability he showed to shape the sounds of instruments to complement singers. The organist and pianist also deserve mention for the groundedness of their performances. The musician in me knew that there was something else that made this singing quite exceptional and added to the notes printed on the musical scores. Something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I listened with great care to song after song, some well-known favourites and others that were new to me. There was huge applause and when the theme changed to ‘Akkedissie’ and ‘Vanaand gaan die Volkies Koring Sny’, I swear that the thunderous applause lifted the roof a few centimetres!

And yet, what was I missing that explained the quality of singing and the response of the audience? Halfway through the performance it struck me that each and every choir member was singing from the heart. They were true believers and this was a joyful celebration of what they really felt. That is what made this a moving and very special afternoon for many others and me. Thank you, the New Apostolic choir and orchestra of the Kuils River Bishop area.

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