A little bit of background for those of us not well versed in South African History. Soweto or South Western Township is a suburb of Johannesburg. Originally set up by the Apartheid Government as a means of racial segregation, this was one of the townships where any non-white members of the population were forced to live. These townships were the stage for unspeakable acts of violence, horror, racism and crimes against humanity perpetrated by a fascist government. Soweto was also the where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 until his arrest in 1962 and then after his release from prison in 1990. Nelson "Madiba" Mandela was pivotal in ending Apartheid and became the Father of Freedom, who had been a voice of reason, hero of peace and the reconciliation process. The Global Community watched nervously in December of 2013 when Mandela passed away; it was speculated that the country would descend into civil war and martial law, fortunately, this didn't occur.
The Soweto Gospel Choir is touring to honour the life of Mandela and to share the spirit of peace and harmony of the Rainbow Country through song. On the back of their Grammy Award-winning Album Freedom they are touring Australia throughout 2019. The show opens with a rousing harmony and introduction about the choir and a tribute to Mandela. The Sydney Opera House Concert Hall was a perfect setting for this soulful performance, with the beautiful wood panelling and sublime acoustics the harmonies couldn't have a better setting.
The Opera House is no stranger to putting on shows and the production was seamless, the levels on the boom mics were perfect and there wasn't a blip or moment of reverb in the entire show. The only slight problem with the venue was that the way it is set up (raised stage with staggered seating surrounding) isn't the most conducive to audience participation, which is the opposite to what gospel choirs are about. Despite this, by the end of the performance, the whole crowd was on their feet singing, dancing and clapping along to the songs.
Regardless of one's religious beliefs, it is hard to not be roused by soulful gospel music. The choir is made up of two dozen performers of all shapes and sizes. Each member of the choir got their chance to do a solo performance and the range went from booming baritone to inconceivable falsetto. The levels were always perfectly harmonised with each section of the choir moving around on stage to accompany the song as required. There was a percussionist and keyboardist who both played ad hoc, but also had a singing role in the choir. This wasn't purely a musical performance with traditional dance accompanying the signing making it an exceptional performance. It was an uplifting rousable performance that really got the crowd on their feet!
This is a unique opportunity to catch one of the world's foremost Gospel choirs. It is a performance unlike any other with the rousing songs being sung in one of the eleven official languages of South Africa.