By Osa Mbonu-Amadi
The world came together with various voices from across the globe singing in harmony at the 10th World Choir Games held in Tshwane (Pretoria) South Africa from July 4 – 14, 2018 (first time in Africa since inception). With the theme Various Voices, One Harmony, it was indeed eleven days of global unity and merging of different cultures of the world with conviviality and devoid of rancor and any kind of discrimination.Over 300 choirs from sixty-two countries across the five continents of the world were in attendance and competed on same stages, co-habited in hotels and hostels, shared tables and same meals in a massive central dining hall at the University of Pretoria. Of great significance at the 2018 World Choir Olympics is its coincidence with the great Nelson Mandela’s posthumous centenary birthday.
During the opening ceremony on 4th of July at the cozy Sun Arena, there were felicitations from the Premier of Gauteng Province, the President of Interkultur, Gunter Titsch, the Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Councilor Solly Msimanga, who welcomed all the participants. There were also greetings from Mzwandile Mathew who doubles as the President of African Cultural Development Foundation and the South African Choral Music Association. The performances at the opening ceremony were significantly African with extensive singing, drumming and dancing in African style.
Competitions, friendship concerts and evaluation concerts started on 5th July at various locations which included the two main universities in Pretoria – The University of Pretoria and University of South Africa, Pretoria. Friendship concerts were free performances in city squares, parks, streets or malls. Both local and international choirs brought their music to the host city, its residents and visitors. They presented their repertoires in a relaxed atmosphere and had the opportunity to sing for each other outside competitive stress.
Sunday, 8th July, was specially marked as African Mayoral Legacy Concert. African choirs from Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya and Namibia joined the local Tshwane choirs as they took some time off from the World Choir Games to celebrate African Legacy Concert. This was hosted by the Executive Mayor of Tshwane (Pretoria), Councilor Solly Msimanga and sponsored by Sun International. In keeping with World Choir Games theme of building bridges through choral music, the African celebration concert emphasizes social cohesion and creation of new bonds of friendship. Nigeria was represented in the concert by Lagos City Chorale whose two soulful renditions were greeted with loud ovation. They later had a meeting and photo session with the Mayor.
The bi-annual meeting of World Choir Council took place at Tshwane House in the city centre on Monday, 9th of July. Council representatives from over 50 countries were present at the meeting. Solly Msimanga, welcomed the participants. Gunter Titsch in his opening speech said the aim of the World Choir Games is to foster peace and unity among the nations of the world through sweet harmony of choral music. The topic, Studying Opportunities for Choral Conductors and Choral Managers was the major focus. During the session of “Interacting with Interkultur” anchored by the Director of Choral Networking, Gent Lazri, Sir Emeka Nwokedi, Nigeria’s representative at the council, regretted poor attendance from African countries and urged Interkultur to use more of international popular media to reach a wider audience as that will create awareness in African countries and will consequently evoke interest and attract sponsorship for African choirs to the World Choir Games. Nwokedi also called on Interkultur to consider hosting an African Choir Games taking a cue from European and Asian Choir Games. He expressed hope that Nigeria would host the African Choir Games in future as Nigeria is a singing nation and her choirs are doing well in international choral festivals and competitions.
The festival ended on Saturday, 14th July with three great events – the Parade of Nations, Awards Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony which were held at Sun Arena. The Parade of Nations was very colorful as choirs from different countries, in their national colours processed from the Tshwane house to the historical Union Building where Nelson Mandela’s statue stood tall. Nigeria’s flag was flown by five choirs from Nigeria – Lagos City Chorale, Mountain Top Chorale, New Wine Chorale, Musica Casa and Riverbank School Choir.
Different choirs won bronze, silver and gold medals. Remarkably, the five Nigerian choirs won laurels (silver and gold) in different categories.The festival choir consisted of over 1,000 voices from different countries. The Lagos City Chorale won a thunderous ovation after rendering the festival song, One Voice composed by John Rutter and Singomanqoba. The South African composer, Dr. Sibongile Khumalo, took the solo part in the song as well as in 7 other songs. The high point of the event was the handing over the mantle to the representative of Flanders, Belgium, billed to host the 2020 World Choir Games.
Participants at the event praised the organizers of the 10th World Choir Games – Interkultur, African Cultural Development Foundation, Gauteng Tourism Authority, and the City of Tshwane— for their convictions that peace and unity of the world can be achieved through the sweet concord of choral music. They also acknowledged the importance of choral arts which they said is the soul of every culture and therefore urged governments and corporate bodies to support World choral movement. For the stakeholders, choral movements will help in no small ways in uplifting nations and uniting the world just like football and other sporting events.