South African male choirs take winning compositions to South America

South African composers Xander Kritzinger and Andrew-John Bethke will travel to South America with two male choirs to share their uniquely South African blend of sacred, classical and jazz choral works.

While in South America, the two choirs will showcase the best of the South African choral tradition, performing unique blends of sacred, classical and jazz works in a number of South African languages as well as French, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish and Latin. (Image: Cape Town Male Voice Choir, via Facebook)

Mathiba Molefe

Two accomplished South African male choirs are preparing for a tour of South America in July, where they will perform award-winning compositions by two of South Africa’s leading choral composers.

Composers Xander Kritzinger and Andrew-John Bethke took top honours at the Choral Composition Competition facilitated by Ekurhuleni’s Cenestra Male Choir and the Cape Town Male Voice Choir (CTMVC), sponsored by the National Lottery.

Along with a chance to perform in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay, the two composers each received R10,000 and the respect of South Africa’s choral community. Kritzinger and Bethke received the recognition for their original compositions In Die Skadus van my Siel and A Prayer for Africa, respectively.

Michael Dingaan, conductor of the Rand Afrikaans University Chorale choir, and German choral conductor and lecturer Professor Martin Berger were the judges, together with the musical directors of Cenestra and the CTMVC.

“The aim of the competition was to unearth talented South African composers and bring back a focus to male choir singing,” said Lewis Rabkin, chairperson of the CTMVC.

“The competition showcases the ability of South African choral composers, as we are not yet fully tapping into local potential and talent.

“The grant from the National Lotteries Commission has made it possible for us to co-ordinate the Composition Competition and to send our two choirs overseas,” said Rabkin.

Kritzinger and Bethke

Apart from being an award-winning composer and accomplished musician, Dr Andrew-John Bethke also acts as the director of music at the Grahamstown Cathedral. (Image: Diocese of Grahamstown, via Facebook)

Hailing from Cape Town, organist and composer Bethke is the former director of music at Grahamstown Cathedral and Rhodes Choir conductor. Some of his other works have already been performed abroad.

Commenting on his winning composition, Bethke said: “I wanted to write a piece which attempted to pull together traditional South African musical techniques and languages, rooting the piece strongly in South African traditional culture.”

Before becoming an award-winning composer and renowned musician, Xander Kritzinger was a member of the greatly acclaimed Drakensberg Boys’ Choir. (Image: Xander Kritzinger, via Facebook)

Kritzinger kicked off his musical career singing in the Drakensberg Boys Choir before becoming a music teacher and choirmaster of Stellenbosch High Choir and the Viva Cantare Community Choir, where he works today.

Speaking about his composition, In Die Skadus van my Siel, which means “In the shadows of my soul” in Afrikaans, he says: “I wrote it at my beach house while listening to the ocean roaring. The house always brings fond memories and while being there one often tends to think about people who are no longer with us. They still dwell in the shadows of our souls, even after time.

“I did not expect that the composition would win a prize, but I am delighted and honoured that the piece will be performed.”

The tour

While in South America, the two choirs will showcase the best of the South African choral tradition, performing unique blends of sacred, classical and jazz works in a number of South African languages as well as French, Italian, Hebrew, Spanish and Latin.

Members of the choirs will also participate in workshops and master classes at the Melodia! South American Music Festival in which they are performing in Argentina and Uruguay.

On 24 June, the CTMVC will present a preview of the tour programme at a gala farewell concert at Hugo Lambrecht’s Auditorium in Parow.

All the proceeds from the concert will go to Link2Grow, a non-profit organisation that aims to empower women in Cape Town by linking those who have needs with those who have the resources to address them.