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Soweto Gospel Choir preach to the converted at Alban Arena

PUBLISHED: 16:46 17 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

The Soweto Gospel Choir

The Soweto Gospel Choir

ON Friday, the Soweto Gospel Choir performed at the Alban Arena and managed to bring many of the initially shy concertgoers to their feet, clapping to the rhythm of South African songs. Not surprisingly, this renowned Grammy-winning choir has numerous fol

ON Friday, the Soweto Gospel Choir performed at the Alban Arena and managed to bring many of the initially shy concertgoers to their feet, clapping to the rhythm of South African songs. Not surprisingly, this renowned Grammy-winning choir has numerous followers all around the world.

The concert started at 7.30pm in an almost completely full Alban Arena, and finished at around 9.45pm with one interval of about 15 minutes. As opposed to what we normally would expect from a gospel music concert, the choir not only sang traditional African hymns, but also spent a similar amount of time performing well-known songs.

The first half of the concert featured some wonderful arrangements, including a rendition of Bob Marley's One Love, followed by Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel. The second half featured what was probably the favourite song for many attendees, Peter Gabriel's Biko. They also sung a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, as well as Oh Happy Days and The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Some highlights of the concert included a number of skilful dances that resembled, to an extent, Hip Hop steps but with a unique South African influence. The choir even performed a bit of Soweto humour, with a short sketch that they called 'The Canteen': the males in the choir brought a table and chairs to the stage, and surprised everyone by playing music with plates, glasses and cutlery while others sang along.

The clothing that the choir wore was very colourful in bright red, pink, blue, gold, orange and green. Although wearing similar patterns, no two of the 26 choir members dressed the same. The show included six out of the eleven official languages in South Africa.

Their concert in St Albans was the second before their last in the UK. After returning home for a short break, they will continue their European tour in France and the Netherlands, followed by Japan.

The choir started in 2002, when some of the most impressive talents of Soweto (South West Townships, an urban area in the city of Johannesburg) came together. Their albums Blessed and African Spirit won Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

In our interview with one of the choir's leads, Shimmy Jiyane, he said: "[With our show] we try to tell people something... that everything is possible... to go on and be the best..."

Visit my blog, Discovering St Albans http://www.hertsad.co.uk/flatfiles/weblogs/discover_st_albans.aspx to listen to the full recording of my interview with Shimmy, and to see more pictures and videos of the concert

Paola Santos

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