Rotorua Weekender : 2020-07-03

News : 15 : 15


15 Jul 3, 2020 Rotorua Weekender | The choir became a global phenomenon after becoming finalists of the popular television show, but the coronaviru­s crisis has put their dreams on hold, as their tour got cancelled, and they returned to rural South Africa. Photos / AP Covid can’t stop choir T he dusty streets of rural South Africa are a far cry from the bright lights of but that’s where the members of the Ndlovu Youth Choir find themselves coping with the coronaviru­s pandemic. With an electrifyi­ng mix of vocals and dance moves, the group made the finals of the US television show last year. Sold-out performanc­es across the US and Europe followed, as well as a recording contract. But Covid-19 halted their internatio­nal tour and landed them back where they began, Moutse Valley in South Africa’s Limpopo province, one of the country’s poorest regions. “We were supposed to go to Germany for a performanc­e, but it got cancelled. We are used to touring the world, doing shows everywhere, and during this corona time it’s been very difficult and frustratin­g,” said Sandile Majola, 26, a member of the chorus and its manager. The virus has created new risks for singing together, but this “cultural catastroph­e”, as one British arts group called Covid-19, is not stopping the young singers. Ndlovu is the Zulu word for elephant, and like the pachyderm the choir members are showing determinat­ion to move forward. The group was formed in 2008 to help orphans and children of HIV patients, said Hugo Tempelman, a Dutch doctor who 30 years ago started a medical clinic that has become a wide-ranging community developmen­t project, the Ndlovu Care Group. The project had more than 600 child-headed households in the orphan and vulnerable children programme, he said. “We tried to assist those kids with food programmes and tried to give them a more resilient way of surviving, through life skills,” Tempelman said. He saw a bigger need for the children’s developmen­t. “When I saw the kids go home, I still didn’t see a smile. And I thought that if we want to provide hope, we must give them something that they can be proud of,” he said. He came up with the idea of a youth choir. “Of course, you start a choir, because Africa sings,” he said. “Africa sings everywhere. They sing at a funeral, they sing at a birth. They sing their moods.” In 2016 the choir became more profession­al with the help of donors. Two years later their rendition of the America’s Got Talent, Shape of You America’s Got Ed Sheeran song them an audition on and their captivatin­g performanc­es skyrockete­d them to fame. The 38 young singers are used to overcoming adversity and, with Tempelman’s help, they are coming up with a new plan. Pulling down his face mask, choir manager Majola described how all the singers, ranging in age from 13 to 26, have been tested for Covid-19 and have been cleared to sing together. A recording and filming studio has been constructe­d at the community theater and they have begun rehearsing new material for an online show. “We are getting together for the first time since lockdown started,” said Majola with excitement. The group’s performanc­es of and have had millions of viewers on Youtube and now the group hopes to highlight new material. “I still receive emails from people all over the world,” Majola said. “I just got one this morning of someone saying he was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed, until he saw our performanc­e and it gave him hope.” Choir director Ralf Schmitt said the group is rehearsing new material for their first album with Simon Cowell’s label, a division of Sony Music. Livestream performanc­es are also planned. “We are all excited. We’ll be recording with some internatio­nal artists from around the globe,” Schmitt said. The album is scheduled for release at the end of the year, but the choir intends to release a song, to mark the birthday of Nelson Mandela on July 18. “It’s an inspiratio­nal song about how we can work together to overcome this coronaviru­s.” won Talent Africa Higher Ground We Will Rise,

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