Visiting voices in harmony with local singers

THERE will be a treat for lovers of choral music over the Easter weekend when the UK chamber choir, Moorland Voices, performs at two different churches in Ndlambe.

On their tour of the area, Moorland Voices will perform at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Alfred at the 8.30am service on April 16 (Easter Sunday), and at St John’s Anglican Church in Bathurst at 2.30pm on April 17 (Family Day).

This leads up to their joint concert, Voices in Harmony, with Grahamstown’s Pro Carmine a cappella group at NELM (National English Literary Museum) on April 18. The concert will raise money for the Joza Reading Club.

The visiting choir is also set to perform in Grahamstown Cathedral on April 15.

Photo: Moorland Voices Facebook page

While for most of the Moorland Voices singers this will be their first trip to South Africa, the link between the two choirs is already a strong one. Pro Carmine members Mike Skipper, who recently returned to South Africa to take up the position of Director of Music at St Andrew’s and DSG, and Sue Skipper, who teaches maths at DSG, were founder members of Moorland.

They helped start the choir in 2014, when they were both teachers at Denstone College in the Staffordshire Moorlands, where the choir is based and from which it gets its name. It has long been a dream of Mike’s to get the two choirs together.

It’s quite an operation to get a whole choir to travel all the way from the UK and I’m extremely excited that the tour is now actually happening

“Moorlands and Pro Carmine are quite similar, both in the kind of music they sing and in their approach to it.  Our members sing purely for the love of it, so it seemed a wonderful idea to try and get the two together. It’s quite an operation to get a whole choir to travel all the way from the UK and I’m extremely excited that the tour is now actually happening,” he said.

The joint concert will feature a wide variety of pieces, including early, church and traditional music as well as work by Mozart, Bruckner, Elgar, Gershwin and James Taylor. The choirs will perform separately and together and have discovered they have quite few songs in common (they’ve also each learned one of the other’s favourite pieces especially for the concert).

Another thing they share is that they perform mainly for charity. In the past Moorland have raised considerable amounts for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the UK, and last year, Pro Carmine raised over R15 000 for various causes, including the Grocott’s Christmas Cheer Fund in aid of Child Welfare and for Project Read.

The joint concert also has a literacy angle – inspired by the choice of NELM as a venue. This time all funds raised will go to the Joza Reading Club, which runs out of the Joza Youth Hub, and aims to get foundation phase children into reading. Kids from local schools are taken to the centre twice a week where they’re read to by student volunteers.

“Our aim is to develop biliteracy, and there is no doubt that the Reading Club activities are enabling our children to become engaged and fluent readers,” said Esther Ramani, one of the project organisers.

She added that their books are old and tired and need replenishing. “Any money raised from the concert will go towards buying more books – especially in isiXhosa – to start more children off on their reading journey.”

NELM’s Zongezile Matshoba, who is responsible for education and public programmes, said that the museum is delighted to be hosting the event.

“We absolutely support any effort to help develop literacy in and around Makana Municipality,” he said, adding that Grahamstonians can also look forward to showing off the magnificent NELM building to the UK visitors.

Voices in Harmony will take place at 7pm on Tuesday April 18 at NELM in Worcester Street in Grahamstown. Entry is free but donations in aid of the Joza Reading Project are welcome. Wine will be available.

Moorland Voices’ full schedule is as follows:

April 15 (Holy Saturday) – Stainer’s Crucifixion in the Grahamstown Cathedral 7pm, with departing Director of Music Dr AJ Bethke at the organ.

April 16 (Easter Sunday) – St Paul’s Anglican Church in Port Alfred at the 8.30am service.

April 17 (Family Day) – St John’s Anglican Church in Bathurst at 2.30pm.

For their visit to South Africa, Moorland Voices will be conducted by John Norcliffe, who studied singing and piano at the Manchester School of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music and the London and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Pro Carmine, as always, will be under the leadership of choirmaster Peter Breetzke.


Leave a Reply