The University of Pretoria Youth Choir (UPYC) toured Canada from 16 April to 3 May 2016. During the tour, they received high praise for the quality of their performances, their work ethic and their general conduct.
'This multi-racial teenage choir represents the colours of peace by embracing the qualities that diversity brings to the table. The UPYC represents the high school choir in the UP choir model,' says Ms Alta Maré, Business Director of the UP Youth Choir and the South African Youth Music and Arts Development Foundation.
Ms Maré shares the highlights of the tour to Canada saying that the members of the UPYC, as part of the so-called born free generation – are a true reflection of the philosophies of a great international icon, our late President Nelson Mandela. She explains that the UPYC showcased the concept of Ubuntu, a Nguni word that means 'human kindness', in their interaction with young people and other musicians across Canada.
Flying via Amsterdam to Edmonton over Greenland was what Ms Maré calls a 'huge nerdy delight, with an impromptu performance at 35 000 ft.' The choir's tour started at Edmonton with a special TV broadcast, radio interviews and performances as the show choir at the Edmonton Cantando Festival after the 25 hour flight. One of the great moments of the main concerts at the Cantando Festival was a performance in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan Jazz Ensemble.
'We visited the West Edmonton Mall and the rides and water slides elicited loads of screams and fun. The UPYC performed and did workshops at various schools. In this regard our visit to the First Nations School was definitely a highlight,' says Ms Maré.
The choir continued conquering audiences in Banff, western Canada, where they presented workshops and performed in back-to-back concerts for thousands of participants at the Banff Rocky Mountain Festival. Each and every song was met with a standing ovation from the audience. The choir toured across western Canada to beautiful Vancouver were they enjoyed soaking and relaxing in the hot springs after performing in three concerts the day before.
They also performed with Nuf Said, a jazz ensemble from their sister choir, Kokkopelli, to packed audiences in Kelowna and Vernon. 'We had great interactions with schools. Another highlight of the tour was the surprise attendance of a PENTATONIX concert kindly sponsored by our hosts,' adds Ms Maré. As guests and show choir of the Whistler Cantando Festival, the choir presented a workshop for 1 300 students and performed at two back-to-back concerts, each of which drew an audience of 1 500. Ms Maré says that Whistler will be remembered for its sterling accommodation and the incredibly warm responses of the audiences at workshop and concerts.
The UPYC received the following feedback from Dean McNeill, Professor of Brass and Jazz and Director of the UofS Jazz Ensemble in the Department of Music at the University of Saskatchewan. In a letter to the choir he wrote:
'To say that these concerts were successful is a huge understatement. Your choir's performances were unquestionably the highlight of the 2016 Cantando Music Festival and a major highlight for the 2015−2016 UofS Jazz Ensemble. I was deeply impressed with the overall musicianship and maturity of your youth choir. Clearly there is some world-class teaching and learning going on in this ensemble under the magnificent artistic leadership of Mrs Pitout [Artistic Director of the UPYC].
'On a more personal note, I feel that your choir is in many ways a beacon of hope for what can be accomplished through collaboration and mutual respect, in a world that seems ever more divided on racial, political, and/or religious grounds. To this end and from an outsider's perspective, I cannot think of a more appropriate, joy filled symbol of national unity for South Africa, than an ensemble such as the UP Youth Choir.'
The UPYC extends its gratitude to the parents who funded their airfares and transfers to Canada, the Kokkopelli Choir association and friends who sponsored their land-based costs in Canada and a special thank you to Ambassador Gerards and her husband Peter Knoope for organising the concert in Amsterdam.
Ms Maré concludes by sharing her pride in the UPYC: 'These teenage singers made us incredibly proud and represented not only the UP Youth Choir, their families, their communities and their schools, but were also true brand ambassadors for the University of Pretoria and South Africa.'