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Grammy-Winning Soweto Choir in BVI

The Grammy Award winning Soweto Gospel Choir, out of South Africa, is slated to perform in a grand H. Lavity Stoutt Community College concert at the Paraquita Bay Auditorium on 14 January as part of the institution’s 20th anniversary activities that will continue throughout the year.

The concert, which also forms part of the College’s Performing Arts Series, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets, available at LIME, HLSCC Bookstore, Road Town Bakery, Sunny Caribbee and Umi Fashions, are $50 each.

The Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in November 2002 to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of African gospel music. The groups rapidly became a multi award-winning sensation, drawing on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto.

The group is young and dynamic and is dedicated to sharing the joy of faith through music with audiences around the world. It performs traditional and contemporary music, adding its own unique feel and interpretation to both, and does so in six of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

The Choir in its entirety is a 52-member group and is often referred to as one of South Africa’s greatest musical gems.

In 2008 for the second year running, the Choir picked up a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album. In 2003, the Choir won a Helpmann Award, Australia’s prestigious Performing Arts Award for Best Contemporary Music Concert. In May 2004, the group won the American Gospel Music Award for Best Choir and, in October the same year, the United States-based Gospel Music Award for Best International Choir.

In South Africa, its debut CD, “Voices From Heaven,” was nominated for a South Africa Music Award for Best Traditional Gospel. The CD has also garnered rave reviews, having reached the Number One spot on Billboard’s World Music Chart within three weeks of its US release, debuting at Number 3.

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Its next CD, “Blessed,” was released in July 2004, followed by “African Spirit” in 2007, through Universal Music.

Wherever the Soweto Gospel Choir has performed, be it Europe, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom or the US, it has wowed audiences, and the group is honoured to have as its patron, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

“It has a cornucopia of remarkable voices: sharp, sweet, kindly, raspy and incantatory leads above a magnificently velvety blend. The music was both meticulous and unstoppable. The songs were both spirited and spectacular,” said the New York Times in a review after one of the group’s performances.

Soweto is an urban area of Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa, bordering the city’s mining belt in the north. Its name is an English syllabic abbreviation for “South Western Townships” and points to its origins as a Black township under South Africa’s Apartheid regime.

Its population has historically been overwhelmingly Black and some of the watershed events in the struggle against Apartheid occurred in the township. Formerly a separate municipality, it is now incorporated in the city of Johannesburg.

LIME and First Bank are platinum sponsors of the College’s Performing Arts Series, while several other local companies have also supported financially. For more information, please contact Linette Baa, Coordinator of the Performing Arts Series, tel.  852-7223, email lbaa@hlscc.edu.vg.

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