2015 National Choir Festival has seen a great standard
11 April 2015
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Brad Brown: Welcome back onto the next edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and I can tell you that the excitement is building towards the grand finale of the 2015 Old Mutual National Choir Festival. We’re joined once again by one of the adjudicators who’s been on Old Mutual Live before and I wanted to find out a little bit about this year’s competition and the level and standards of what has been seen at all the regional qualifiers. It’s a great pleasure to welcome once again Thami Zhungi. Thami, welcome, nice to catch up once again.
Thami Zhungi: Thank you.
BB: Thami, the excitement’s building. I’ve been following online and there’s lots of chatter, particularly on Facebook, around this year’s National Choir Festival. As far as from an adjudication perspective, were you impressed with the level of competition in 2015?
How did the 2015 regionals go?
TZ: Very much so, even though I did not adjudicate many originals, but I went to a few originals where I was able to do. I went to Gauteng which actually produced one of the best competition I’ve seen in a very long time and I think that the biggest representation in the large category.
I also went to Bloemfontein, Free State, where the competition was very high including the standard section. I also went to Northern Cape, I was also very impressed with the standard, although no choir was able to make it to the finals in the large category because of the league format.
Same thing in Mpumalanga, I have to say, Mpumalanga improved incredibly well compared to last year because last year even the choir that performed could not be placed, that’s how bad the competition was. But this year, the same choir that we couldn’t place last year, did so well, to the point it almost made it to the finals of the league this year. So it’s been very impressive to see the work that has been done by conductors and their choristers in this year’s edition of National Festival.
BB: Thami, how proud does that make you? Obviously as an adjudicator you give feedback on performances and you mentioned that specific choir in Mpumalanga and how they’ve improved in literally 12 months. It must make you feel incredibly proud that you give feedback and it’s up to the conductor and the members of the choir to take it back and look at that criticism and the suggestions and do whatever they want with it. But when they actually take those suggestions to heart and really improve, it must make you want to burst with pride.
TZ: Ja, you said it right, because I actually gave the comments last year in Mpumalanga, after a very bad performance by that choir and then although we appear to be very harsh, but our aim is to actually build for the future.
I was so proud to see the choir coming back in such a force, with such a beautiful attitude, wonderful attitude, to the point they can actually compete nationally. It makes us very proud that we are able to contribute towards development of choirs in this session.
What do choirs need to do to excel at the finals?
BB: Looking ahead to the finals, in December, in Bloemfontein, what would you say is going to make a choir stand out and be head and shoulders above the rest? I don’t even think that someone can be head and shoulders above the rest, the competition is so tight. But what do you think a choir needs to do, that’s going to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, where the cream will rise to the top?
TZ: Most of the time we look at actual performance, but there are so many other factors that happen outside the performance, like the preparation for the finals and it would be nice if choirs could be even more disciplined than ever before. Because some of those things that happen outside the performance might actually affect the performance on the day.
Also for a conductor, to all of these elements of combining the orchestra and the choristers and negotiating the right tempos with the soloist, I think that will actually make the performance better than the others. If a conductor is able to negotiate all of these elements in a performance because it only takes about maybe six minutes and about 12 minutes in the large category. So the concentration level, that needs to be there in that performance of 12 minutes, it must be very good, so you’ll be able to meet the requirements of the repertoire and performance.
This really is a special competition
BB: Thami, I think it’s going to be an amazing competition, it always is and we say it every single year, but I think this year is going to be something special. As far as the Old Mutual National Choir Festival goes as a whole, what do you think makes this competition special? There are lots of competitions in the country, under various guises, this one’s been around for a long, long time. What in your opinion differentiates the Old Mutual National Choir Festival from the others?
TZ: Well, besides that it’s a big brand, but I think I like the fact that they try by all means to get the best adjudicators they can find because the same adjudicators do a lot of training before the season starts, of the festival. So, if you actually invest on training, the results will be great.
We had a lot of workshops this year where we had personal interaction with the conductors and their choristers and you could tell that a lot of work was done. So, Old Mutual seems to continue to actually invest on conductors and their choristers and for that reason it will always go as high as, the skies the limit.
BB: Thami, thank you very much for that, much appreciated. We look forward to seeing you down in Bloemfontein for those finals. I appreciate your time and we look forward to catching up again soon here on Old Mutual Live.
TZ: Pleasure, thank you so much.