Bel Canto Voices love combining with the orchestra
11 December 2015
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Brad Brown: This is Old Mutual Live and we’re still chatting about the upcoming finals of the Old Mutual National Choir Festival, Hlokomelang welcome onto the podcast, thanks for joining us today. It is the conductors briefing this weekend, it’s been a pretty productive weekend, hasn’t it?
Hlokomelang Khama: It has been, the most hectic day that I’ve ever, week that I’ve ever come across.
BB: Tell me what you’ve enjoyed most about this?
Always special to work with an orchestra
HK: Okay, the session, the orchestra, mostly the orchestra is something that is new to me almost all the time, every time when I conduct an orchestra or when I just rehearse with it. That’s the most exciting part, meeting all those guys, making those noises, it’s pretty exciting for me, every time!
BB: It’s never gets old, it never gets stale.
HK: It never gets old because I normally don’t do it most of the time because we would have Acapella songs and then we’d sing with piano. When we meet orchestra, it’s something big, so that huge things make you feel like, eish, you are the man in front of those guys, you understand?
BB: It’s an amazing feel and I mean you’re pulling lots of different aspects together. It’s the orchestra, it’s the choir, you need to be on top of your game, to make sure that everything –
HK: Everything is on top. Basically that’s what I’ve learnt about conducting, it requires more attention, it’s like everything is depending on your beat. If you fall down, then the whole thing will just fall apart.
BB: Exactly. Tell me a little bit about the choir that you’re involved in, where are you guys from?
Bel Canto Voices have a history of winning
HK: Okay, it’s Bel Canto Voices, Bel Canto Voices, it’s a choir that was formed in about 2005, if I’m not mistaken, in Bloemfontein. It started with school kids. We combined school kids from like the Free State, basically the Free State, because we didn’t want that thing. We’d go to Pretoria and get somebody from Pretoria, so we need the home brewed guys.
So it started in 2008, we attended NCF, we won the first time. We attended the second year, we won the second year, we attended the third year, we won, we came up first at the third year and the fourth year. I remember the fourth year, they actually took us from standard to large because we were winning too much.
It was in 2008 and then in 2008 the first time when we get there, we just won the finals of NCF, which made us qualify for being in the Champ of Champs.
BB: Tell me about the pressure, you’re coming in, you’re obviously a great choir, all of these choirs are good.
HK: All of these choirs are good.
Teamwork is the key to success
BB: Coming in as a multiple champion, is there more pressure on you?
HK: There is more pressure because now people are like, okay, they’ll come, Voices should do the best and every time when you hit that lower standard, they’re expecting, argh, Bel Canto is dead or things like that. You realise that years don’t come the same.
Sometimes you have people that are committed and then sometimes you’ll have people that will say, ag man, it’s fine, I don’t even want to go to the practice. So that influences the whole performance as such because in order for us to do this, we actually need the whole team to do everything that we do in the choir. Team work, it’s important.
BB: Tell me about your journey into conducting and choral music, where did it all start for you?
HK: My journey, I know Mrs Linda which is the conductor of Bel Canto Voices, she was teaching me at high school and then she realised at high school that I had a potential of training the choir. One day she left me with the choir, she went to study something, every afternoon I would stay with the choir and do some songs.
When she gets there, the whole song is done and then that’s when she gained confidence in me and saying, okay, this boy, he can do this. Then from then onwards up until she opened Bel Canto, I was the first chorister to sing there.
I was actually doing the same thing, that’s when I started conducting and started, she showed me how to do it and ever since, I haven’t left her till today. I’ve been with Bel Canto since it started, until today. So, the journey for me, it has been remarkable because without her, I couldn’t even think of ending up conducting the Bel Canto Choir. Hence, I’m hoping she won’t leave me with the choir, but if she does, I’ll have to take it over.
Pressure of performing in front of a home crowd
BB: I love it, and performing in Mangaung, it’s your backyard, it’s home. Does that add more pressure or does it make it easier?
HK: It adds more pressure because these guys out there, they’ve prepared very well. I mean like these guys, their standard is so high, it’s not even funny. Hence we have much pressure, so because this is our home town, it feels like Celtics is playing Kaiser Chiefs or something like that. So, pressure, it’s even more, when it’s your background, so we need to work as hard as we can, just like we did in the past years. We don’t have a choice.
BB: Where do you see the biggest competition coming from in 2015?
HK: The biggest?
BB: Who is the biggest threat I should say?
HK: In 2015? There are so many of the guys. There are so many of them.
BB: And you’re right because it’s not that they’ve just arrived, they’ve won their regionals, they’ve done well in the league.
Judges will be looking for something new
HK: Each choir, it’s unique, they come with a different style, something that will amaze the judges and all of that because I believe that the judges need something new, not the old thing that is being repeated all over again. These guys, they come up with something bright, something beautiful, so we need to keep up with that, basically we need to keep up with that.
BB: The music has been interesting this year, it’s not an easy year, has that been challenging for you?
HK: It has been challenging, a lot, because now, before we were singing auditorios, something light, something that’s not heavy on voices. You’d sing Mozart, now we sing Valanti which is like the hugest thing ever. So it puts too much pressure on the conductor and the trainer to actually say, how do we need to do that. So now we have people like the maestro down there which is doing the orchestra, showing you the basics of how to handle Verity and stuff, but eish, it’s very challenging, it’s very challenging
BB: Well, best of luck, you don’t have far to travel. I’ve been saying to everyone ‘travel well’, but you’re home.
HK: I’m home.
BB: Rest up well.
HK: Thank you.
BB: I know there’s finishing touches being placed on each of the choirs, I’m sure it’s exactly the same for you. We’ll see you at those finals, good luck.
HK: Thank you very much Brad.