Expect a cracking Old Mutual National Choir Festival
12 July 2015
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Brad Brown: Welcome back onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. The clock is definitely ticking to those grand finals of the Old Mutual National Choir Festival that’s happening in Mangaung between the 11th and 13th of December this year.
The competition has been extremely strong and I thought we’d get a previous visitor onto the podcast. She’s chatted to us before about her love for choral music and where the journey began. I thought we’d get her on to chat a little bit about this year’s competition. Thokozani Ndlovu, welcome back onto Old Mutual Live, I hope you’re well.
Thokozani Ndlovu: Yes, I’m very good thank you. I can only say, Mangaung, here we come.
BB: It’s going to be amazing, the excitement is building, it’s incredible to me how people are invested in this competition and how much excitement and anticipation is around at the moment.
I think we’re in for an amazing few days of choral music. Thokozani, tell me a little bit about the level of competition, of what you’ve seen. You obviously come from a vocal background, we’ve got some wonderful soloists in this country, how would you rate the level of competition in 2015?
Music has really grown to higher heights
TN: Well, I can tell you, it’s been a long, long journey, very exciting and very interesting indeed. You know what, Old Mutual National Choir Festival wouldn’t be where it is, had it not been firstly for Old Mutual sponsoring it for so many years and believing in this art form.
Making sure that it really happened from the townships throughout the country, to all the music lovers, to all the conductors, all the choristers, the pianists, the composers, everybody else that was involved in making sure that NCF prospers. Really, for 38 years, it’s been a wonderful experience.
Let me tell you, the standard of the music has really grown to higher heights, because people now do more research and now with technology always available, we are able to get conductors that understand the pieces that are prescribed and are able to interpret them better.
Also from an audience point of view, because every audience who is down there, they are also adjudicating in one way or the other, but also for the adjudicators that are always in the panel, they are refined professionals and we are grateful to everyone.
BB: Thokozani, looking at the regionals and the build up to this year’s finals, I’m not sure if you were able to attend any of the regionals?
BB: I can’t get over how much year on year, how these regionals improve. The level of competition, it just gets tougher and tougher to make it to the finals year after year.
League system has helped up the ante
TN: Yes, it does, especially with the introduction lately of this new system introduced, the league system that is introduced in the large category where it’s only choirs getting a certain percentage of marks that qualify to go to the finals.
But overall, even in the standard section, it’s very difficult because there are other choir competitions and people still have to go on with their normal lives, whether they’re working or whether they’re housewives, whether they’re involved in other sports, they have to look after their families.
But then there’s NCF again coming in with the new music which is always sometimes difficult, but very interesting to be done. So, a whole lot of components affect what happens to the NCF, but as I said we are very grateful to all the people that have made it so far.
BB: Thokozani, talk to me a little bit about the introduction of the league, so to speak, with the last choir, it’s something we get asked quite often. What was the thinking behind that, from the management committee? Why was that introduced?
TN: Okay, it has to do with setting standards and keeping the standards very high. With the large choir section, there are the large choir sections because they are larger in numbers, you’re talking your 70-80 voices, 66-80 voices or so, that’s the large choir section. Because the format has always been the same ever since National Choir Festival started, then the management committee came up with a plan.
It’s only the second year running now, in it’s second year running. Then, how about introducing the league format so that you do not just compete and you are guaranteed to go to the finals because you are position one. But there is a thing called standardisation in adjudication where we say, it’s only platinum choirs that will be going to the national finals.
How the league system has been received?
Even if you get an 85%, but if there are more choirs that have got from 92% – 100%, it means you’ll not be able to go through to the finals because of the league system, it kicks you out as soon as the next person comes in and they have better marks than you. It has had its own challenges, but it’s a very, for me, it’s interesting to see how it unfolds and how it motivates other people to work harder.
BB: I was going to ask, how’s it been received, that change? It’s a big change, there’s no doubt about that. How’s it been received by the choirs who take part at the various regional levels?
TN: Yes, as you know, anything coming up with change is not really that easy to accept to anyone, but yes, it has been accepted. It has its own loopholes, but we’re working on them, to tighten up everything, just so that all of us are happy going forward.
Even the standard choirs are waiting eagerly for the league system to be introduced, but we’re saying, let’s wait a bit, let’s just make sure this system works properly, firstly among the large choir section and then we’ll see how we cascade it to the standard choir section.
BB: Thokozani, looking ahead to the finals, what is it that you’re looking forward to most?
A wonderful weekend of great music
TN: I’m looking forward to a wonderful weekend of great music. I know conductors are well prepared and I know, and you know what’s even amazing? Is the fact that in the Old Mutual National Choir Festival, conductors have grown, they’ve developed themselves. They even now conduct the orchestra, so whenever there’s orchestral accompaniment, it’s those conductors that would go up onto that podium and conduct the orchestra and their choirs.
I’m looking forward to that too, seeing that professionalism, to seeing the choristers enjoying themselves and we have become like a family. You know, if I go to any other province, I see people that know me from the choir, so it’s become like a choral music family. I’m looking forward to a good weekend of good fashion, you must see how the audience looks.
The way people dress to respect the occasion. Both days, it’s amazing. Saturday mostly ladies wear their traditional attire and it’s nice and colourful and on Sunday everybody, it’s like the Sunday type of a day and it’s just beautiful and I’m looking forward to that, to all of those things that make the National Choir Festival be what it is.
BB: I can’t wait either and we’re going to be broadcasting live, as Old Mutual Live from the finals in Mangaung. If you’d like to listen to that broadcast, if you can’t make it to the Free State that weekend, all you need to do is download the Old Mutual app. You can go to oldmutualapp.com, download it there and you’ll be able to listen to that stream live from the Old Mutual National Choir Festival.
Thokozani, thank you so much for your time here today once again. We look forward to meeting up in Mangaung, we look forward to spending some time with you there and getting your thoughts on this year’s finalists and who you think will win, but we’ll chat more about that on that weekend, if that’s good with you.
TN: Of course, you must just encourage people to go and get their tickets for that weekend, the 11th-13th December 2015 in Mangaung, but also to say, we wish everybody a safe drive there and back. We love you so much.