Sweet sounds out of the North West Province
04 December 2015
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Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live, I’m Brad Brown, it’s good to have you with us and we are joined by no stranger to the Old Mutual National Choir Festival. Mohau Mogale, welcome, nice to have you with us. All the way from the North West, you have been involved in the competition for about five years, I think you 2010.
Mohau Mogale: Yes, this is my sixth year with the competition.
BB: Does it get easier?
MM: No, it gets harder every time.
BB: What are you looking forward to most in 2015 for this competition, for the finals?
MM: Oh, competing with great choirs like we’ve been doing all the years but you know, people have raised the bar, so we also are working on trying to be at the top of the game. So, things are looking great, conductors are ready, everybody is ready for this thing, so we will push and make sure that we represent our province.
A young driven choir
BB: Tell us a little bit about the choir who will be representing North West, Bagale Chorus, how long has it been going, when did it get started?
MM: It started in 2010, February 17th, with a young group of singers, mainly from high schools. We have been doing this thing for the past six years, so it has been a great experience to work with the young singers and making sure that the singers enjoy this genre and making sure that they are developed. It’s one of the youngest choirs we have in this competition but they’ve just been doing well.
We didn’t start in the standard section, we just started in the large section, the large category and it has been a great experience. They love it. Every year they want to do this thing and make sure that they do it well, representing the North West for all the years and I think last year we were number one on the league, so this year we came number seven, it was tough, but we made it.
BB: Tell me a little bit about how exciting it must be to be working with a young choir like this, if you think about how good they are now, imagine how good they’re going to be 20 years from now.
MM: Yes, the truth of the matter is, they always are looking forward to the new things, that’s the most important thing and although, because it’s a community choir, it struggles financial, things like that, but at the end of the day, the passion they have for the music, it’s quite amazing.
I think in years to come, I was talking to one of the conductors to say, our choirs are still very young, but in years to come, as they develop, you will actually hear much more. We’ll actually have much more emphasis and more impact in the programme.
BB: Let’s talk about the music for 2015, it’s an interesting –
BB: I didn’t want to use the word ‘difficult’, you did, it’s been tough and it’s challenging.
The music is really testing all of us
MM: Very challenging, especially the Opera that we are doing, it’s a big opera, it’s one of the biggest operas that we have. It’s only two choirs who are doing it, so it’s us and Kopano, it’s quite big, massive. But you know, when you have something like that, you just say, I’m going to work hard and I’m going to work, I’m going to show my level of positionship, to share it with the whole country, so that’s what we’ll be doing. The music is quite exciting and we promise we are going to give the best of the best.
BB: Even though it’s difficult and challenging, that’s what you want. You don’t want it to be easy, you want to be able to push your choristers and push yourself as a conductor.
MM: Yes, push them to the edge, they must know that this thing, this is how big this thing can get and it improves our level of positionship as well because we learn new things every time. You know, there’s no point of going back and doing things that you know, you must always try to have room for improvement, learn these things and make sure that at the end of the day you become a much more better position to grow.
BB: Mohau, tell me about, if I say Old Mutual National Choir Festival, what do you think of? What emotions does it evoke?
The biggest and best competition
MM: The biggest competition in the country, yes. You just say wow, it’s incomparable, uncompared to any other competition because it’s the best. It’s been there for 38 years and you know that if you have participated in this competition, you are one of the best. The best choirs come from this competition, it has always been the best, so we strive to make sure that we are at least part of it every year, yes.
BB: As far as the draw goes for the order of performance, every time I bring this up with a conductor they smile, are you satisfied where you’re performing?
MM: Yes, I’m satisfied, it’s going to get tough down there, oh, it’s getting tough. At least I’m number five on Sunday and number six on the Saturday, so I’m just in the middle. So when you’re in the middle, at least things are fine.
It’s not like you’re at the top or bottom because top, it means you need to make sure that they listen to you, the bottom, you need to make sure that you raise everything you have sung. So it’s quite nice in the middle, I’m quite happy about the draw, it went well. I prayed for number five, so I got five and six, so it’s good.
BB: Mohau, tell me a little bit about you and your journey into choral music, where did it all start?
Started conducting at only 16
MM: I started conducting when I was 16, I think I sang a year before, when I was 15, singing for the first time in the community choir, for the same competition, Old Mutual National Choir Festival. Then I was singing for a choir in North West. So we didn’t do so well, but then I decided, this is what I want to do.
So I started conducting at the age of 16, and I won the nationals, or the schools category. From there I said, this is what I need to do. Then I decided to start developing that and then after I’ve completed my matric, I went to study music and I did piano. So I’m a pianist and then from there, I went into conducting.
Started with the school choir, they won, after winning the nationals with the schools, then I said, no, I’m going to start something of my own, then I started Bagale Chorus. It has been great so far, even though there are challenges, it’s been great. It has shaped me as a musician and as a great conductor. I can safely say I have not yet arrived, but I’m striving to be one of the best conductors in the country.
BB: Who do you think is going to be the choir to beat on that finals weekend?
MM: Voices of the Nation, they’re giving us stress. It’s one of the best choirs we have in the country and I know that they will come prepared, but we will be there as well. That’s the one, a difficult one to beat.
BB: What are you hoping to achieve, are you in this thing to win it?
MM: Of course, that’s why I’m here, I’m going to make sure that at the end of the day, Bagale Chorus come tops, no matter what, any circumstances. We will try to push and make sure that we sing music direct from the heart.
How to continue to grow choral music
BB: Looking ahead to the future, this competition, it doesn’t get bigger than this, but somehow, NCF seems to raise the bar every year, it doesn’t stagnate, it always gets better. Are you excited by the future of choral music in South Africa?
MM: I think you’ve seen there’s room for improvement because you know, we need to develop the market to be bigger because the market for choral music, it’s still quite small. That’s why our singers, after completing their studies, they don’t have work, they don’t have jobs. They struggle to get jobs and choirs can’t provide that for everyone because very few of them get to come into choirs and sing as soloists.
I think we need to start creating a market. We need to commercialise our choral music so that at the end of the day, you should be able to say, this is what we have achieved and we can be able to earn from it. Because now, from where we are standing, we are not earning anything from it, it’s just our passion, just the love we have for choral music. The sooner the better that we shift focus from that to that of making sure that we commercialise it, we must be able to earn from it, then it will grow.
BB: Mohau Mogale, thank you so much for joining us today, best of luck to you and the choir for the finals, we look forward to seeing you in Mangaung and safe travels.
MM: Thank you very much.