Zimbabwe’s challenge for 2015
12 April 2015
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Brad Brown: Welcome onto this edition of Old Mutual Live and we’ve got another one of the conductors joining us who will be performing at the 2015 Old Mutual National Choir Festival. George Tamisai joining us, all the way from Zimbabwe, welcome.
George Tamisai: Thank you so much.
BB: It’s good to have you here, the excitement is building, it’s not too long to those finals now. Before we get into a little bit about your choir and how you’re expecting them to perform, tell me a little bit about yourself, how did you get into conducting?
An anomaly amongst my family
GT: I started conducting when I was in school, when I was in form two and when we were in the choir and my music teacher just put me in front of the choir and said, I know you can conduct, I never thought I could do it myself. But he just pushed me in front of the choir and boom, it happened. I developed myself as the years passed and that’s where I am today.
BB: And the rest is history, as they say.
GT: Ja, the rest is history.
BB: George, tell me about your love of choral music, where did it all start for you? Did you grow up in a musical family?
GT: Funny enough, I’m the only person who has done music in my family. In primary school I never joined the choir, I was just in the percussion band in grade two. Then when I was in high school my music teacher said, I will not teach anyone how to sing if they are not in the choir. That’s when I got to be in the choir. It was not by choice, but we were pushed to get into the choir when I was in form one and that’s when it all started.
That’s when I realised that I could read tonic sol-fa, I could read stuff, notation and all the other readings that are on the scope and from there on, like I said before, I carried on developing myself. So that I could pass the music exam at form four. From there, that’s where the interest came from and started joining choirs, church choirs, community choirs, I was almost everywhere, wanting to learn and wanting to sing more.
BB: As far as the choir goes, that will be performing at the finals, tell us a little bit about the choir.
About the Chitungwiza Harmony Singers
GT: The Chitungwiza Harmony Singers is a community choir based in Chitungwiza, near Harare. It comprises of different ages, of young people and old people. People for music and who love singing. It was formed in 1993 by the late founder, Mr Israel Dzangare and now it is being led by his son, Arnold Dzangare.
He followed his father’s steps and that’s the guy I work with, so that the choir can perform well. The choir performs at state functions and big functions in Zimbabwe. I can say it’s the biggest choir in Zimbabwe at the moment and we hope to stay on top so that we get to enjoy ourselves more.
BB: As far as the Old Mutual National Choir Festival goes, it’s been around for a long time, the standards every year just seem to be getting higher and higher, how proud are you of this choir, to be able to be performing at the finals?
GT: Eish, I can’t even explain it. The guys are just so hard working. They try to push themselves to the limits whereby you just think, okay, so these guys want to sing, as long as it’s in them. That just makes me feel proud of myself and of the choir because the guys really do work hard and for us, it was out of so many practices, so much commitment and so much organisation within the choir.
BB: Fantastic. As far as the challenges you’ve had to overcome to get here, it’s never easy sailing. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
GT: You know, we are a choir from Zimbabwe and that would mean travelling to South Africa for the competition, it’s always there are financial challenges year in and year out. I think that was the biggest challenge we faced this year because not so many of our sponsors came on board this year.
But we managed to get into our pockets, our own personal pockets and we tried to cover it up so that we could get to the regionals and after that, when we won, things came back to normal because I think we had won and problems seemed to have gone and now we are good again.
BB: George, as far as a choir with varying ages, obviously young and old, that comes with its own set of challenges as well, tell us about some of those.
How to manage a varied aged choir
GT: Eish, it’s a bit tricky hey. The youngsters, they still have the energy and they have this great talent and the old, they have the experience. Now you can’t chase away the experience from the group because everyone needs experience and those old guys, they just make the choir stable when we’re on stage because of the experience they have.
The little ones are just learning and getting to know what to do and how to do it. So it’s fun, it’s fun making the two because they do blend well. As I speak, ja, they do perform well when they’re together and you can feel that the choir moves.
BB: As far as your aspirations for this competition, what are you hoping to achieve come that weekend in December?
GT: We are here for the win, that’s what I can say. Everyone wants to win and we wouldn’t want all our hard work to just flow under the bridge just like that. We will try, or rather we will perform to our best, we will sing our hearts out and we will try to persuade the adjudicators so that they feel moved with our music. I think that’s what we are hoping for, at the moment. We need to perform to our level best.
What goes into preparing for and getting to the finals?
BB: George, you talk about that hard work, for someone who is listening to this and possibly doesn’t know the amount of hard work that goes into putting a choir together that can perform at this level. How much rehearsing and practice time and training time do you guys put in on a weekly basis? How often do you practice, what’s the schedule for your choir?
GT: We practice all year long, from January to December and the practice days during the week, Saturday and Sunday. We start practice Saturday at 3:00 up to 6:00 and also Sunday from 3:00 to 6:00, but when we get close to the competition, we extend more days or rather we put more days. So that we can practice, like 4-5 on top of the two.
Two weeks prior to the competition, practice is every day and as I speak now, the guys are already working for the session in Zimbabwe, they are starting earlier so that they can cover a lot of ground and when I go back home, the practice will be on every day, up until the 12th of December.
BB: George, best of luck, safe travels back to Harare and we look forward to welcoming the entire choir at Mangaung, we’re looking forward to meeting them and seeing them and hearing them perform.
GT: Thank you so much.