The Grahamstown Kwantu Choir will celebrate their success at the World Choir Games in Tshwane with two homecoming concerts next weekend.
Not only did the community choir led by Kutlwana ‘Kepa’ Kepadisa manage to raise the funds to get to the Games in Pretoria last week, but they thoroughly impressed the judges of the international competition, narrowly missing a gold medal by fewer than two points. They were awarded Silver in the Open Mixed Chamber Choir category, placing fifth overall out of the 13 choirs competing in that category.
Kepadisa said from the moment he heard in 2016 that the World Choir Games was coming to South Africa, he decided that in 2018, he would be conducting a choir at the Tshwane event.
He did – and it’s been a short, intense journey for Kepadisa.
He joined the Grahamstown Cathedral as an intern in 2017, mentored by its Music Director Dr Andrew Bethke. When Bethke left, Kepadisa was more or less thrown in the deep end and had to take over. At the same time, he was appointed director of the Kingswood Senior Choir.
He used his many choral contacts well and established a community choir, drawing from singers all over town, and across institutions. Their first gig was the Festival Eucharist. Kepadisa was motivated by that success, as well as strong encouragement from Renette Bouwer, conductor of the Mpumalanga Youth Choir, and the conductor of the multi-award-winning Stellenbosch Choir, Andre van der Merwe.
Both encouraged him to take on the World Choir Games.
The first step towards getting there was the R2500 registration fee – and WCG project director Jelena Dannhuer became Kwantu’s champion, ensuring ther fee was waived.
After a second invitation for singers to join, the choir ended up with 48 singers from Graeme College, Victoria Girls;’ High School, Graeme College and Rhodes University, as well as other residents.
By the time Masicule came along, the choir had several pieces ready to perform.
There were plenty of hiccups, with exam and term-time schedules sometimes disrupting attendance at rehearsals, and some dropping out of the choir altogether. Kepadisa was left with an 18-strong choir.
“By this time I knew I had a real product to sell, and that I was working with a group who were prepared to go beyond what was required.”
But they needed funding to pay for their travel and accommodation in Tshwane.
A candlelight concert before Rhodes swot week was well received, and their funding appeal slowly gained traction.
They’d raised R20 000 and needed to raise anotyher R30 000, when the National Arts Festival offered to match the next R10 000 they raised. Other generous donations came from Henkel SA CEO Jonathan Naicker (R15 000), R5 000 via Aiden Smith of the Grahamstown Music Society and Kepadisa’s own family. A 15% discount from Intercape on their bus fare was a huge help.
To celebrate, and thank the Grahamstown (Makhanda) community for their support, the choir will be performing two concerts next weekend, at Nombulelo High School on Friday night, and in NELM auditorium on Saturday 28 July. Check the Facebook page of Grahamstown Kwantu Choir. Grocott’s Mail will also keep you informed of details.