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Drakensberg Boys Choir

Youth have a 'Wow' experience singing with Tabernacle Choir
Published: Saturday, June 11, 2011

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Irfaan Abdool of the Drakensberg Boys Choir from South Africa said the mountains of Salt Lake City reminded him and his classmates of home. Saying the mountains where their favorite part of Utah in their nation-wide tour because the school they attend back home is surrounded by mountains on all sides and have snow on the top like the ones in Salt Lake City.

Photo by Debra Gehris
The Drakensberg Boys Choir sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on June 5, 2011.

The Drakensberg Boys Choir of South Africa sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in its "Music and the Spoken Word" program on June 5. The boys described the experience as awe inspiring and a wonderful opportunity for them while they were on their tour around America.

"The Mormon Tabernacle choir is well known to all classical lovers in South Africa," said its director, conductor Johann van der Sandt said. "It's a very loved choir and we have a lot of their CDs in our shops."

Photo by Debra Gehris
Singers with the Drakensberg Boys Choir said performing with the Tabernacle Choir was an inspiring opportunity.

Boys choir member Irfaan Abdool said he'd heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir before, but really started listening to it when his conductor gave the boys some of their its to listen to. "Our conductor gave us a lot of [the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's] music so [the Mormon Tabernacle Choir] is quite popular on our iPods," Irfaan said. "We also You-tubed some videos and were really impressed and very excited to sing with them."

He said they rehearsed for the performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for about a week because they wanted to give their American audience something unique and special, something other then their usual Wednesday performance. He said they tailor each of their selections for the different places they performed at, and the chose to sing Da Nobis Pacem by Felix Mendelssohn to give the audience "a taste of their classical side" and the Bawo, Thixo Somandla Siyayivuma Le Ngoma South African folk songs to give the audience a bit of their culture.

Photo by Debra Gehris

Irfaan said for most of the boys, their favorite part of singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was just listening. He said he was amazed at the sound that was produced by the full choir and orchestra together.

Photo by Debra Gehris

Mr. Van der Sandt said his favorite part of conducting with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was "just the vastness of everything and the exactness and organization of it all. I mean everything is up to the point."

Damin Malan described his experience with his classmates as an awe-inspiring experience and said he thoroughly enjoyed the "wonderful acoustics of the Tabernacle and to sing with the other voices and listening to all the voices was just 'Wow.'"

Photo by Debra Gehris

The Drakensberg Boys' Choir School is a private boarding school for boys in South Africa. The boys have to audition for the school, and everyone who is a part of the school has to be in the choir. The school has about 110 students, all of whom are part of the choir.

Damin, 15, is in his last year with the choir since the school goes from 4th to 9th grade, this will be his last year singing with the choir. He said the school has a lot of great academics and sports. Being the captain of the cross country team, he is kept busy with practices for team, choir, and his own personal studies.

"Music of course is our biggest priority," said Irfaan. "When you come to audition they check your voice, they check your potential, and then they train you. We are not the boys school with a choir, we are a choir school."

Photo by Debra Gehris
During a tour in the United States, the Drakensberg Boys Choir of South Africa made a stop in Salt Lake City to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its weekly broadcast on June 5.

One of the things he has to keep the boys busy are the weekly performances the school holds for the community and tourists every Wednesday. It was during one of those performances where Klane and Kaye Forsgren heard the boys sing in 2010 and told the conductor they should come sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Brother and Sister Forsgren were missionaries in the area in 2010. Sister Forsgren had been in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 14 years before retiring after 2002. When she heard the choir sing she said the boys had such a full and good sound that she just thought they should sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

She said after the performance she introduced herself to the conductor Mr. Van der Sandt and asked him when he and his choir would be in the United States. He told her they would be making a tour in 2011, and it would be a dream to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Once Sister Forsgren returned home, she started arrangements to make that dream come true. "In America, each state is very diverse and very different," said Irfaan. "It's difficult to choose a favorite place because each one has some things you do like and some things you don't like. Overall, we really have enjoyed America."

JBlack@desnews.com