Sunday, 8 July 2018

Saturday 8th July

This last official day of tour would rival Day 1 as the longest day! We were up and having breakfast at 7 am and the boys left in their gumboots for their Scenic Folklore sound check at the State Theatre.  I stayed behind at the hotel to update Facebook with the Scenic Pop videos. Shortly after returning and a short time to rest – we were preparing to leave for the State Theatre once again.  Just before we left Wandile Linda and Thando Skwatsha offered their encouragement to the boys.  We were to perform first in order for us to transfer to the next venue, ZK Matthews Hall at UNISA for the Music of Spirit and Faith Category timeously.  The boys only had a one hour wait this time which was well-used as a warm-up period and received a pre-performance talk from Ross Arde and Hector Mnyayiza – who were both 1st XV rugby players (Hector also played KZN Schools in Brad Barrit’s team) and both jointly led the Choir in 2004.  Their talk emphasised the comradery and brotherhood the choir allows which is worth far more than any achievement.  The boys exploded onto the stage in their colourful costumes.  The energy was palpable, each boy put in 100% and they maintained that level for the entire repertoire.  The solos were sung with more feeling than we have witnessed before and the boys were moved to tears after they left the stage – they knew that this was a special performance.  They received standing ovations in the middle of their performance particularly after their synchronised and vibrant gumboot dance routine. The bubbly mood continued until we reached UNISA where the boys had a few group photographs taken and changed on the bus in readiness for their performance.  We performed last in this category – which was a closely contested competition between all the choirs.  This category well represented the international participation of the World Choir Games. The boys gave a very different performance to the ones we viewed and once again delighted the audience.  The vibrant mood of the boys continued as they left the hall singing Shosholoza.  We ate dinner in the bus, sewed a couple of pairs of split pants (indicative of the energy put into the performance!) and the boys changed into their outfits for the awards ceremony.  The start of the ceremony was delayed due to some category decisions still outstanding due to late starts. Music and song filled the arena which was filled with excited choirs awaiting their results.  The boys fully made use of the time to socialise, with especially the Russian girls’ choir!  The Awards ceremony is always very long with the every choir formally presented with their medals and certificates for each category. And so the wait was filled with adrenaline and anticipation.  The Scenic Pop Category was announced first and the boys were most satisfied with their gold medal (85%) and third place.  Harmonize from Korea was placed second and Bernard Kruger and his Drakensberg Choir were announced as Champions for that category.  The boys (many of whom are Drakies Old Boys) celebrated the win for these young and talented choristers. The Music of Spitrit and Faith was next after another wait – to receive gold (and 4th place) in this category was a bonus!  The most anticipated category of Scenic Folklore was announced last.  The announcement of 78% and a silver medal (third place) was somewhat perplexing to the choir and their supporters - who knew what the presentation had cost them in energy and effort.  This was a low-scoring category with the winners, St Mary’s, gaining a well-deserved champion status of 82.5%.  South Africa was the country that received the most number of choirs with Champion status.  Drakensberg Boys Choir (1 title) Tygerberg Children’s Choir (2 titles) St Mary’s DSG Kloof (1 title) and University of Johannesberg (1 title).  The boys returned to the hotel at midnight emotionally and physically drained after a wonderful 12 day tour wherein they bonded as brothers and made the Kearsney family so proud. The boys added three medals to the Kearsney Choir treasure chest, bringing the choir’s tally to 15 gold medals.

Friday 6th July

The boys were up and eating breakfast (and sipping their “compulsory Berocca”) at 6:45 and ready to board the bus bound for Pro Arte and the practice venue.  I arrived later after picking up more medication, for what became known as the “First Floor Pharmacy” in the hotel each morning and evening.  The diarrhoea and vomiting continued throughout the 12 days as well as sore throats and sinusitis. Grahamstown Pharmacy, Dischem in Glenfair and Clicks at Brooklyn Mall all benefitted from our choir tour! The boys asked for diarrhoea medication like this: “Ma’am, please may I have ‘the cement’”. When we arrived back at the practice venue I was struck by the charged atmosphere.  The boys realised there was no more time to play with and were taking the rehearsal very seriously – they were practicing their Folklore programme.  Literally we were moved to tears, including Hancadri Spies who was responsible for all our travel arrangements.  The boys went back to the hotel for a two hour rest, shower and mental preparation time.  We were ready to leave for the State theatre at 4pm – stopping only to fetch the supper packs from Dros restaurant along the way.  The bus was silent for the entire trip until we reached the theatre – no talking at all.  We were ushered into the waiting room where we met up with Bernard and Junine Kruger and the Drakies boys who like us were waiting to do their sound check.  St Mary’s girls were also backstage and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces in the nervous atmosphere. The sound check of 15 minutes ran smoothly and then the wait started.  The boys were performing 6th and that meant a backstage wait of at least 3 hours.  I videoed a song or two of each of the choirs participating in the Scenic Pop category. Our boys performed at 9:10 and presented a show that contained variety of presentation as well as passion and energy.  Thimna launched himself higher than ever before and well done to the boys who caught him! Our choir really can be described as a ‘crowd pleaser’ as they received a standing ovation from the appreciative audience at the end of their 15 minute programme.  The song “sky full of stars” with the torch presentation was met with gasps and delight as the boys flawlessly executed their routine. “We didn’t start the fire” showed that the Kearsney boys are certainly entertainers.  The boys themselves were not sure about their performance but brightened considerable once they viewed the video footage.  Back at the hotel the boys were medicated and sent off to bed – a very late night.  I valiantly tried to update the photographs to Facebook and the blog but lost the battle to fatigue at 1am!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thursday 5th July - Tshwane

Day -1

After last night the boys were struck by the enormity of the World Choir Games and arose with a new determination to tackle rehearsals seriously. A bit of free time in the morning allowed the boys to catch up on some sleep, practice gumboot routines and have some family time. We left the hotel at 09:45 and headed for the NG Kerk near the Tukkies campus to meet the other choirs assigned to our Friendship group – A Greek Youth Choir, A girls’ high school choir from Kuils River in the Cape and a choir from Nigeria.  

To start off, one of the judges of the WCG played a warm-up game with the choirs which became quite complex but they all managed admirably!  Then the four choirs joined voices to craft the singing of Hallelujah. Then each choir performed some of their repertoire for the other three choirs and an audience, which consisted mostly of choir parents and supporters.

Then we went on to Pro Arte for an outdoor practice for four hours. The boys headed straight for supper at Spur. Seeing the happy birthday sparklers, the boys decided it was Mrs Govender’s birthday – so the ice-cream arrived with a sparkler and balloon and the accompanying jingle - which the boys had picked up and they added to the swell of noise. It was their way of saying “Thank you” to Mrs Govender for keeping them in line. 

Some boys chose to return to the hotel while others travelled to the WCG Village. They returned straight away as most choirs were resting for competitions tomorrow or performing at concerts. Medication and a compulsory Vitamin C ‘fizzer’ was handed out and the boys were sent to bed after roll call.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Wednesday 4th July

The boys had a wonderfully filling and varied breakfast at the hotel in the morning before receiving their packed lunches and heading off to practice at Pro Arte. The morning and early afternoon was taken up with rehearsals and then it was a quick dash back to the hotel to change and head for the ZK Matthews Hall at UNISA for a sound check. This was a stressful time as we had to arrive 15 minutes before our scheduled sound check time and then have strictly ten minutes on the stage. The boys looked good in their uniforms and were well-disciplined, when literally; the stopwatch started the ten minute countdown.

From Unisa we travelled to Glenfair Butcher Brothers for a delicious meal before heading to the Sun Arena and the opening of the 10th World Choir Games. The arena looked stupendous in its impressive size with row upon row filled with participating choirs. The boys immediately understood the mood and excitement of the Games. Each participating country was welcomed by flag-bearers then a few speeches and then entertainment from Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The arena slowly emptied as the proposed time for the end of the show was passed. Then it was on to City Lodge where instructions were given to the boys for tomorrow and some boys visited the pharmacy again before heading to bed.

Tuesday 3rd July - Day 1 in Tshwane

The boys felt short-changed as we left Grahamstown at 08:40 in the morning as a group of young ladies from KZN South Coast had moved into the Victoria Primary School Hostel on Monday afternoon. Mrs Govender sat sentry duty in the passage wrapped in her blanket. The boys were set to determine her staying power and she outlasted them all!  

An hour and a half journey saw us arrive at the Port Elizabeth Airport. Check-in was an organised and quick affair and we then had an hour in which to have something to eat and then proceed though security. The plane was slightly delayed and was filled mostly with the Kearsney College Choir.

The short flight ended with the boys singing Shosholoza and serenading the passengers as they left the plane. A lady who had returned to South Africa to visit family, was moved to tears to hear the boys sing.

The bus and trailer were packed in relatively short order and after about an hour we arrived at our City Lodge Hotel in Lynnwood, most conveniently situated near to World Choir Games venues and also very comfortable accommodation. Mr Alborough and Mr Lombard went to Tukkies to register and receive our armbands, which give us permission to enter WCG venues, while the choir travelled to Pro Arte Alphen Park, which is our practice venue, where the matric boys ran a successful movement rehearsal.

Mrs G will keep the phones during dinner
We then met up at Huckleberry’s Restaurant in Magnolia Dell where we enjoyed a delicious meal of either fish and chips, or steak and chips or half chicken and chips with salad on request. Mrs Govender conviscated cellphones that were in use when they were instructed to talk to each other and not look at their phones! We then returned to the hotel where the ‘pharmacy’ opened to dose the sick boys- mostly tonsilitis and flu now with the last few with stomach cramps and nausea.  Then bed….

Monday, 2 July 2018

Monday 2nd July - See you in Tshwane

A short movement rehearsal followed breakfast and then the choir was split into two groups – the juniors had lunch (after which we bade Mr Zwane good bye – he was our technical manager for our performances over the week-end) and then went on the watch Aaron McIllroy’s ADHD fringe show.  The Grades 10, 11 and 12 boys were very excited to see saw a production of “The Island” which is a Grade 12 set work for Drama and then went on to enjoy their lunch at Browns.  We all met back at the boarding house in time for an afternoon rehearsal.  Then it was time to start preparing to pack for our departure tomorrow morning and onto the important part of the tour – World Choir Games in Pretoria. The power cut immediately followed the conclusion of ADHD and as a result it is difficult to post photographs – due also to the slow wifi coverage provided by the dongle. I will post photographs to Facebook and the blog when I am able in Pretoria.

Sunday 1st July - last performances in Grahamstown

The day started a little earlier than the previous days in order to get the Hall in time for our sound check and warm-up for the 10a.m. performance. In the audience were a number of young ladies which gave the boys an undeniable “testosterone boost” and resulted in their best performance so far.  We thought of hiring these young ladies to be in the audience at the World Choir Games!  I must say I was very emotional during that performance, knowing how sick many of the boys felt, yet they still went onstage and performed; some had to sing solo pieces.

A small rest of an hour before the boys got dressed to start the last concert at 1pm. Cries of “who has two right boots”, “who has my pants”, and “who has Orion’s Belt” – which caused much laughter!  The boys were obviously tired and their voices scratchy by the end of the show – nevertheless they received their fourth standing ovation from the crowd. 

We enjoyed a tasty home-style cooked lunch at the pop-up restaurant called "The Long Table".  As a result of the jumble caused by costume changes in the wings an inventory was taken of each boy’s bag when they handed items in for laundering for Monday.

Free time and supper followed – then some more free time where the boys were encouraged to attend a show of their choice. Many chose the Hypnotist’s show at Victoria High School which is next door to the Primary school where we are staying. Teachers accompanied the boys to the show – six of our boys decided to try their hand at being hypnotised – three never went ‘under’ and were excused from the stage. Three continued and entertained their friends for an hour and a half with their antics all suggested by the Hypnotist. E.g. You are rowing happily in your boat... then a shark comes along (accompanied by the music of Jaws), You are Michael Jackson, You are a ballerina, fetch a woman from the audience who needs your protection. A good way to relax, and also just laugh. We made the short walk back to the boarding house where the boys fell into bed.

Saturday 30th June - two performances in Grahamstown today

This was a busy day for the Choir with three scheduled performances at 10am and 8pm in the Thomas Pringle Hall and at 4pm on the Village Green on the Victoria Primary School campus.

After an early breakfast the bus picked us up to transport us to the Thomas Pringle Theatre on the third floor of the monument overlooking the area which constitutes Grahamstown. The boys did a warm up and sound check, changed into their Scenic Pop uniforms and then eagerly anticipated the arrival of an /any audience. About 50 plus people attended the first concert where the boys practiced their repertoire for the first time to a new audience, who gave them a standing ovation. Buoyed by the response the boys left the hall for lunch and then later in the afternoon, dressed in their folklore kit, the boys went to perform on the “Village Green” situated on the fields of the school. They attracted a sizeable audience as they performed their folklore repertoire and received an enthusiastic response.  

The young lady who organises the acts for the venue said she thought ‘a choir might be nice’ but she never expected “THIS!  She also said “I am a music teacher, but I think I am failing in my job”. She was in the audience at our 8pm concert and wholeheartedly supported the boys’ efforts on stage. The Grade 10 music boys performed their Greatest Showman piece – From now on - on the “open mike” stage and had people singing and clapping along to their performance. I overheard one man say “They are bloody good!” During the course of the day a few more boys fell ill with diarrhoea and vomiting and as well the usual cold and flu accompanied by a sore throat – not good for a choir when over 20 boys are feeling not up to scratch and some feeling pretty awful. At this point the pharmacists at Grahamstown Pharmacy were recognising me when I went in for more medical supplies following the advice of two doctors.

Supper first, and then on to the Thomas Pringle Hall, for the third performance of the day. The audience was about 100 strong in the evening, including the members of the KZN Youth Orchestra, and the boys did well after a tiring day to produce an exciting show. Audience members gave them their second standing ovation of the day. We made it back to the hostel to medicate boys who had succumbed to the V&D and also a ‘little’ clean-up of the bus and the unfortunate bus driver!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Friday 29 June

Today saw the boys involved in a full day of rehearsals of Scenic Pop, Music of Spirit and Faith and to end the day Scenic Folklore.  The boys broke down every move and reconstructed it to ensure precision of movement and timing.  

Lunchtime was a walk to Browns restaurant – with a detour to Grahamstown Pharmacy, where the pharmacists are beginning to recognise me!  True to form a bout of diarrhoea and vomiting has broken out among the boys – the threat of a suppository has many boys widening their eyes in horror!  One of our Kearsney parents who is a doctor, and who is currently in Grahamstown, kindly offered assistance in the form of advice of the best over-the-counter-medications - which I shall get from the friendly pharmacists tomorrow.   

The boys returned to Victoria Primary school after lunch and a bit of free time and ventured out onto the school’s field which is Grahamstown’s Village Green for the duration of the National Arts Festival.  There, a lucky few, witnessed a visiting contortionist from New Zealand who threaded himself through the head of a racket (and toilet seat!), before performing a juggling (with machetes) act on a pole supported by ropes held by spectators. There are three or so large marquees which house a very interesting market where a variety of good-quality products are sold.

The boys rehearsed until 5:30 after which there was about a kilometre and a half walk to and from our supper venue at the Rat and Parrot. The boys enjoyed a filling meal of a giant burger and chips and the sure favourite; dessert called most appropriately – Chocolate Nemesis!  Liam Hobden dropped in with his parents to see his brother and to update the staff on University life at Rhodes and the community service ventures he has been involved in during the holidays. The Hobdens have been most generous with their time and vehicle in assisting the staff putting up advertising posters for the concerts, ferrying bottles of fresh water to the hostel and delivering the musicians to a sound-check at the Thomas Pringle Theatre where we are to perform tomorrow.  

A quick walk back to the hostel followed – with Mrs Govender and Mrs van den Aardweg laden with pizzas and pudding for the souls who were ill or at the sound check – another last rehearsal followed where after the boys received instructions for Saturday’s back-to-back activities and engagements.  The boys were sent to bed to get a good night’s rest.

Thursday 28th June - Practising in Grahamstown

A later than expected breakfast at 8:30am ensured the boys were well-rested in preparation for a long day of rehearsals. Medication was required as the normal series of aches and pains were revealed. The pharmacy in my room at the boarding house is almost as well-resourced as any I have seen in the town! 

A long scenic folklore rehearsal saw the repertoire slick and improved and a welcome lunch of burgers (a choice of chicken and beef of course) met the boys on arrival at Oscars - a quaint little house about a fifteen-minute walk from the boarding house.

An hour and a half of free time followed lunch where the boys were entertained by some of the entertainers who are now converging on Grahamstown for the annual Arts Festival on the Village Green, on Victoria Primary School’s grounds (very convenient for our boys). Three boys kept their appointment with the hairdresser!

A productive two-hour Scenic Pop rehearsal rounded off the afternoon. After a fifteen minute walk under the full moon we arrived at the Rat and Parrot – a favourite hangout of the Rhodes students during term time. The boys were excited to watch a World Cup soccer match on a big screen, set up especially for them, in a back room.   

We all walked back for the last rehearsal of the day to practice the Scenic Pop repertoire. The boys spent a productive day polishing their WCG offering and are working towards their first performance at the National Arts Festival on Saturday.

Wednesday 27 June - off to Grahamstown

It is quite possible that Wednesday 27 June will be ‘the longest day in History' for the Choir. Dawn had not even thought about opening her eyes at 3:30am as the Choir made their way from Haley House to the bus, parked in the shadows, at the music block. The hold of the bus was soon filled with luggage and the boys had to be precision packed to fit them, their luggage and breakfast packs into the available space. The boys fell silent on the trip to the airport where the bus finally disgorged its sleepy cargo. Ms Brigette Oakes had each teachers' group files so well organised that the check-in went smoothly except for a bag that lost its contents due to ‘zip failure’. Thank goodness for plastic wrapping which provided a temporary solution! 

A short one-hour flight saw us land in the windy city of Port Elizabeth where two buses (and soon thereafter, a trailer!)  awaited the Kearsney team. A quiet 1 ½ hour drive followed and we arrived in Grahamstown and the Victoria Primary School boarding facilities where the boys soon began settling into their assigned rooms. After a short walk in the cool air of Grahamstown, with some donkey-dodging, we arrived at our lunch venue, Browns restaurant, where a welcome pre-ordered meal was awaiting us.  

After lunch a few boys who were identified as needing a haircut were left behind with Mrs van den Aardweg to sort the matter out. Thankfully “Hair and Beauty on High” was prepared to attend to the nine boys as ‘walk-ins’, without an appointment. Four hours later we left the salon after an interesting afternoon where the fascinating skill of braiding and crocheting dreads was observed and the finished product admired.  

The Choir had an extremely productive four-hour rehearsal in the orchestra room at the venue where we are resident, which has been so helpful and convenient. We had another five-minute walk in the darkening sky to our supper venue, Saints Bistro on High Street. A three-course meal and cold drink was welcomed by the boys and staff. 

On our return to the boarding house the boys were relieved to learn that there would be no evening rehearsal and that lights-out was set for 10:30pm to allow them a long rest for Thursday’s activities.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Performances in the World Choir Games Champions Competition

Scenic Pop: Friday 06 July at 19h30 in the State Theatre Opera Theatre
Scenic Folklore: Saturday 07 July at 14h00 in the State Theatre Opera Theatre
Music of Spirit and Faith: Saturday 07 July at 15h00 in the ZK Matthews Great Hall