As part of CBC's run-up to this year's Music Monday on May 7 -- the day set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the important role music education plays in the lives of young people -- Inside the Music is broadcasting a feature documentary called Sing Africa. It follows the Saskatoon Children's Choir on its remarkable tour of South Africa last summer, both as a group and through journals written by three teenaged choirsters.
Here is a note about the experience from CBC Saskatchewan producer Shauna Powers:
Two years ago the documentary "Sing Africa" started as the germ of an idea. The well-regarded Saskatoon Children's Choir was planning to tour of South Africa in July 2011. Phoebe Voigts, the choir's artistic director, invited me and recording engineer Chris Haynes to join them and record their concerts along the way.
I’ll confess that, as much as I love travelling, Africa hadn’t been on my list of continents to visit. All the news of extreme violence, particularly against girls and women, had a way of dampening my enthusiasm for the place. So it came as a shock to me when I absolutely fell in love with South Africa. I’ve heard people talk about being “bitten” by Africa and never really knew what they meant. I certainly do now. And it’s the kind of bite you can’t help but welcome.
Everywhere we went, from the informal settlements of Soweto to the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains, our group was greeted with warmth, sincerity and open arms. And everyone in our group was struck by how proud the South Africans we met are of their country. South Africa may still have a tough road ahead, but in the seventeen years since the end of apartheid people’s lives have changed profoundly. And they are thankful for those changes.
Then there were the girls in the Saskatoon Children’s Choir. Anyone who has interviewed children and teenagers knows it can be challenging task. Asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no can definitely land you with just that: yes or no. Not these girls. They had their eyes, ears, minds, and hearts wide open during the entire intense experience. They worked hard to come to terms with stories of the countries painful past as well as its current challenges, such as the HIV/AIDs pandemic. They embraced the joy of playing and singing with South African children. They were adventurous in the food they ate, the questions they asked and the songs they sang.
And I think it’s safe to say not one of us was left untouched by the profound experience. I can only trust that some of the wonder we experienced will filter through to you in this documentary.
Listen to Inside the Music on Radio 2 on Sunday 3 p.m. (3:30 NT) and Radio One on Sunday 9 p.m. (9:30 NT)
CBC Saskatchewan Sing Africa features page
Saskatoon Children's Choir in Concert from South Africa
Drakensberg Boys Choir, South Africa
Soul music and the art of African a cappella