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THE Sowetan and Transnet Foundation Massed Choir Festival is alive and well. A revamped version of this, the most popular choir event in South Africa, is set to take off in October.
Falling under the auspices of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, the festival is part of the corporate social investment and responsibility activities, projects and programmes of the Transnet Foundation.
It is one of several community and youth development programmes that emerged as a catalyst at a time of heightened political intolerance, racial division and economic instability in South Africa more than two decades ago.
It continues to unite South Africans of all races and is a symbol of goodwill.
One of its major revamps is to make the event an articulation and expression of excellence among the country's choirs, their conductors, young choral music composers, arrangers, orchestrators and young choral music artists.
It is being designed as an exuberant celebration of South Africa's rich choral tradition. Top-achieving choirs are selected from diverse communities and young soloists are propelled towards success in the classical music environment.
As usual the festival is due to honour an icon and legend of South African and African choral music for having shown artistic excellence and made an immense contribution to our cultural heritage.
Last year we celebrated the centenary of Joshua Polumo Mohapeloa. Two of Mohapeloa's greatest mass choir renditions, Bonyeli and Linoto, were performed by the Mvezo Community Choir, Chitungwiza Harmony Singers from Zimbabwe, Bonisudumo Choristers, East Rand Chorale, Kathorus Choristers, Mogale City Chorale, Soweto Songsters, Vaal Choristers, African Sweet Melodies, Gauteng South African Police Services Choir, Mangaung SAPS Choir, Gauteng Choristers, and the SABC, Amazwi KaNtu, GaRankuwa Community Choir and the Mamelodi Philharmonic Chorus and Shalom Chorale.
An illustration of the festival's nurturing influence is soprano Pretty Yende, who made history by becoming the first performer to scoop the first prize in the Opera and Operetta sections, the Audience Prize, the Prize of International Media at the Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition in Vienna, Austria, early this month.
Last year Yende took part in the Massed Choir Festival's 20th anniversary and the 20th birthday of Sowetan's nation-building concept, philosophy and practice, which was led by late former editor in chief Aggrey Klaaste.
Over the years guest artists have included the brothers Loyiso and Zwai Bala, Tsepo "The Village Pope" Tshola, Vicky Sampson, the Sibonile School for Visually Impaired Pupils and the St Vincent School for Speech and Hearing Impaired Pupils, hip-hop star Tumelo "Tuks" Kepadisa and the Botswana Choral Society.