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28/03/2014

Only Kids Aloud Chorus perform in Cape Town in a musical celebration marking 20 years of Democracy in South Africa

Youngsters from the Wales Millennium Centre / Only Kids Aloud Chorus will travel to South Africa next month to take part in the country’s year-long cultural celebrations: 20 Years of Freedom – South Africa 1994 – 2014.  The chorus will perform a new commission by Welsh composer Paul Mealor. The commission includes ‘Invictus’, a favourite poem of Nelson Mandela and one that inspired him deeply.

During a historic visit to Cape Town, South Africa in April, the chorus will perform two concerts at the Artscape Theatre Centre on Cape Town’s waterfront as part of the Africa-UK arts and culture season in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid rule and the establishment of democracy in South Africa. Joining the Only Kids Aloud Chorus will be the multiple Grammy and Classical Brit Award winner, Bryn Terfel. This will be Bryn’s debut performance in South Africa.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa

Mealor, who also wrote the chart-topping ‘Wherever You Are’ for the Military Wives Choir, was commissioned to write ‘Ubi Caritas’ for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge two years ago which was regarded as one of the musical highlights. Most recently, he wrote a lullaby for Kate Middleton and Prince William's baby.

 

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Welsh Composer Paul Mealor with the Wales Millennium Centre / Only Kids Aloud Choir. Image by Glenn Edwards.

 

Paul’s latest commission will be a beautiful and fitting tribute to Mandela. The piece will be called, ‘Spirit of Hope’ - the first movement will be a setting of a specially written poem by Welsh poet, Dr Grahame Davies in English and Welsh. The second movement will set the poem, ‘My Song’ by Indian mystic, Radindranath Tagore, and the final movement will be the first ever setting of Nelson Mandela’s favourite poem, ‘Invictus’, by English poet, William Ernest Henry. It will also include the two African songs: ‘Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika’ (God Bless Africa), the unofficial anthem of South Africa before the elections of 1994, now part of the democratic country’s official anthem, and ‘Siyahamb' ekukhanyen' kwenkhos'  (We are marching in the Light of God).


‘It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul’
Invictus, by W E Henry

Paul Mealor said, "My new work, 'Spirit of Hope' sets three beautiful poems that are all connected with love, inner strength and the power of hope to give a light even in the darkest of times.”

He continued, “With an original poem celebrating South Africa and its powerful, spiritual landscape by one of Wales's greatest poets, Dr Grahame Davies, I have also set a poem by the Indian mystic, Tagore, which tells us that our song, the love we bring to our lives, outlives even our death. And, the final poem, 'Invictus', dedicated with great respect to Nelson Mandela, is a powerful poem, showing the real inner strength that true hope and belief in one's self can bring to overcoming any obstacle. Nelson Mandela (Madiba) was deeply inspired by this poem, and had it written on a scrap of paper on his prison cell while he was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island."

Bryn Terfel said: “Singing alongside a 70 strong young chorus from Wales in South Africa will be a terrific experience, not only for me, but for all the young choristers from all parts of Wales.  South Africa shares with Wales a strong and vibrant choral tradition, and the eisteddfod tradition, which nurtures so much talent over here, is very much alive there too.”

Wales Millennium Centre has enjoyed a 10 year partnership with Cape Town Opera since South African businessman, Sir Donald Gordon, donated £10m towards the Centre’s development in 2003. One of the conditions of the donation was that the Centre established a formal relationship with an artistic company in his home country. Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Chairman of Wales Millennium Centre, said, “The partnership between Cape Town Opera and the Centre has proved fruitful to both parties, with staff exchanges and knowledge transfer, as well as touring productions. In 2012 the company brought us the European Premiere of the Mandela Trilogy, an evening that will go down in the Centre’s history as one of the most poignant and significant performances ever staged here in Wales.  Wales was prominent in the campaign against apartheid and it is only fitting that Wales’ national centre for the performing arts should participate in the year-long cultural celebration 20 Years of Freedom – South Africa 1994 – 2014. By involving our children’s chorus in these celebrations we are also ensuring that the next generation will never forget the immense sacrifices that were made for democratic freedom in South Africa.”

Molly Roberts, a member of the Only Kids Aloud Chorus said “I’m really excited to be going to Cape Town. It’ll be a new experience, something I can experience with my new friends in the chorus. I feel very proud to be singing this special song ‘Spirit of Hope’ to the people of South Africa because the song entwines Welsh singing with a tribal vibe and it is a really happy and uplifting song. I hope the people of South Africa enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoy singing it.”

As part of their visit, the children’s chorus will visit Robben Island, where former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

The idea behind the Wales Millennium Centre/Only Kids Aloud Chorus came about in 2011 when Wales Millennium Centre collaborated with Only Men Aloud’s Musical Director, Tim Rhys Evans, to form a pan-Wales children’s chorus. The original aim was to perform in a one-off concert of The Symphony of a Thousand Voices, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, at the Centre, with one of the world’s most prominent conductors, Maestro Valery Gergiev and his world renowned Mariinsky Opera company from St Petersburg. The 2012 Chorus subsequently received an invitation from Maestro Gergiev himself to perform in the prestigious Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg last March, ahead of their performance at Wales Millennium Centre in April. The icing on the cake for the Chorus was an invitation to sing in Danny Boyle’s unforgettable London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Wales Millennium Centre / Only Kids Aloud Chorus is kindly supported by SRK Consulting (UK) Ltd, Cazbah, NFU Mutual and Trustmark.

The Wales Millennium Centre / Only Kids Aloud will take part in their final rehearsal this weekend (28 - 30 March) at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, before travelling to South Africa Town to perform in the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town on 2 -3 May 2014.


-ENDS-


Paul Mealor’s music has rapidly entered the repertoire of choirs and singers around the world. His most recent work is to be recognised , songs and cycles have been performed, broadcast and recorded by artists in the UK, USA and much further afield.

Mealor was catapulted to international attention when 2.5 billion people (the largest audience in broadcasting history) heard his Motet, Ubi caritas performed by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, conducted by James O’Donnell at the Royal Wedding Ceremony of His Royal Highness Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now TRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge) at Westminster Abbey, 29th April 2011.

Born in St Asaph, North Wales, UK in 1975 Paul Mealor studied composition privately from an early age with John Pickard, at the University of York with Nicola LeFanu (1994-2002) and in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen (1998-99). Since 2003 he has taught at the University of Aberdeen, where he is currently Reader in Composition, and has held visiting professorships in composition at institutions in Scandinavia and the United States. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and his music is published by Novello & Co Ltd.