Simunye at City of London Festival (July 1999)
The City of London Festival offers rare opportunities to visit historic buildings in the Square Mile, many of them normally not accessible to the public, nor used for regular concerts. It was a privilege to visit the magnificent Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital for an extraordinary UK première concert given before a packed, ecstatic audience. Two groups of singers, I Fagiolini, directed by Robert Hollingsworth, an a capella ensemble from Oxford, and the SDASA Chorale, one of Soweto's most versatile gospel choirs, combined to provide an unique experience. They had met and began working together in post-apartheid South Africa, forging a remarkable musical association between medieval chant and Renaissance song with Zulu chant and African harmony. In 1995 composers in both groups started responding with ideas suggesting performance together, and from this collaboration grew a joint repertoire, recreated in London at this invigorating and unforgettable concert of musics juxtaposed and intermingled in a heady brew. Theirs is the most inspiriting manifestation of the "cross-over" movement I have encountered, and their joint CD Simunye: Music for a Harmonious World, recorded by Erato in 1997, and deserves a place in every record collection (Erato 0630-18837-2).
Peter Grahame Woolf
Simunye - Music for a Harmonious World I Fagiolini and the SDASA Chorale Erato 0630188372
U Jehovah. Te Lucis ante terminum. Kwa Zulu Senzeni. Kingdom Come. Libera Nos. Home. Vela. Anon-ah Robyn. Douce Dame Jolie. Khutsho/Agnus De. A clap tour hands. No night there. Dumisa Bayopila. Uma Ngimbona Lomsindisi. Goigotha.
A unique association of two radically different sound worlds. This is the first time that this 'traditional' South African repertoire and 'classical' repertoire have been recorded together. Simunye is a Zulu word meaning 'We are one'.
This remarkable association between an esteemed a capella ensemble from Oxford and one of Soweto's most versatile gospel choirs came to my attention at the City of London Festival. They had met and began working together in post-apartheid South Africa, forging a remarkable musical association between medieval chant and Renaissance song brought by the British guests to their African hosts, who responded with traditional Zulu harmony and enthusiasm. In 1995 composers in both groups, Roderick Williams and Mokale Koapeng, started conceiving the possibility of performance together. From this collaboration grew a joint repertoire of unforgettable musics juxtaposed and intermingled in a heady brew, captured worthily in this 1997 Erato recording.
Besides Sheppard and Howells sung by I Fagiolini, and traditional South African hymn and community song given by the full throated young Soweto students, there are to be enjoyed: Ah Robin, a 16th century round embellished by a traditional Zulu chant; Mokale's chant for peace combined with a Western Agnus Dei; the well known SDASA version of The lord is my Shepherd; Roddy Williams combination of African hymnody with Gibbons' O Clap your hands; Machaut's Douce Dame combined with cyclic fragments, creating a multi-layered tapestry of out-of-phase rhythms - - - and much more. Presentation and recording are impeccable and the combined sound of these 24 young people is uplifting. If you can't conceive what all this might sound like, trust and buy - you'll love it! PGW
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