St. Albert Singers pay tribute to Africa

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PREVIEW
A Journey Into Africa
St. Albert Singers Guild with Wajjo Drummers
Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $20. Call 780-418-4184 or email sasgmanager@gmail.com

Come this Saturday, St. Albert Singers Guild will fill the Arden Theatre with music meant to be sung with joy and abandon.

The 75-strong group execute A Journey Into Africa, a spirited and spectacular salute to the continent’s multicultural heritage.

While many African songs lend themselves to faith and praise, music director Criselda Mierau has written a concept show about a young girl who wishes to trek through the savannah in her father’s footsteps.

“She longs for adventure and to see the world,” said Mierau. “She goes on her journey and in doing so, gives performers a venue to sing folk songs and folk tales.

The program’s 20-odd charts vary from a call and response interplay between single-voiced soloists and the choir’s luxuriant responses to singing a style of overlapping syncopated chords.

In addition, two Wajjo Drummers ramp up the pulsating rhythms of Africa using their vast arrary of traditional drums and percussion instruments.

To fully create this visual cornucopia, the choristers are attired in a resplendent rainbow of robes and patterned textiles as they sing the rich, uplifting harmonies.

“It’s about the whole beauty of the culture that exists within Africa. We are celebrating with them,” Mierau said.

Redheaded Kirsten Skogstad, 12, is representative of the young girl.

“I needed somebody who could be expressive in face and body. She doesn’t speak a word. We do. So she needs to walk through her journey clearly demonstrating her emotions.”

One of the concert’s big moments is N’Kosi Sikele I Afrika (God Bless Africa), South Africa’s unofficial anthem sung in three languages – Zulu, Xhosa and Sesotho.

“It was performed at Winnie Mandela’s funeral and Nelson Mandela’s.”

Another song oddly familiar to gamers is Baba Yetu, The Lord’s Prayer sung in Swahili.

“It’s powerful and moving, and some people may recognize it from the video game Civilization IV.”

Tenor Spencer Schafers leads the call and response in Tsho Tsho Loza (Go Forward), a traditional South African freedom song chanted in Zulu and Ndebele.

“It sounds like what it means. Think of a train steaming through South Africa. We see it as a call for the girl to come home.”

Virtually every anthem and melody is sung in one of many African languages.

“It’s probably the most non-English concert we’ve ever done. There’s so much non-English to learn, I thought the choir might have a difficult time, but they’re loving every minute of it.”

Although the concert is sung primarily in African languages, no concert would be complete without the established The Lion Sleeps Tonight, originally a No. 1 hit with doo-wop band The Tokens and later, pop a cappella group The Nylons.

“These songs are meant to honour the culture properly. They bring exactly what is required to make the pieces come alive in an African way.”

 

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Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.