Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

Botswana: UCCSA Broadhurst Choir Impresses Despite Snags

Last Friday, scores of choral music lovers converged on Baobab Primary School hall for a concert hosted by the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) Broadhurst Choir.

The Broadhurst Choir, which needs no introduction to Monitor readers, is indisputably one of the leading religious choirs in the country having performed in a number of international concerts. What perhaps sets them apart from their peers is their ability to blend choral music with other genres to come up with awesome pieces. While in the past they had invited choirs from other mainline churches in Gaborone, in the Friday concert they only invited the UCCSA Kagiso Choir from the Krugerdorp Circuit and Mogwana Traditional Dance Group.

According to the organisers, the 'friendship' between the two choirs (Broadhurst and Kagiso) started when Batswana visited their South African counterparts last year. The Kagiso group comprised about 49 people including deacons from their church.

The concert kicked-off with the singing of the national anthems of South Africa and Botswana by Kagiso and Broadhurst choirs respectively.

A beautiful rendition of Mmakeng by the mass choir, comprising both groups, followed. The mass choir also sang a wonderful hymn Bajaki (Kwa kgotleng) which is likely to have revived some of the souls that attended the concert.

To whet the appetite of the gathered choral music lovers, the mass choir sang a spirited chorus, Re a go boka morena. After the chorus, the UCCSA Kagiso Choir stepped down to allow the UCCSA Broadhurst Choir to present their first set.

As usual the choir, under their conductor and producer, Omphemetse Chimbombi, did not disappoint with their performance. They kicked off with the danceable chorus Mesia O A Galalela before taking their audience heavenward with the hymn Wena Beaula (Bealah Land), which talks about the beauty of that land yonder.

A spirited medley of choruses namely Re Bitswa Jerusalem/Re Ya Gae Jerusalem and Koloi Ya Elija followed.

After the medley, the group was joined by a live band as they sang a number of songs. At that point one person was heard mumbling that they were spoiling good music by being accompanied by a live band. This writer however begs to differ.

The UCCSA Broadhurst finally stepped down singing Ikagele Areka, making way for the UCCSA Kagiso Choir. The South Africans then took to the stage singing a number of Nguni and Tswana songs. They also did a rendition of a popular Ladysmith Black Mambazo song.

While the concert was not a competition, it was clear that Batswana had an upper hand.

The highlight of the evening was when they (the UCCSA Broadhurst Choir) took to the stage to perform with Mogwana. There is no doubt that the collaboration between the two groups is one of the best things to ever happen to choral music in the country. The concert-goers could not help asking for more as the two groups presented their special blend of 'religious traditional music' as they call it. Some of the songs that they performed under this unique offering include Bethele, Ee Modinmo O Gona and Tlang Le Galaletseng.

While the two UCCSA groups did their best to impress, they were too many snags to ignore. One of the greatest disappointments of the night was that the concert started about an hour after the scheduled time and only a weak apology was offered, and by the time it started, some of the guests were getting restless.

As if that was not enough, during the presentation of one pieces, the Broadhurst choir had to wait for a few minutes because some members of the choir were nowhere to be seen. Surprising, the two were elderly people who should have known better.

Another disappointment, which is a forgivable oversight was that members of the audience were not given a programme.

One can safely say that if UCCSA Broadhurst Choir, who have great potential, want to be taken seriously, they should engage an able manager who manage the group and take care of the administrative side of things while they focus on the artistic side.

Having said that, there is no doubt that if properly groomed, the choir has got potential to be to Botswana what Soweto Gospel Choir is to South Africa.

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