‘Last year, we were known amongst choral circles as ‘the bedroom choir,’” Ralph Dennis laughed along with some choristers, as they spoke to Sunday Standard on Friday. Sedibeng Choral Society was actually formed in choir conductor, Andy Batshogile’s bedroom last year by six singers, who had been part of Gaborone Choral.
“We decided to form a youth choir, and would meet on Sundays in Andy’s room to rehearse,” the singers reminisced, at the Anglican Church where they have been rehearsing since January.
Sedibeng has since assembled forty members from near and around Gaborone and, in three weeks, will debut in concert singing Gloria, a work from a baroque era composer named Antonio Lucio Vivaldi.
“Andy wrote these invitations to join the choir dated June 5, 2005,” Ralph said, “and we would give them to potential Sedibeng choristers. Many joined whenever they saw us perform,” continued Tshenolo Segokgo, a soprano who is this years’ beneficiary of a French Embassy two-week sponsored music course in France.
As the choir clocked chorister number 20, they had moved from the bedroom to the garage, and performed together at a funeral for the first time.
“The funeral was Mrs Matenge’s sister,” the singers recalled. Mrs Matenge, who the choir refers to as ‘Mma Tiny’ is Sedibeng’s mother figure and has contributed in small ways, like donating chairs for rehearsals.
“We have sung at corporate events, unveiling of tombstones and weddings,” Andy recalled, with a smile at the contrasts. It was actually in a Orange television advert, depicting a wedding that the Sedibeng chorus debuted silently with bright smiles, wearing what has appeared to be their trademark colours of black and orange.
The black and orange uniform was created during dire straits, ‘nne re tlamaganya,’ the choristers say. Ralph immediately claims intellectual ownership of it, “Members came in with their own black trousers and shirts and the boys hung orange scarves around their necks and girls had the orange headbands and apron-like cloths where designed, cut and sewn by my hand.”
Their repertoire has included Mozart’s Giovani Liete, Motho Mang le Mang, a hymn which they playfully tag as their anthem, Precious Lord amongst others. They introduced African drums, which they performed with at 2005’s Maitisong Festival outdoors show and which, according to the youthful choristers, brought ‘hip’ into chorale.
Sedibeng Choral Society highlight performances are Maitisong 2006 which featured Sibongile Khumalo and ‘the very beautiful’ Angela Kerrison, who has found a fan in tenor Tshepiso: “She was beautiful and sang beautifully.”
They performed Feel the Spirit by John Rutters accompanied by the Johannesburg Orchestra.
They have also performed at a Maitisong-hosted Mozart’s 250th birthday, Alexander McCall Smith’s benefit show, The Three Tswana Tenors debut concert, 40th Anniversary Choral and Gospel show hosted at UB.
Sedibeng Choral Society’s debut will be split in three segments; the first part will feature solo performances from Ralph Dennison, Lemogang Rabashima, Gaone Ditsheko, Tshenolo Segokgo, Kenny Magowe and Oteng Zachariah. Vivaldi’s Gloria will be sung in the second segment, and after an interval, renditions of folk songs.
“We don’t want to sing South African songs, we would rather sing Botswana’s traditional folk songs, attendees should except to hear Tsakunata and Rebautlwile,” said Andy.
Sedibeng’s debut concert is sponsored by Bifm, Kagiso Mmusi of Pula Holdings for the chorus’ new uniforms, Botswana Defence Force Women’s Club and Botswana Craft.
Andy concluded the interview by talking about his aspirations, “My plan is to introduce classical music to youth,” he said.
Improving musicianship is also another goal for Batshogile: “Next year some of our members will sit for Grade One music theory exams with the UNISA.”
“I look to choirs like, the South Africa’s Imilonnjo ka Ntu, an amature choir just like ours, travelling to UK, Canada, Australia, Austria and Sweden, they have also recorded.”
“We will record our folk songs next year and travel to Swaziland, and then to UK. My biggest aim is to sell our art outside Botswana.”
Andy finished by saying Botswana’s art has a lot to offer the world and were intent to penetrate the world arts market.
Next year Sedibeng Choral Society will stage a work called Creation by Joseph Hadyn.