Shining the Light of Soweto Gospel Choir in Chicago

On March 11 of this year, I had the fortune to see the Soweto Gospel Choir  when they made a stop in Chicago to perform at the Chicago Symphony Center. The Choir was formed in Soweto, South Africa, in 2002, and since then, the group has accumulated many awards. Their albums Blessed and African Spirit won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional World Music Album in 2007 and 2008 respectively. In 2009, Soweto Gospel was the first South African ensemble to perform on the Oscar Academy Awards.The choir was also featured in the FIFA World Cup held in Cape Town. I had the pleasure to attend this show and discover why this ensemble has earned so many awards. Their vocal talent is superb and the evocative sounds of these South African voices connected with me in a profound way. Their music touched my soul and left me with a lingering uplifting feeling.

The title of their NorthAmerican Tour is African Grace. True to the name of the show, the songs in the show reflected the meaning of the word Grace. They reflected beauty, love, and strength of the human spirit. According to the members of the choir, they also wanted to call the show “Grace” because by God’s grace, they are very grateful to have the chance to travel the world and share their love for music and life. The concert features African gospel, Negro spirituals, reggae, and American popular music. The show started with a song titled Jesu Ngoweth, a traditional Zulu spiritual, in which a soloist starts singing with a mournful voice accompanied only by two traditional drums, to be later joined by the rest of the choir. There are many rich harmonies and a capella numbers throughout the show, as well as dynamic dance performances and vivacious, colorful costumes. The choir gives a beautiful and emotional interpretation of Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan and This Little Light of Mine. Their interpretation of the songs are honest, powerful, and passionate. They certainly sing from their hearts and inspire happiness and hope. Their strong, cheerful stage presence makes the concert very dynamic and engaging. At one point during the concert, they left the stage to shake hands with the audience. At another point, they made music with the audience through calls and responses. By the end of the show, they had people dancing and clapping joyfully.

This is a show I would definitely go back to see again. In fact, thanks to them, I am very eager to visit South Africa and learn more about Soweto. Their concert was a powerful and uplifting musical journey to heart of South Africa and a great remedy to fight the winter blues. Whenever you feel sad, let the light of Soweto Gospel Choir music uplift you. You can buy their music here.


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