The Soweto Gospel Choir is a South African musical group who presents a blend of musical styles. Their performances will offer a tribute to the legacy of Nelson Mandela, whom the group has been closely connected with.
The choir will be coming to Bethel on March 28. The concert will be this year’s “main event” and final event of this years Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts (HBPA) series.
The choir has requested an incredible amount of technical equipment which will make it the first presentation where HBPA has hired an outside technical production company.
“This will be a spectacular show, with top notch professional sound and lighting,” said Director of HBPA, Matt Schloneger.
“Bethel is also incredibly fortunate to have two technical production experts in Tim Buller and Adam Akers,” added Schloneger. “They always do a great job to ensure that HBPA productions meet the highest standards. If there’s one show you come see this year, this should definitely be it.”
HBPA will be renting quite a bit of technical equipment in order to meet the group’s technical requirements.
“These demands aren’t unreasonable - this is a professional touring group,” said Dale Schrag, director of church relations and campus pastor at Bethel College, who is a member of the HBPA steering committee.
The Soweto Gospel Choir has a fine repertoire of music to take full advantage of this technical equipment. The choir blends African Gospel, African-American Spirituals, Reggae and American popular music styles.
“The choir draws on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto, South Africa and is dedicated to sharing the joy of faith through music and dance with audiences around the world,” said Schloneger.
It is going to be a cross-cultural experience for students, and Schrag also noted that “it will be cross-cultural exposure in terms of musical style.”
In addition to the cross-cultural aspect of the choir, both Schloneger and Schrag mentioned they are especially looking forward to hearing them the same year as Nelson Mendela’s death.
“The Soweto Gospel Choir has always been closely connected to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president, who passed away this year,” said Schloneger. “These performances will offer a wonderful tribute to the legacy of this great man, and I’m so honored that we can be a part of that here in North Newton,”
The Choir has performed with U2 at the 2010 World Cup and are Emmy Award winners for ESPN’s 2010 FIFA World Cup music promos. They are two-time Grammy winners, both for albums in the “Best Traditional World Music” category. They have performed for former South African President Nelson Mandela and were invited guests on NBC’s “Today Show” as well as on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and also made a guest appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
The funding for this show comes from a variety of places. About half of the HBPA budget is covered through annual ticket sales. The remainder is then raised through generous gifts and grants from organizations and individuals who want to support the performing arts.
“Hesston College and Bethel College combine to cover the small amount of funding that remains to make the series happen each year. This has averaged about $1,500 per year in direct funding from each college over the last seven years,” said Schloneger, “And of course those dollars subsidize the free student tickets that all Bethel and Hesston students enjoy.”
Something that will make the event even more special for college students, and that every college student desires: free tickets. The event is entirely free for Bethel and Hesston College students.
“The choir will be at KU and K-State this same weekend they are at Bethel, and those students will have to pay $12-$18 to see the group. Bethel students get in free. No Bethel students should miss this chance to hear one of the most exciting choirs in the world,” said Schloneger.
“You may only have one chance in your life to hear the Soweto Gospel Choir, and it’s free to students,” said Schrag.
You can hear the Soweto Gospel Choir at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall at Bethel College on March 28. Tickets for adults are $27, discounts are offered for senior citizens and the event is free for Bethel College students (with student I.D.).