A sea of white, red and blue excitedly awaited the choir of Menlopark High School at OR Tambo Airport earlier today (July 12). The night galas of this Pretoria school went on a European tour, and brought home two prestigious international choir prizes.
Upon their arrival, a 100 voices echoed through the giant room in the airport, a reminder of the performance they presented in Germany.
This choir landed in South Africa today after participating in the Johannes Brahms Choir Festival and Competition in Wernigrode, Germany, from 5 to 9 July.
The choir competed against 27 youth choirs from around the world, and won the prize for the best mixed voice youth choir. They were also honored with a special award for precision of composition during the choir festival.
“We can only say that it was an incredibly great privilege to be able to participate. It was so much fun – sang a lot, ate very well – it still feels a bit like a dream,” Barbara du Toit, the cheerful head girl of the choir, told RNews shortly after they landed on home soil.
“It was incredible to be able to show our country a little to the world,” Dannhauser van der Merwe, the choir’s head boy, agreed with Barbara’s excitement.
These two choir leaders are both in matric, and are grateful that they could conclude their school career in this way.
“The opportunity we had to go overseas, participate in the competition and win a category prize was incredible,” said Dannhauser.
For Jeanmari van Papendorp, who has been working as a choir leader and teacher at Menlopark High School for the past 27 years, it was a privilege to be able to accompany this winning choir to Europe.
“They are an incredible group of children. We are close to each other, our hearts are close to each other,” Jeanmari proudly told RNews.
“Every year a choir starts all over again: the matrics leave, and then you have to find the little ones to fill the choir again. It’s amazing to be able to hear how they sounded after their first practice, and how they sound now.”
The choir had to go through a strict judging process to be selected for the choir festival and competition. Jeanmari also explains that Europe does not have school choirs as South Africans know them, but youth choirs made up of people between the ages of 13 and 24.
“What is special for me is that these children actually sang against adults,” Jeanmari continued.
The school is planning a wonderful homecoming party for their choir next Tuesday when the schools reopen, but Jeanmari admits that they won’t be resting for long before they start practicing again.
“We are practicing again on Monday together with a group of other choirs for a concert, and the ATKV’s national final is in a week and a half.”