Standing sparsely in the midst of audience members and between the tall, reverent columns that point skyward in St George’s Cathedral, twelve apostle-like figures fill the stony, cold void in every corner of the space. Their melodic utterances are like a gospel for a new era – one that both breaks with tradition and, simultaneously, unabashedly upholds it.
The Cape Town Opera Chorus, winners of the 2013 International Opera Awards ‘Chorus of the Year’ are described as one of the most compelling and varied vocal ensembles on the planet. True to form, their graceful entrance, mingling with the audience members, takes us by surprise as we are cocooned in an almost 360° serenade of sound, from east and west, north and south – a meta-narrative for the coming together of two (or more) worlds.
From the onset the performance stands in stark contrast to what one might traditionally expect from an opera chorus – not only with the ever-moving performers who float through the audience, but because Grace Notes amalgamates sacred European choral music with the rich, culturally textured push of its African equivalent. Religious music is drawn from Xhosa, Venda, Zulu and Swahili traditions and mixed with sacred compositions by European composers.