UP YOUTH CHOIR
The UP Youth Choir is part of a generation of South Africans that has, as a reference point in their history, the struggle for freedom and peace. This multi-racial teenage choir represent the colours of peace by embracing the qualities that diversity brings to the table. The singers are part of the born free generation that embodies the philosophies of our international icon, Nelson Mandela. The concept Ubuntu, the Nguni term that means: ‘human kindness’ that in the philosophical sense translates to ‘the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’, is part of the fabric of this unique choir from South Africa.
Among the choristers in our choir can be seen the immense bonds of friendship and collegiality that develop among these young people, and one would be similarly astounded by the beautiful music they are able to make together. The caliber of the performances and the audience reception of their music, whether at an informal concert, or an international choral festival, demonstrate that there is something unique about this choir. There is something magical about seeing young people working co-operatively, making music, and sharing a profound lesson with us all – that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what your personal priorities are; but instead, what you seek to gain from an experience, how you are required to work hard to succeed, and how collaboration often reveals itself as a solution to the many problems our society needs to resolve.
The choir was established in January 2001 and since 2005 conducted by Lhente-Mari Pitout. The choir forms part of the multi-choir model of the University of Pretoria. The regional multicultural youth choir consists of 90 singers between the ages of 14 and 19 years old from 34 schools in the greater Tshwane area in Gauteng South Africa.
They represent the full diversity of South Africa and embracing this diversity gave this wonderful youth choir their unforgettable passionate sound and musicality.
The UP Youth Choir achieved many accolades locally and internationally:
In 2004 we received a gold medal and overall 2nd place in the Mixed Youth Choirs division and a silver medal Folk-lore a Capella at the 3rd World Choir Games in Bremen Germany.
In May 2006 we obtained two gold medals at the inaugural Cantatuks National Youth Choir Eisteddfod and again in May 2007.
In 2007, the UP Youth Choir performed for the Jamaican Embassy at their Independence Day celebrations, held in Soweto.
In 2008 the choir toured to Namibia, where they performed with different youth and university choirs from Windhoek, Keetmanshoop, Swakopmund and Walvisbay.
In 2009 UPYC participated in the “Music in the Mountains” festival in the Drakensberg Region, performing with the Drakensberg Boys Choir.
In June 2010, UP Youth Choir took part in the 13th Annual Alta Pusteria Festival in Italy & performed to highest acclaim in Austria and Germany. They performed at the 2010 National Launch of the Tshwane HCT Campaign, which was hosted by the Tshwane Mayoral AIDS Council.
In 2011, the choir completed a Concert Tour to Cape Town and Stellenbosch. They also performed at the gala evening of the Tshwane Youth Arts Festival held in the Pretoria State Theatre.
April 2012 showcased the choir as the only choir from South Africa to be invited to participate in the European Music Festival for Young People in Neerpelt, Belgium. They received 1st prize at this illustrious event. The UP Youth Choir organised the only concert in Pretoria of the international group “The Real Group”. The highlight of the 2012 year was the African Premiere of the Sunrise Mass by Ola Gjeilo during their gala concert.
2013 was a wonderfully successful year we hosted and performed with the Real Group, performed at international conference opening at Sun City, at the Swiss National day, hosted our first Choir Conductors Workshop in November, was involved with the national ZAZI – know your strength- campaign performing with Zonke and King Nova, hosted awareness events at our choir festivals, performed with the Kokkopelli choir from Canada, signed a special corporation agreement with Ndlovu Youth Choir and celebrated their wonderful HIV/Aids project through an outreach day in Moutse conducting workshops and performing at the first ever Choir Festival held in a rural area in South Africa. Their outreach tour to Namibia was a special highlight of the 2013 choir year. The UPYC won the Gauteng Chorale Competition at the finale against 11 choirs with a score of 91.67%. This was the golden seal on a wonderful choir year.
2014 proved to be a very busy year with spectacular concerts. Apart from the monthly choir festivals, the choir hosted the Neuer Kammerchor from Germany, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Soweto Gospel Choir, the Leuvens Meisjes and Moll community choir from Belgium. The choir also performed at the Dutch King’s Day event and at the National Woman’s Day celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The European tour was a life changing experience when they came 1st in the Summa Cum Laude competition in Vienna and won 3 gold medals in the 8th World Choir games in the Mixed Choirs, Scenic Folklore and Spiritual categories. The choir premiered their ‘The Joyful Noise’ show with Lloyd Cele on 22/23 November 2014 as the highlight of exceptional performances.
2015 kicked off with performance at the Grand Opening of the Chinese New Year in South Africa with the Schenzhen Symphony Orchestra, a successful tour to KZN and commissioning, planning, designing and rehearsal of our cultural showcase production Naledi, an African Journey which was premiered on 20 Feb 2016. The choir hosted 5 youth choir festivals hosting in total 27 youth and high school choir from across South Africa as part of their social development drive. The concert with MUSIC CO and Memeza was a highlight of the year. UPYC’s participation in the annual University of Pretoria’s Principal’s concert added a youthful exuberance to the event. The year was ended by a special performance for the Angolan Embassy celebrating 40 years of independence and a very special Festive Season Concert in alliance with choir supporters to raise funds for our singers from financially challenged families.
2016 promised to be a highlight in the history of the UPYC with a tour to Canada in April to showcase African music and to inspire at three international festivals as the feature choir. This includes Edmonton Cantando Festival, Rocky Mountain Festival in Banff and the Whistler Cantando Festival. To showcase the value of diversity the choir was also invited by the Artistic Director of the 9th Choralies Festival to perform our musical production ‘Naledi an African Journey’ that Is written in all 11 official South African Languages at the Choralies Festival to an audience of estimated 7000 people as main act at the event in France. The year was ended with a variety of successful performances at the German Ambassador Lindner’s residence, the Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador Gerhards’s Lights Ceremony, and the USA Ambassador’s DREAMS Campaign with Ms. Oprah Winfrey. The CSIR National Excellence Awards was also a highlight performance for the choir where it was broadcasted nationally to seven different cities.
Their most recent performances include singing at the Mandela Centenary which featured former US President Barack Obama. They added another gold medal to their prior achievements -
Latvia 2014 they received 3 Gold medals,
and at the World Choir Games held in Tshwane, South Africa, another gold medal this time in the category Mixed Youth Choir, Champions Competition. The choir performed at several high profile events in 2017 & 2018.
This included performances at embassy events, International Women’s Day at the Embassy of the Netherlands and the National Music in the Mountains Festival in the Drakensberg. Their high energy performances were highlighted at this year’s National Education Excellence Awards.
UPYC is proud to host and share the stage with a number of singers and international choirs. Their most recent performances include the Waelrant Youth Choir from Belgium, the Kokopelli Youth Choir from Edmonton, Canada, and the Shallaway Youth Choir from St.Johns, Canada.
This past December 2018, the choir embarked upon an international tour to Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, and competed in the International Festival of Advent and Christmas Music in Bratislava, Slovakia. They were crowned winners in all 3 their categories and Grand Prix Winner. The Artistic Director is Lhente-Mari Pitout and the Associate Conductor for the Naledi project is Herman Swanepoel.