Berg River Choir Visits Voices
It was a stormy Tuesday afternoon—raw and rainy—as the bus carrying the Berg River Choir finally pulled into the parking lot at the Target store in Greenland, NH. But you could feel the warmth begin to rise the instant the singers from Picketburg, South Africa disembarked from their bus and met the members of Voices from the Heart who were waiting to greet them.
For the 63 South Africans—many of whom had never previously left their municipal district near Cape Town, let alone travelled abroad—their stay on the Seacoast would be brief: just over 40 hours. But that would be plenty of time for music to be shared and friendships to bloom.
One of the highlights of the visit came on Wednesday evening, when the non-denominational, mixed-race choir gave a concert at South Church in Portsmouth. The program consisted of both secular and sacred music, sung mostly in Afrikaans. For the finale, the Berg River singers were joined on stage by members of Voices from the Heart, Con Tutti, and the South Church choir. First, the combined group sang a song that Voices has performed with choruses from Northern Ireland, to Croatia, to Cuba:
“This is my song, O God of all the nations . A song of peace, for lands afar & mine . This is my home, the country where my heart is . Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine . But other hearts in other lands are beating. With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”
Then the group performed a rousing song-and-dance version of “We are Marching in the Light of God;” sung first in Zulu, then in English, then in Afrikaans. Finally, the South Africans gave a heartfelt rendition of their national anthem. Afterward, there was a reception with food, laughter, and more singing. Bonds were formed. Friendships made.
Next morning, as the bus pulled out of the Target parking lot to take the choir back to Boston, there were many hugs, tears, and promises to meet again. Perhaps in South Africa!
The Berg River Choir, or Bergrivierkoor in Afrikaans, is an initiative of Sherlock Fortuin in collaboration with choir leaders Alison Müller, Martin Domburg, Angeline Burrows, Edie Hendricks, Dennis Afrika, Albie Louw, and Gerty Paulsen. Their motto, ‘Stemme in harmonie bring nuwe hoop’ or ‘Voices in harmony bring new hope’ is an inspiration for us all.