South African choral-jazz group wows symposium

By Krisendra Bisetty

For the Post-Bulletin

MINNEAPOLIS -- With stars in their eyes and a faster beat in their hearts, seven young South African singers had a capacity audience enthralled on opening night at the Sixth World Choral Music Symposium in Minneapolis last weekend.

The choral-jazz group Ambition hails from Cape Town and was one of only eight to perform on opening night at the symposium, being held for the first time in the United States. The evening's theme was, "I Hear America Singing."

Among other groups performing at Orchestra Hall were the world-renowned Boys Choir of Harlem and the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer. The Minnesota Orchestra accompanied the performances, and orchestra violist David Ulfeng went backstage to congratulate the South African musicians afterward.


"It was thrilling to hear," Ulfeng said.

Ambition, the only non-American ensemble to perform opening night, emerged from years of political upheaval and racial tension in South Africa. The seven, along with four instrumentalists, are working to transform lives and bring hope and inspiration to all people through their music.

They have another reason to celebrate, with the recording of their debut CD, "Ambition," which will be released here Friday. The group -- Ricardo Gordon, Marco van der Merwe, Brendon Adams, Luke Turner, Vincent Leonard, Nathan Adams and Camillo Lombard -- has been in the United States since June 13.

They perform again in Texas in September before returning home.

"It has been wonderful so far. We have had a good response. We are very excited," Lombard said.

The symposium and CD was a good way to showcase South African talent and to show the world that it was up to standard, he added.

The theme of the CD is peace and the fight against "racist problems" and violence. Following the attainment of freedom in South Africa in 1994, a "new evil entered and threatened to destroy communities with merciless acts of brutality -- gang violence," he said.

Krisendra Bisetty, a South African journalist, was in Rochester this week as part of a four-month visit to the United States, sponsored by the World Press Institute.

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