The Choir on the Cutting Edge of New Music

The Horizons Project Choir sings the choral works of young South African composers.

A favorite inspirational quote

“Die dag is nie die nag se skuld nie” this is an Afrikaans saying that translates  ‘The day is not the fault of the night’- implying that, no matter the circumstances of the previous day, when you come to choir you must give your everything to serve the music.

QUICK FACTS

Choir Name: Horizons Project Choir
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
Style: New Contemporary Choral music written by Young South African Composers
Number of singers: 34
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What is something you do in rehearsals that surprises new members?

I lead the choir through breathing and low humming of a note on a closed ‘Mm’, like guided meditation. I help them to focus on all the various aspects of their bodies and posture. I help them to create their sound from a place of gratitude and not stress or disconnection with their bodies. Through this process, I lead them to hear the sound that they want to create and only then allow them to produce it in a relaxed way.

What type of music does your choir sing?

There is a young generation of composers in South Africa that have come of age, that are helping to establish and define this new choral landscape. These are the artists Horizons serve. Every year they perform a wide variety of new choral works from classical to experimental and contemporary collaborations.

A favorite piece of repertoire & why

“Racheltjie” by Zander Fick; it is a really challenging work to conduct and to sing because of the changing and irregular time signatures and the large tessitura required from the singers.

What was a very special performance and what made it special?

During our last the final performance of our last project, a thunder storm broke out, and it started to rain outside the chapel we were performing in. The thunder worked perfectly with the music that we were singing!

An emotional moment you had in a performance?

During a performance last year in Cape Town, when the whole choir fell into perfect sync with my body movements and we moved as one person.

Horizons Project Choir performing in their Project 11 Concert. Photo by Bleach Breniann.

What is your audition process?

We don’t have auditions, we acquire singers through a process of recommendations by existing choir members. It is a process that is built on trust between myself and the singers. They fill in a detailed questionnaire; asking them relevant question about their singing experience and specific questions about their personality and interaction in group environments. As well as some fun questions about who they are. Based on that, we select singers that firstly fit into our culture and then can be taught to sing beautifully.

How does your choir bond as a group?

Social activities outside choir rehearsals; hiking, picnics, and movie premieres!

A challenging concert and how you faced it.

During our tour down to Cape Town in 2015, a lot of singers had to take a 2 hour flight after finishing work to make it to the concert at 7:30PM. That meant that a lot of singers just made it for the concert. At the same time, there was a terrible storm which made the roads hazardous. This whole experience was nerve wracking, as the choir conductor! Thankfully, everyone made it.

What was one lesson you learned from being in a competition?

The importance of getting each singer in the same thinking process about the music – to allow them to interpret the music together and not just think about the medal.

Pieter Bezuidenhout has come to be considered as one of South Africa’s most prominent young composers. Invested in the worlds of concert, chamber and theatre music, Bezuidenhout’s musical voice has come to be recognizable as truly unique and innovative. He has received composition accolades from the Tri-Arts Music Foundation, European Academy of Choral Conductors and twice by The Stevans Grove International Composition Competition. He is regularly commissioned locally as well as internationally to write works for ensembles ranging from instrumental chamber groups to festival choirs. His works have been performed in Graz, Washington, Bratislava, Istanbul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore and by the Choir of the Music Conservatory in the Canary Islands to great acclaim. As conductor of the Horizons Project Choir, he specializes in the performance of new music written by young South African composers. Bezuidenhout’s music is published by Helbling Verlag Publishers in Innsbruck, Germany.