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Concert Review 2017 Edinburgh, Scotland “Festival Fringe” – Soweto Gospel Choir

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Soweto Gospel Choir Review: ****Stars

South Africa’s two-time Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir illumined and showcased their energetic, spirit-filled singing and choreograph to an audience primed for an afternoon of traditional sacred and secular songs grounded in both African American and African traditional norms on the afternoon of Friday, August 18, 2017. It was packed house at Assembly Hall in Edinburgh.

I’ve had the pleasure of showcasing their rousing music on my radio show “Higher Ground” for Wisconsin, national and international listeners and, for fans around the globe that include Desmond Tutu, U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and the late Nelson Mandela.

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My interest in SGC is directly linked to a radio show I created and hosted on W.O.R.T. Radio in Madison, Wisconsin in the U.S. called “The Best of Gospel”. For nearly two decades I produced and aired music dedicated to edifying the historical significance and modern appeal of Afrocentric gospel music created by such legends as Thomas A. Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Blind Boys of Alabama, Soul StirrersHall, Yolanda Adams, Milton Brunson, Chicago Mass Choir, Kirk Franklin as well as a host of other legendary pioneers and contemporary practitioners of the genre.

Black gospel music has deep roots tied to African music structures. Over the last twenty years or so, the music first nurtured in the ‘motherland’, returned home to Africa. What is quite phenomenal is the pathway gospel music has traveled – from Africa to the U.S. and back home with a number of celebrated African ensembles that blend both African American and African centered musical nuances that create a unique yet most familiar sound.

SGC embraces this musical marriage with a grand facility, superb singing, passionate interpretations of varied sacred works harken back to the golden days of Black gospel as well as signaling where the future of gospel will likely be transformed. And speaking of ‘transformation’, it was clear from audience reactions to their performance that the blended elements of U.S. soul, gospel and South African folk songs including “Hello My Baby” were highly favored.

SGC’s singing, combined with near constant choreograph, is an ambitious and athletic centered stage production which at times impacted their ability to perform at full vocal strength – no one should be surprised by this reality when so much of their effort is replete with fast-paced physical movement. To their credit and with vocal amplification, their sound was stable and consistently on pitch. Additionally, their repertoire was diverse and inclusive with ballads, praise songs and contemporary gospel selections smartly inserted into their one hour concert. Their concert is a ‘must see and hear’ experience for Festival Fringe attendees, fans and enthusiasts of gospel music. –JLOverby

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