Two cultures met in song (and dance) during a joint performance by the Purdue Varsity Glee Club (PVGC) and the Kruger National Park (KNP) choir in the Skukuza Rest Camp amphitheatre. The choirs enthralled the audience with a diverse range of numbers, ranging from classical to African folk songs.
Performing under the stars, with additional light from a few torches and open vehicle head lights, the setting provided an inimitable atmosphere to the evening. This was the American choir's first visit to Africa. The two-week tour, facilitated by Siyabona and Tusker Tours, kicked off in Cape Town, where the young men performed with the Red Dazzlers in Cape Town City Hall.
They spent about four days in Kruger, "which was undoubtedly the highlight of our trip," said Gerrit van der Meer, director of the Glee Club. Gerrit says the PVGC have been entertaining audiences across the United States of America (USA) for more than 115 years. "This is remarkable, giving the fact that there is no musical school at Purdue University." In the 1930s Al Stuart was appointed as the choir's first full time director of music. "He brought the choir to national recognition in Indiana, home state to the University through popular live performances and appearances on television in programmes like the Ed Sullivan Show.
The choir travels abroad every three years with destinations like Russia, China, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe already ticked on its to-do-list. "Many of the students have never been outside the USA and some had never been on an aeroplane before." "We really stand for fellowship through song and with these foreign trips try to bring an enriching cultural
experience to our students."
Gerrit adds that joint performances with local choirs add to this experience and are highly valued by the young men. The tour group also includes alumni members and family. They departed for Gauteng, the last leg of their South African tour, on Monday, June 2, 2008. Lucy Nhlapo is director of the KNP choir and also driving force behind its establishment in 2005. Choir members comprise both Kruger staff and people from the local communities that reside in the living quarters and staff village in Kruger.
The 54 member choir recently successfully auditioned for the regional arm of the Old Mutual Choir festival, "an accomplishment we are very proud of," says Lucy. Both choirs also performed at the launch of the 2008 Krugerrand in Skukuza on May 31, 2008.