South Africa’s renowned Soweto Gospel Choir to give rare U.S. concert at Edison Theatre Feb. 11

The Soweto Gospel Choir — an all-star “super group” drawn from churches and congregations in and around Soweto, South Africa — will give a rare U.S. concert as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series at Washington University.

Soweto Gospel Choir
South Africa’s renowned, 26-member Soweto Gospel Choir take the Edison Theatre stage Feb. 11.

The special, one-night-only performance begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11. Tickets are $28; $24 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or visit

Before the arrival of Western religion, traditional African music was largely rooted in song and percussion. Music ranging from praise songs to the rites of the traditional healer (secular music was largely nonexistent) typically followed a call-and-response form, with each tribal group boasting its own distinctive style.

Yet as Christian missionaries arrived in Africa in the early 19th century, mission schools became a major source of education, including musical training. Today, gospel music permeates the fabric of southern Africa, home to more than 5,000 independent Christian churches, many of which hold services in the open air.

Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in 2002 when David Mulovhedzi, now music director and choirmaster, and executive producer Beverly Byer, held auditions for the very best singers in Mulovhedzi’s own Holy Jerusalem Choir, various Soweto churches and the general public. Today the group features 26 singers, aged 16 to 40, as well as live dancers, musicians and drummers. Together, they perform a vibrant mix of African Gospel, popular songs, folk anthems and traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho spirituals.

Soweto Gospel Choir has toured extensively both in Africa and overseas. Their many honors include the 2003 American Gospel Music Award for Best Choir of the Year; Australia’s prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Concert; and a South African Music Award nomination. Last year Voices From Heaven, their debut CD, reached the top of Billboard’s World Music chart. Blessed, their acclaimed follow-up, was released earlier this month.

The New York Times calls Soweto Gospel Choir “Meticulous and unstoppable … spirited and spectacular,” while the Sunday Herald of Scotland notes that “you don’t have to be a believer to be inspired.”

In addition to performing, Soweto Gospel Choir works to support the local communities from which its members are drawn. In August 2003, the choir established its own charity foundation, Nkosi’s Haven/Vukani (meaning “to arise, do something!”), which raises funds for AIDS orphans. In November 2003, the group shared the stage with Bono, Peter Gabriel, the Eurythmics and others at Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Concert in Cape Town. That event helped launch a worldwide campaign to raise awareness of the devastating impact of AIDS in Africa.

For more details, visit

Edison Theatre

Edison Theatre’s OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Focusing on presentations that are interdisciplinary, multicultural and/or experimental, Edison Theatre presents work intended to challenge, educate and inspire.

Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Soweto Gospel Choir

WHAT: Concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11

WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

TICKETS: $28; $24 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.

SPONSOR: Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series