On Thursday night Maties walked away 2016 Varsity Sing champions, taking home with the R70 000 first-place prize, following the live 90-minute Varsity Sing final in Johannesburg. Maties also won the FNB Fan Favourite award, as voted for by the public, taking home an additional R50 000.
UJ opened the evening with their original composition, I Will Lift UP Mine Eyes. It was the perfect tempo to kick things off, as Renette Bouwer and her choir had the audience sinking back into their seats, soaking up the sweet sounds of their opening performance.
They continued with Deke Sharon’s unique arrangement of the the jazzy hit Fever, in the Own Choice category. UJ’s male soloist led the UJ choir as they snapped their fingers and had the crowd bobbing along to the sleek sounds of a more upbeat piece. It ended off with lyrics from Ashanti – from Disney classic Pocahontas, as UJ did just what the lyrics said, “painting with all the colours of the wind”.
They concluded with African Medley, arranged by Sidumo, a South African composition. The choir members quickly reshuffled, and supported by bongo drums, they moved around the stage, shuffling in an animated and jubilant style. A few members added colour with African attire and there was a brief pause before the whole choir broke out into traditional dance.
NMMU were up second, following a tough UJ act. They got things started with Alleluia, by American composer Jake Runestad. Quickly switching between tenors and sopranos, the complex piece showed off NMMU’s technical talent, as they made it seem easy, combining so many sounds in perfect timing.
Alleluia came to an abrupt end, as they launched into their second song, and Own Choice, Heimwee. The deep bass lay a firm foundation, while the sopranos added striking delicacy, in what was a combination of power and delicacy.
They ended strongly with Anti-Rassisme Medley, a South African composition. Led by their commanding soloist, they ended off with the piece South Africa fell in love with a few episodes earlier. Switching between almost angry and delicate, sad sounds, they sucked in the audience with the powerful words of Nelson Mandela. “So away with racism, away,” their soloist bellowed out, and they broke out into cheerful dance.
Loyiso Bala said that it felt so real that he was looking for the spirit and then it came.
Maties were third and they had a spiritual beginning with The Conversion of Saul, composed by Randall Stroope. Loud, sudden, dramatic sounds created the feeling that a massive battle was ensuing. Biblical words, rung out, “why do you persecute me?”. But it became gentle and angelic as it ended. Masterfully arranged.
They transitioned brilliantly into the gentle sounds of Ave Maria, their Own Choice, with a technical and seamless sound. Mates showcased their diversity, which is a winning quality in the competition.
And then they ended the way they began, singing Afrikaans hit Toe Vind Ek Jou. Their sopranos powered through the performance, while the tenors injected energy. Every member made the words their own.
“I’m lost for words,” said an inspired Loyiso Bala.
Tuks were the final choir to take to the stage. They began with U Lig En U Waarheid. It was so technically clean and coordinated. Male and female voices dispersed made for an even, single sound. They have become a well-oiled machine under the leadership of Michael Barrett.
Hare Se Re Bina was their second piece and their traditional South African selection. Lively African sounds resonated through the auditorium, as Tuks made use of stomping to form drum sounds. Softer whispering sounds drew in the audience’s attention and then just as you thought it ended, they broke out into dance again.
Great God Almighty, by Stacey Gibbs was Tuks’ Own Choice and they certainly did it their way, ending off the show with a bang. Covered by NMMU earlier in the competition, Tuks tackled Great God Almighty as if it was their final opportunity to stake a claim for the title – which is exactly what it was.
The ‘hum-hum’ sounds felt like a chase was taking place, while the sound of chains hitting the floor built up tension. Their claps symbolised whips and the combination of all these elements painted a picture of biblical proportions. It was an epic conclusion to the show.
“Tuks have BMT,” exclaimed Marvin Kernell.
It was a debut season for Varsity Sing, and one that finished on a high note at the live final, in Johannesburg on Thursday night.
“FNB is very proud to be associated with Varsity Sing,” said Mari van Niekerk, FNB Senior Communication and Sponsorship Manager. “It’s part of our sponsorship strategy to develop the youth of South Africa and to encourage nation building in our country. We’re very excited to extend our youth development strategy to music as well. Congratulations to the winners, Maties, who were also the winners of the FNB Fan Favourite award.”
First place: Maties
Second place: UJ
Third place: Tuks
Fourth place: NMMU
FNB Fan Favourite choir: Maties