The Union University music department hosted 30 South African choir members from the University of Limpopo after years of preparation.
Chris Mathews, chair of the music department, met Thabe Matsebatlela at Clemson University in 2005 and immediately fell in love with the joyful sound of the South African choirs after Matsebatlela shared a recording with him.
“I asked Moss [Matsebatlela] how I could get a copy of the music,” Mathews said. “And inquisitively, he responded, ‘Music? Oh no, we don’t use music. We just sing.’”
Ever since they met, they have kept in touch and collaborated on a few projects; Mathews in Jackson and Matsebatlela in South Africa.
The two attempted to bring the Chamber Choir from the University of Limpopo to Jackson in 2013; however, funding fell through at the last minute. Matsebatlela, intent on finding a way to Jackson, received a grant last fall that made the trip possible.
There were various reasons for the visit, the largest one being the University of Limpopo does not have a music program. As a result, the singers study a variety of topics ranging from accounting to science and humanities. Matsebatlela studied biology and is specialized in cancer research.
Matsebatlela is striving to establish a music program, and his desire was for his students to be exposed to a formal program.
During the visit, Limpopo’s choir was able to work with Union and also visit with the directors of choral activities at Belmont and Lipscomb. They also participated in classes, took private voice lessons and performed on multiple occasions.
One of Matsebatlela’s goals was to share the music of a prominent South African composer, S. J. Khosa, with Union’s music department. Limpopo’s choir showcased three of Khosa’s works with the University Orchestra during their concert at the First Presbyterian Church Sunday, April 3.
“Music makes us more human and builds our communities in a unique way,” Mathews said. “While we all love to perform and are not opposed to receiving applause, what we all deeply desire is the shared experiences, the shared life, that comes with making music (not merely listening). The Chamber Choir from the University of Limpopo has reminded us of this in a wonderful and memorable way.”