Monday, 5 May 2014

Only Kids Aloud from Wales debut new song in Cape Town to celebrate 20 years of Democracy

My son is flying back in today from Cape Town, South Africa. He and about 70 other children from South Wales are part of a children's chorus called Only Kids Aloud who were invited to sing with  Bryn Terfel and the Cape Town Opera as part of Africa-UK arts and culture season to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid rule and the establishment of democracy in South Africa.

OKA Chorus delighted to have arrived in Cape Town

They flew out almost a week ago - over 16,000 miles round trip via Dubai - and taking 2 days to get there (and two more to get back). It's incredible how these young people managed to rehearse, meet local children, do a bit of sightseeing, see a load of penguins, chat to local VIPs and the members of the Cape Town Opera.....AND perform brilliantly in two amazing concerts in just 3 days. All with huge smiles on their faces. The resilience of the young!

OKA Chorus outside Wales Millennium Centre
A Wales Millennium Centre programme working with Tim Rhys Evans and Only Men Aloud, the Only Kids Aloud chorus brings together boys and girls aged from 9 to 13 from all parts of Wales.

I love that the chorus is very inclusive - you didn't have to be part of a particular school or performing group - anyone could audition. It didn't matter what style of singing they liked or how experienced they were - some sang a classical song from singing exams or a Welsh traditional song they had learnt through school, while others performed something from a musical, or sang their favourite pop song they had practiced in their bedroom.

Rehearsing with Bryn Terfel in Cape Town
But they all have one thing in common - they love to sing. And sing they do - keeping the Welsh choral tradition alive and kicking. They sing lots of different styles in lots of different languages, including Welsh, English, Latin and Italian, as well as a little Afrikaans for this trip.

The children sang with Bryn Terfel in South Africa, and performed the world premiere of Spirit of Hope - a piece that was specially written by Welsh composer Paul Maelor as a gift from the people of Wales to the people of South Africa.

They will also be singing this at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July - so I'll get a chance to hear it for myself.

This is the second Only Kids Aloud chorus - my son was lucky to be chosen for the first one too. They performed in St Petersburg, Russia, as well as recording the Welsh contribution to the Olympic Games opening ceremony - remember the kids singing on the beach?

He will be too old to re-audition if they have a third chorus - the children must be under 14 when they audition - but I am really keen to help the chorus continue in future years so that many more young people can come together in song, meet new friends and learn new skills. And maybe have some amazing life changing experiences like this one.

As part of an ongoing fund raising for the Wales Millennium Centre Only Kids Aloud Chorus, I'm doing a Charity Patchwork Quilt that brings together traditional Welsh quilting techniques with patchwork borders inspired by South Africa and Nelson Mandela's fight for democracy.

I'm off now to get down to Cardiff to pick him up. They have had a long and difficult trip back - with some rather dramatic press coverage on their return - Children from Welsh Choir taken ill on Heathrow flight.  All is well - a few children were slightly unwell but they are all now fit to travel and are on the bus home. I'm expecting they'll need a lot of sleep before going back to school tomorrow!

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