By Roxanne Daniels
Bayanda Mthetho finishes an ordinary Wednesday of his Grade Six year. Unlike many of his friends, his next port of call is the Cathedral Choir Practice. This choir is made up of over 40 members ranging in age from 10 to nearly 80, they lead the congregation in worship and perform at special events like Ash Wednesday and Easter. Bayanda is committed to going to rehearsals and singing at four or more services per month. If he does this, he receives a scholarship that goes towards paying his Graeme Boys’ school fees. Bayanda is joined by his friend, Xolisa Foley, together they have benefited from the scholarship programme for just over a year. who also benefits from the 6-year-old scholarship programme.
Graeme College and Cathedral Choir members
Xolisa Foley: It’s quite hectic being part of both choirs, but we’re used to it now.
Both boys commented that transport is the only issue they have to deal with as members of the Cathedral Choir. While Graem boys who sing for the Cathedral also have to be a part of the Graem Choir as well, this “hectic” way of life is easy to get used to.
Bayanda and Xolisa both beamed as they told me about their experience of being the youngest members of the Cathedral Choir. They were chosen by Graeme College Choir teacher, Priscilla Glover, to apply for the Cathedral Choir. After applying they were told that the deciding factor was that they had to be at the first rehearsal. If they did not attend this, it would be understood that they did not wish to be part of the Cathedral Choir. Bayanda and Xolisa laughed nervously as they recollected having been late for the first rehearsal due to only being able to arrange a lift there at the last minute. This was soon forgotten as they arrived and were told by the older high school girls how cute and sweet they looked.
They were joined by Grade 11 and 12 Graeme boys who have been part of the choir since they were in Grade Five. Also in the choir are girls from Victoria Girls’ High School, staff from the Cathedral and other ‘grown ups’. Together they learn chapel and chance songs by being split up into first and second sopranos, tenors, altos and basses. They look to the conductor, Dr Bethke, for guidance and prompting.
The best part
Bayanda Mthetho: My favourite has been seeing the organ in real life and being offered the opportunity to learn how to play it.
Although Bayanda and Xolisa love singing in the choir, they also enjoy the services at the Cathedral, Xolisa admitting that he loves the communion part of the evenings at the Cathedral. They have also been able to interact with the other choir members, both young and old. Bayanda has especially appreciated seeing the organ in real life and he is excited to start learning it later this year when he has grown a little bit taller.
For now though, they both sing with the choir at regular Evensong services at 17.00 on Sundays. This short event consists of a traditional Anglican procedure of saying the Apostles’ Creed together, singing hymns and hearing the bible read. Smiles from the small congregation can be seen when the choir stands up to sing psalms and South African hymns. Bayanda and Xolisa are poised while standing in the front row of the choir and they sing with energy and confidence while wearing their specially tailored red robes. After the procession leads out, the boys, along with the other choir members, they take off their robes and hang them on the designated rack until the next week’s service.