August 18, 2013

The long goodbye


We’re sitting in the crowded departure lounge of Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport, about to begin the loooong trip home via Dubai and Toronto.

We’ve had a marvellous last few days together on tour—two nights at a beach-front resort in the Indian Ocean followed by a final night in a quaint lodge in the Drakensburg Mountains. It’s been a period of hard-earned relaxation mixed with emotional leave-taking. We’re leaving behind not only our exchange chorister, but also the two former Mascato exchange choristers, Linus and Michael, who have become part of our choir family over these four weeks. We’re also saying goodbye to Sid M’Sahel, the Kokopelli chorister who’s remaining behind in South Africa for the remainder if the year, thus completing our half of the exchange program.

It has been an absolutely packed, mind-bending experience for all of us. Although the time seems to have passed by all too quickly, it feels as if we’ve managed to fit in a year’s worth of experiences.

With the final round of hugs and tears behind us, our thoughts turn to friends and family at home. We’ll see you all very soon. And we’ll have plenty of stories to tell.

Thanks for listening! #kokoSA2013 over and out!

August 14, 2013

Mxolisi brings his choir home

The Magagula family, reuinted: Thabo, Lomkhosi, Mxolisi, Mini, and Sandziswe
Highlights since the last entry:

    A much-needed Sunday off in Pretoria, capped by a boisterous and emotional goodbye dinner with University of Pretoria Youth Choir.


    Two nights at White River, including a drive through Kruger Park (and scads of wildlife spotting) and two performances at Uplands College.

After we finished loading our bus at Bundu Lodge in White River, exchange chorister Mxolisi Magagula settled into the “tour guide” seat right at the front of the bus. He played the role enthusiastically (complete with abundant commentary) throughout the day’s drive. Today he was co-piloting his entire choir into his home in Swaziland.

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August 11, 2013

Hope and music in a rural township

Early Saturday morning, University of Pretoria Youth Choir and Kokopelli boarded three buses for a two-hour convoy to Moutse, a township outside of Pretoria. For everyone in Kokopelli, and for the majority of choristers in UPYC, the day would provide a glimpse into a side of South Africa few outsiders ever see.

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August 9, 2013

Sister choirs meet at last


Highlights since last post:

  • Arrival in Johannesburg and reconnection with Wits University Choir, old friends from Festival 500 in Newfoundland, July 2011.
  • Visits to the Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto (we sang in front of it).
  • An afternoon in Soweto, with a performance and workshop at a primary school with Memeza Africa.
  • A wonderful joint concert with Wits University Choir.

Early on Thursday morning, after our most eventful day on the tour so far, the choristers were delivered by their Johannesburg host families to the awaiting bus for the one-hour drive to Pretoria.

Shortly after arriving at the University of Pretoria, we performed a lunch-hour concert with our sister choir, University of Pretoria Youth Choir. It seemed hard to believe that we were finally together on stage. In 2010, UPYC suffered a heartbreaking, last-minute cancellation of a planned tour to Alberta when the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull disrupted their flight plans. With the arrival of our exchange chorister Mxolisi this year, our choirs began to feel more powerfully connected, but we still hadn’t actually met. Now, we were finally together.

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August 6, 2013

Musical connection


Highlights since last blog:

    Overnight stay at Addo Elephant park. A leisurely afternoon at our chalet housing in full view of nearly 50 wild elephants gathered on the adjoining hillside. A sundowner game drive plus a dawn game drive; sightings included kudus, zebras, warthogs, jackals and, for the lucky morning horseback group, a black rhino.

After a memorable break at Addo Elephant Park, we headed to Port Elizabeth for a concert with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) choir. During the bus ride, we read the choir’s impressive online bio—but no description would do justice to the choir we encountered.

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August 4, 2013

Magic in St. Francis Bay


Highlights since last blog:

    Shared concert in George with the South Cape Children’s Choir.


    Two amazing nights at the

Lofts Hotel

    in Knysna.


    Day tour to Monkeyland and Birds of Eden.


    Bungee jumping at Bloukrans Bridge (216m; seven choristers did the deed).

Yesterday morning, we woke up in gorgeous Knysna and hopped on the bus. On the road, we took a break at Bloukrans Bridge, site of a world-famous bungee jump. Seven choristers took the leap, while the rest of us watched in awe from a nearby viewpoint.

On most days, that would count as memorable. On this day, though, it was merely a footnote.

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August 1, 2013

Living large


Scott Leithead, with on-the-ground help from our South African friends Marijke Roos and Lhente-Mari Pitout, has worked an off-season accommodations miracle with our lodgings the past two nights.
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July 29, 2013

A Cape of contrasts

Kokopelli at a township school

After two days of intense rehearsal, Kokopelli enjoyed two days off, based out of the relative luxury of Cape Town’s Waterfront City Lodge.

On Saturday morning, heavy sea swells forced the cancellation of a planned visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the apartheid era. Choristers instead spent the day shopping, sightseeing, and catching a bit of rest. The day finished with a group dinner at an excellent local Italian restaurant (including a raucous singalong that had the whole place jumping, staff included).

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July 26, 2013

Hanging with the Mas-kokos


Kokopelli members weren’t the only ones to take an epic journey in order to sing in Cape Town. Six guys from Namibia, most of them former members of Mascato, travelled here to join us in South Africa. Four of them made their way to Cape Town by train and bus—a trip as long, time-wise, as Kokopelli’s: 43 hours. Now, after two days of intense rehearsal, they’re ready to perform with Kokopelli.

Call them the Mas-kokos.

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July 24, 2013

What day is it? Where are we?


It’s a little after noon on Wednesday. Kokopelli stands around a baggage carousel in Cape Town, bleary yet abuzz with the startling reality: we’re here!

The journey began at 9:15 a.m. Monday when the choir gathered to check in at Edmonton International. Allowing for the eight-hour time difference, we’ve been in transit for 43 hours.

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