At the start of 2020, the University of Johannesburg Choir began readying itself for a full programme of performances, the World Choir Games, an international tour to Flanders and the launch of their new album. Then the world stopped. Like so many other events, the choir’s entire planned programme was cancelled.
Yet, while their voices were silenced by isolation, the music rose up and now UJ Arts & Culture, Choir Master Renette Bouwer and the choristers have announced the launch of the ninth UJ Choir album When the Earth Stands Still.
When the Earth Stands Still is an emotional journey that draws its audiences #CloseToHeART and offers a sense of hope and solace. It celebrates UJ Choir’s remarkable ability to come together as a collection of voices and interpret each composer’s work with a haunting tone that embodies a feeling of timelessness.
‘Although the title, When the Earth Stands Still, is so fitting for a world in lockdown, it was decided at the conception of the album rather than the completion. Yet, no one could predict the album would be launched to a standstill world,’ says Bouwer.
As with UJ Choir’s other albums, When the Earth Stands Still is infused with one of Bouwer’s special qualities: the ability to engage her singers’ souls with musical integrity. The album also marks Bouwer’s 21 years at the University of Johannesburg and at the helm of the choir.
The soundtrack is a mixture of the repertoire sung by the choir in 2018 and 2019, with each year harnessing the voices of 65 singers. It features a collection of folk and contemporary Western and African music.
‘For us, this album is formed from generational music batons, and it is a great privilege to represent these batons as honestly as we can,’ says Sizwe Mondlane, Renette Bouwer’s protégé.
‘When we cannot sing, our world is brought to a grinding halt. And with this album, that world can move again,’ says Bouwer.
Brought forward from its original date in June, the album launch has given rise to UJ Arts & Culture’s remarkable interdisciplinary project: The Pandemic. Twenty-five artists were commissioned to create a piece of filmed work using one of the songs featured on the album. Each day for 25 days following the album’s launch, one video will be launched on all the UJ Arts & Culture social media platforms.
‘UJ Arts & Culture has become a hub for young creatives to delve into interdisciplinary art experiences as part of their second-year FADA Interdisciplinary Project. This flagship programme sees more than 300 students work on design aspects of a production selected for production by the department. The launch of this album has given us an opportunity to stay present in the South African art space, now online, and to support artists financially, albeit modestly, and emotionally through a chance to create something unique that our current and new audiences can appreciate from the safety of their own homes,’ says Pieter Jacobs, Head of UJ Arts & Culture.
When the Earth Stands Still is now available for download and streaming on Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Deezer, Google Play and Spotify.
Follow this journey over the next five weeks on all Creative Feel’s social media platforms.
CLICK HERE to see Ronél de Jager’s visual interpretation of When the Earth Stands Still.