“It was a really great experience” said senior religion and music major, Ramone Griffith. “The concerts were well attended, but getting to interact with the people was one of my favorite parts of this tour.”
The groups previously toured South Africa in 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2005, twice with world renowned conductor John Rutter. This year, the tour consisted of 16 major concerts in the three weeks from May 28 to June 16.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Thabo Makguba and his wife attended the concert in St. Georges’ Cathedral, Cape Town, and a major center of resistance to Apartheid under the leadership of then Archbishop and now Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu.
“Cape town is quite possibly one of the best town’s I’ve ever visited,” said WAU alumnus and New England Youth Ensemble member, Kimmie Comeau. “I’m glad we got to not only perform there, but also do some sightseeing as well.”
Besides the major concerts, the groups participated in worship services in several churches and schools and interacted with a wide cross section of South African society. For example, concerts were given at the all black Good Hope Seventh-day Adventist School, Cape Town, attended by children from kindergarten to high school.
“No one ever comes to visit us with something like this!” was the heartfelt expression of gratitude from one of the school’s principal.
Another poignant performance was at Muluti Adventist Hospital, Lesotho, a favorite of the late Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, founder and artistic director of the New England Youth Ensemble. Continuing a tradition of giving to the children started by Rittenhouse, flutist Juliana Baioni, presented blankets to the hospital crocheted by members of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland.
The South African tour ended with a two day safari in Krueger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa.