Cape Town Youth Choir

When, on April 3, the much-loved Cape Town Youth Choir steps onto the Zankel stage at the iconic Carnegie Hall in New York, it will be a dream come true for many of the choir members.


“It will be the culmination of years of hard work for a diverse group of beautiful young people who never fail to wow their audiences,” says choir manager Francois Swart.

For Leon Starker, choir conductor, this will be an unmissable opportunity to represent Cape Town and South Africa on one of the most famous stages in the world.

The CTYC is made up of people aged 15 to 30, some of whom are scholars, some students and some working professionals, all from different backgrounds. “Some have for example overcome incredible adversity to make it to university against great odds. But they have all been chosen for their voices, and they all show up twice a week to practise and sing together. Their dedication and unity are what make this all worth it,” says Starker, who has been conducting the choir since 2003.

The choir which will perform in the Zankel Hall at Carnegie will also perform at Yale University and in Boston amongst other venues in their concert tour entitled “Songs of Loss and Hope”.

“The concerts will explore those two aspects of life both through existing choral repertoire as well as through newly commissioned pieces, including a number of songs written by young South Africans which address this theme,” says Starker.

The concert repertoire includes:

Gloria – Hendrik Hofmeyr (SA)

Super flumina Babylonis- TL de Victoria (Spain)

Homeless (arr Ladysmith Black Mambazo, SA)

Canticum Calamitatis – Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (Finland)

Horizons – Péter Louis Van Dijk (SA)

Kyrie – Tord Kalvenes (Norway)

Majovy Chor – Felix Václav (Czech Republic)

Emlanjeni (Rivers of Babylon) – trad, arranged. Soweto Gospel Choir (SA)

Give me Jesus – trad spiritual, Larry Fleming (US)

*qulani! (You’ve got to be taught to hate and to fear) – Neo Muyanga (SA)

*what they did yesterday afternoon – Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa (Zimbabwe)

*On a Night – Conrad Asman (SA)

*Ps 133 –  Simon Bethell (SA)

plus, a selection of South African traditional folk songs, e.g. Ukuthula, Emarabini and Ndikhokele Bawo.

* These pieces were commissioned specifically for the tour by four young Southern African composers.

Starker, believes the choir will arrive in the States at a time when the mood is sober in the country. “With marches and protests, and also in the context of events relating to #BlackLivesMatter, I believe our beautiful young people will arrive with a good story to tell, one in which love of our common humanity triumphs over narrow self-interest. I have no doubt we will convey this through our songs!” 

The choir is currently raising funds to make this tour a reality for as many CTYC members as possible. Those who would like to help the choir get to Carnegie Hall can donate through Indiegogo by following this link:…/cape-town-youth-choir-us-tour.

The choir is also registered with Fractured Atlas in the US, which means that donations (via Fractured Atlas) originating from the US will be tax deductible for the donor.

Capetonians are urged to encourage their US friends to support the choir by attending the Carnegie Hall performance, tickets for which are available through the Carnegie Hall website.


 “Almost everybody either knows someone living in New York, or knows someone who knows someone who lives in New York. PLEASE encourage (cajole, threaten, beg) them to not only buy tickets for the concert, but to also forward this email to friends/family and get them to buy tickets. Help us to sing to a sold-out venue,” says Starker.

The choir will perform the Carnegie repertoire at two concerts – one on 22 April in the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium, Parow and 23 April at a venue still to be confirmed – when they return to Cape Town.


For more information, please check their website