SU Choir declines national anthem offer

Lian van Wyk

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Choir declined an invitation to sing the national anthem at Monday’s Varsity Cup final.

The choir, who are the recipients of gold medals in three categories at the 2016 International Choir Games, was approached by Maties Sport to sing the national anthem as part of the opening ceremony of the Varsity Cup final match between Maties and Pukke. However, the choir turned down the offer to sing the national anthem at the Danie Craven stadium.

A member of the SU Choir, who chose to remain anonymous, said that when told about the decision to decline the invitation, the members of the choir questioned André van der Merwe, the choir conducter, on this choice.

According to this member, Van der Merwe told the choir that he felt hurt to sing the national anthem. He said that he is disappointed by the fact that some people sing only certain parts of the national anthem with enthusiasm, while neglecting to do so with other parts, or not singing parts at all.

Another member of the choir, who also chose to remain anonymous, said that Van Der Merwe referred to the Afrikaans part of the national anthem. According to Cindy van der Merwe, Events Coordinator at Maties Sport, the SU Choir declined the invitation without providing a reason for doing so.

Van Der Merwe said that he had not simply refused Maties Sport’s offer and that the situation surrounding the matter was far more complex. He did not want to comment on the issue further, stating that it was a private matter. Ulrike Vorndran, Coordinator of Hospitality and Accommodation at the US Woordfees office, said the decision to decline the invitation was not made by Van der Merwe alone, but that it was a collective resolution that the entire management of the choir had carefully considered.

“The management’s decision to decline the invitation hinged on a few factors,” Vorndran said. “Firstly, the choir was only approached about taking part in the Varsity Cup at a very late stage, and
the wrong channels were used in communicating with us. The choir also spent the whole weekend preparing for more than five performances waiting on us in the coming three weeks. We are currently using all available time in preparation for our tour to Wales.”

Saartjie Botha, Woordfees Director, confirmed that the choir had spent the weekend preparing for the busy schedule ahead of them.

“Participation in the Centenary Concert of the University has had the choir quite busy these past few weeks and took up a significant amount of repetition time,” Botha said. “André van der Merwe is therefore committed to using all available time optimally.”

Botha also added that the national anthem is not currently part of the choir’s repertoire and that it would have been difficult for the group to learn to sing the anthem in eight voices in the short amount of time that they were given before the Varsity Cup final. Botha also said: “In a diverse environment, as is the case within a university and definitely within a choir, differing and sometimes
conflicting opinions will, without a doubt, arise over a variety of topics.

This includes the national anthem.“We agree that a discussion on these differing opinions is necessary. To rush this would, however, be irresponsible. The timeframe before [Monday’s] match was simply too small to accommodate such a complex conversation.

Martin Viljoen, SU spokesperson, said that the University had taken note of the reasons the choir had given for declining the invitation, which he emphasised include a busy schedule. The University is also aware of “the conversations that are taking place”.

Photo: Supplied

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