The Jakaranda Children’s Choir

We’ve had an amazing stay in Pretoria. Our homestays from the Jakaranda Children’s Choir were most understanding with our late arrival (4 hours!) After more than a week of hostelling, the boys were happy to go off to their homestays for a little TLC. And laundry! God bless the parents of Jakaranda. Every boy had a full suitcase of very dirty, smelly clothes. But no longer. Bai Dankie!!!

Wednesday we visited the Vortrekker Monument. Impressive. (Check it out online) It memorializes the Great Trek of the 1800’s, when the British forced the Afrikaaner from the Cape area into the African velt. This precipitated war between the Afrikaaer and the black tribes throughout the land – the most famous conflict being the Battle of Blood River. You may have heard of Shaka, the Zulu King is one of history’s most fierce, feared, and brilliant warriors.

Links to pics from the set: Voortrekker - July 20

The boys were able to climb the monument for terrific vistas of the Pretoria / Johanesburg region. We also sing - an amazing acoustic. We sang Nkosi Sikeleli so beautifully that the staff asked for us to sing it again. And then they asked us to sing it a third time! After our mini-concert, we lunched at the picnic area where the boys were able to run around.

Wednesday evening we had a wonderful joint concert with the Jakaranda Children’s Choir. The hall had a brilliant acoustic.

Link to pics from the set: Jakaranda Concert 7-20

Sublime Visit to the Palace of Justice

Thursday morning we rehearsed. This is one of the great opportunities of tour – to rehearse the boys each day. With daily rehearsals and concerts, we get them to a level of performance that is quite fine, one not possible at home.

We then headed off to the Union Building (equivalent of our Capitol Building in Washington) where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first President of the new South Africa. The boys got some more sun as they lunched on the gorgeous grounds.

Link to pics in the set: Union Building - 7/21

From there we went to the National Zoo. It was a bit strange to see animals in cages after seeing them in the wild at Kruger. I think we’ve created some animal activists!

Link to pics in the set: Pretoria Zoo - 7/21

We finished our day of sight-seeing at the Palace of Justice, where Nelson Mandela gave his famous speech before being sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. I had never been in the space, so this was thrilling for me. As a student of South African history, it gave me goose bumps to be in the room. The world, was expecting Mandela to be sentenced to death, as was Mandela himself. Because court procedure allowed a criminal to speak before sentencing without time limit, he decided to take what might be his last opportunity to make his case to the world. Those in the courtroom was the speech, which lasted four hours, felt like four minutes. It was that compelling.

I will post the last paragraph of his speech on this wiki space. I read it to the boys while the sat in the courtroom, and we followed it by singing the Nkosi Sikeleli and our new South African folk song “Nelson Mandela.” For me personally, it was a sublime a moment as I’ve ever had on tour. I think the boys also were moved. Or they were just aware of the zen moment I was having, and indulged me. J

We were then brought down to the cell below the courtroom where Mandela spent many months before his trial. VERY COOL. The graffiti of many political prisoners from the apartheid era covers the walls. Mandela himself drafted the ground-breaking Freedom Charter on a section of it. Amazing that there was no glass over the walls. If this was an American tourist attraction, it would have already been “Disney-ified.” (Is that a word? It not, it should be.) The boys walked through the cell in one long line in total silence. It was quite chilling.

Links to pics in the set: Palace of Justice - 7/21

Thursday night we had another great concert at the stunning concert hall at the University of South Africa. (UNISA) The acoustic is not very live, but it’s a good theatrical space, and a good fit for KSB. We performed with two very good high school choirs (girls and boys), and so the boys had to bring their A game to the stage – which they did. I was worried they would have low energy as we had a long day running around Pretoria. I challenged them to make me say afterwards “I was wrong.” Sure enough, this morning, they made me say it. I did, with great pleasure. Well, it hurt a little.

Link to pics in the set: Unisa Concert - 7/21

Right now, as I’m typing, I’m watching the boys are run around a beautiful park on a beautiful day. Balmy. More pleasant than your dog days of summer we’ve been hearing about on the news!

This afternoon we are going to a local mall so the boys can see they new Harry Potter movie. They are psyched, as are the adults. Martha’s family wants me to let them know she is NOT going to see the movie.

More later…
After the verdict came in, there was great relief that Mandela’s life was spared.