Grahamstown Cathedral Choir
The Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Grahamstown is home to many treasures, given over the years to the glory of God and for the inspiration of those who come into the building to worship. One of the most exciting treasures of the Cathedral is not ancient, but very much alive, the music made by the Choir under the Director of Music, Dr Andrew-John Bethke. The choir of over 40 voices consists of some 20 adults and the young choristers of the Makana Choir School. Throughout the year the Choir sings at morning Eucharist services twice a month, and at Evensong twice a month.
The Makana Choir School
The Makana Choir School was initiated in June 2009 by the then Director of Music at the Cathedral, Barbara Stout, and her husband Wilf, who was the Cathedral organist. They began with a handful of junior choristers, all Junior School pupils, and by the end of that year they numbered 15. Dr Andrew-John Bethke, who was appointed to succeed the Stouts in 2012, and who left at Easter this year (2017), holds a Fellowship diploma in organ performance from Trinity College, London and has performed widely in South Africa and internationally. He also has an M.A. in Sacred Music, a Masters in Composition and a Ph.D. in Liturgical Musicology. He currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship with UNISA. He has composed a number of sacred choral works, which are included in the Choir’s repertoire. Under Dr Bethke the choristers’ high standard of musical training has been maintained and indeed exceeded. For tributes to A-J Bethke at the time of his farewell, see People and Places for April and May 2017, and for photos see our Gallery.
Dr Bethke is to be succeeded by Mr Cameron Luke, an experienced church organist from Cheltenham, UK, who will be arriving later in 2017. Until he arrives the choir is being trained and conducted by the Choir Intern, Khutlwano Kepadisa, known as Kepa.
For the last two years there have been several choristers in Grade 12 (matric), most of whom have been with the Choir School for four or five years. As they leave, other youngsters have been auditioned and recruited to take their place. Several of the older boys now sing tenor and bass parts. The junior choristers attend the local state schools: Graeme College, Victoria Girls’ High School, and Victoria Primary.
The choristers are trained in singing and musicianship during a one-and-a-half hour practice at the Cathedral each week, one practice a week held at their respective schools, and a one-hour practice before every choral service. In return for the choristers’ commitment to the Choir they may be eligible to receive a Scholarship towards their school fees.
In 2016 about 13 children received the full scholarship amount of R4,000, while three who were initially on probation received R3,000 by the end of the year.
Belonging to the Cathedral Choir exposes the young people to singing an extensive repertoire at a professional level. The Choir is becoming better known through concerts, and through singing during the National Arts Festival. Listen to the Cathedral Choir singing part of the Magnificat in G by Andrew-John Bethke at a Choral Evensong in the 2016 Arts Festival.