Gérard’d du Toit has been the Artistic Director of the choir since 1996. He is supported by the board of the choir, which is elected annually. The board comprises chorister parents from the various regions in KwaZulu-Natal, and the choir’s Student Council.
The choir is a non-profit organization and relies on membership fees from every chorister with no additional income from government or sponsorships. This makes it difficult for many potential choristers to be a member of the choir, particularly for those from previously-disadvantaged backgrounds.
The choir does not discriminate in its membership. Hundreds of applicants, ranging in age from 15 to 25, audition annually in August and September. Only the top candidates are announced in October to represent the choir – based purely on the merit of their audition. During the following summer vacation, a choir camp is held where the choir members meet each other and start practicing their programme for the new year. Rehearsals take place on Friday evenings during the first term of school in the new year. Pre-scheduled performances and tours take place during the second and third school terms.
The KZN Youth choir has travelled locally and abroad, aiming to continually raise the standard of singing by competing in International Choral Competitions in Europe every second year. Locally the choir is well known and has toured to Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria on at least four different occasions, the highlight being the selection to perform at the opening ceremony of the International Philip MacLauchlan Choral seminar in 2004 in Stellenbosch, an event which attracted more than 250 conductors from South Africa and abroad.
The choir was invited to participate in the International Johannes Brahms Choir Festival & Competition in Wernigerode, Germany for 2005 – the first South African choir to have been invited to this prestigious competition. It achieved first and third places for the Mixed Youth Choirs and Folklore, respectively, and was also awarded two gold medals for its performances.
Furthermore, the KZN Youth Choir received multiple awards from the South African Choral Society. This included Best Youth Choir for 2005 and Best CD 2004 and 2006.
Other International awards include 1st prize, Best Balanced and presented Folklore programme and 2nd position in the Chamber choir competition (Greece 2003), 1stprize for best Mixed Youth choir at the International Johannes Brahms Choir Competition (2005), participation in the world’s biggest choir festival in Estonia (2007), and most popular choir, Seghizzi International Choir Competition (Italy 2009). In 2011 the choir was awarded first prizes at the International Antonio Vivaldi Choir Competition(Greece) in the Mixed Youth Choir Category, Sacred Music and Folklore Categories. The choir was also the Grand Prix winner.
In July 2013, the KZN Youth Choir travelled to Florence, Italy to compete in the Florence International Choir Festival where 18 other choirs from around the world took part. This festival was aimed at professional choirs, so they were extremely honoured to be chosen to take part. They were awarded the following prizes: Gold in the Chamber Choir Category, Gold for Best Female Soloist (Pearl Khwezi) and Gold for Best Contemporary Arrangement (Gerard’d du Toit for “Sounds of Africa)
The choir travelled to Poland in July 2015 to partake in the Bydgoszcz Musical Impressions Competition and Festival which consisted of 19 competitors from 11 different countries around the world which embraced the different aspects of singing, dancing and orchestral ensembles. The choir walked away from the competition with a first-place prize sponsored by the Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage for the choral section of the competition as well as a cash prize.
In 2016, the choir performed around KZN raising money in order to compete in Europe in 2017. The highlight of the year was when the choir performed Karl Jenkins’ Requiem alongside the Durban Symphonic Choir, accompanied by the renowned KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday the 14th of August at St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
The choir has been the recipient of the most popular choir at all competitions since 1998.
2017 was a very eventful year for the choir as we not only had our 50th reunion concert and celebrations, but also toured to Spain to participate in the Golden Voices of Barcelona Choral Competition, in which the choir did exceptionally well.
The World Choir Games was held in Tshwane, South Africa, which gave us and many, many South African professional and non-professional choirs the opportunity to take part in a very large scale music competition and to be exposed to a variety of musical styles and sounds. The choir learned a great deal about choral singing and about music from our own country. We performed in the Mixed Youth Choir category and in the Sacred category, walking away with silvers in both. A highlight for many choristers was singing a composition by the renowned South African composer, Franco Prinsloo, who set Ek sal sterf en na my vader gaan by Breyten Breytenbach to music.
The choir has been taking in youngsters for more than 50 years, shaping them and exposing them to music that they would otherwise never be exposed to. We embrace the new South Africa wholeheartedly and hope that we can continue to share what we love most.