VOX Cape Town was founded in 2015 with a vision to create fresh, mesmerising choral experiences to enrich the musical life of the Mother City and to continue the legacy of the St George’s Singers, led for over fifty years by Barry Smith.
Since then, it has been written that VOX has “developed a reputation for its imaginative programming and performances of seldom-heard choral music in unconventional spaces, and has continually impressed audiences both with its fresh approach to new and interesting repertoire, including commissioning several new works by local composers, and its approach to concert staging including lighting and visual effects”.
Over the past eight years, VOX has presented scores of immersive performances in venues ranging from the intimacy of the Irma Stern Museum and the Tasting Cellar at Groot Constantia to the breathtaking grandeur of the Norval Foundation and St George’s Cathedral. Its flagship performances have spanned millennia, juxtaposed the classical and the contemporary, and even taken its audiences on a voyage to the mystical Northern Lights. Through special relationships with Fine Music Radio and CapeTown Sound, VOX aims to promote South African choral music locally and across the globe.
In 2016 and 2017, VOX embarked on a series of “New Soundscapes” – three concerts designed to expose Cape Town’s audiences to fresh choral sounds. The first of these concerts featured music by two composers sharing the same name – John Tave(r)ner – but separated in time by 500 years in a juxtaposition of early polyphony and contemporary minimalism. VOX’s second major performance, Trust the Silences and its sequel Trust the Silences (Once More), comprised choral music written within the last three decades that represented a diversity of genres from Eric Whitacre to Radiohead. The third concert, Northern Lights: A Baltic Voyage, treated listeners to a smorgasbord of contemporary composers from the North.
Besides performing in traditional choral spaces, VOX participates in the “In the Dark” series in the Youngblood Gallery and has on three occasions presented a unique pairing of wine and choral music (“ViniChoral”) at Groot Constantia. VOX intends to match its live performances with a series of high-quality audio and video recordings to broaden the traditional audience of choral music. The first of these, Trust the Silences, Northern Lights: A Baltic Voyage, as well as A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, are available via digital download.
Outreach and community involvement are important aspects of VOX’s musical and social vision and this includes fruitful collaborations with Fine Music Radio and a number of local musical groups such as the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cape Town Baroque Orchestra. VOX champions the performance of contemporary choral music and this includes a series of new commissions by local composers as well as partnerships with other choral groups to perform works from the orchestral repertoire, such as the Stabat Mater by Karl Jenkins.
Described as Cape Town’s most innovative choral collective, VOX Cape Town has fast established itself as a standout on the local music scene. Under the direction of Dr John Woodland, VOX has continually impressed audiences both with its fresh approach to new and interesting repertoire, including commissioning several new works by local composers, and its approach to concert staging including lighting and visual effects. – Ian Burgess-Simpson, IBSP Blog
There’s a relatively young but extremely precocious kid on the choral block in Cape Town and it’s making bold forays into territories that have been hitherto largely avoided by older choirs. Known as VOX (the Latin word for “voice”) and led by singer-scientist-cum-choir-director John Woodland, the group has committed itself to “taking choral music out of the traditional, conservative concert hall and into the world”. – Jim Freeman, The Graham Beck Curator
A mind massage of masterful sound – such delicious clarity of notes that resonated with every fibre of attention. I have never emerged so relaxed from a sound box. John [Woodland] created a sound scene like an opera without intrusions. – Hans Van Heukelum, WeekendSpecial
Patron: Dr Barry Smith
Barry Smith is a South African organist, choral and orchestral conductor, author, and musicologist. He studied and completed his PhD degree at the Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape Province. Additionally, he holds a DMus degree from the Faculty of Music at the University of Cape Town. Barry founded the St George’s Singers in 1964 which he directed for 51 years until 2015. Besides conducting in the United Kingdom, Austria, and Israel, Smith has made several solo recital tours both in America and England and played in Westminster Abbey and King’s College, Cambridge. Smith was awarded by Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Distinguished Order of Simon of Cyrene.