Yebo! My name is Stephanie Leotsakos ’16 and I am a senior in the Glee Club, meaning, this is my last tour :( I am also Student Assistant Conductor of the Glee Club this year, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share my conducting debut with this choir and international conducting debut on tour in South Africa. I am SO thankful for the opportunity that I was given and I will keep these treasured moments at heart forever.
I wanted to say a few words explaining this ‘treasure’ that touched me in a very special way.
Gold, to us Westerners, is usually perceived as refined and delicate and precious—but it is distant to us. In South Africa, it is all these things and more; it is earthy. The ever present connection to nature in this county is transformative, and brings out the treasure of these people. They are the gold.
Gold isn’t just a shimmering illusion of wealth or class, happiness or beauty, but a real and precious, grounded metal, fundamental to Mother Earth. Humankind can also relate to these precious qualities, and I felt that here in South Africa. A lot of energy, hope, and struggle seemed to breed values like gratitude, happiness, strength, and a belief in metacognition amongst the South African communities that we visited.
As a choir, we were received in South Africa with incredible hospitality and this love was felt until the very last day. Just before our final performance in Gugulethu on Thursday night, we got a call with an invitation to perform on SABC3 national television in South Africa, on the Espresso Morning Show, at 6 AM in the morning the next day, and although sleep deprived and exhausted, most of the choir embraced the opportunity immediately, agreeing to a 5 AM wake-up call and an extended, packed day. (This meant, most of us only got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep… or at least I did.) So our long day of already scheduled seal and penguin visits, Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope visits, and group lunch and dinner, began even earlier, with very little rest in between.
But we’re glad we did it, because the experience was incredible! In our 'Sunday best' outfits we warmed up our voices at 5:30 AM, observed the sunrise from the beautiful rooftop of the TV building, and went on national television and sang our hearts out. On set, the South African crew was ululating excitedly with bright smiles on their faces while recording us on their cell phones as well as on live TV. Again, the South African people showed us their radiant, golden spirit. And then, as Gabriel said, “We broke twitter.” The channel even created a hashtag for us: #Imfundo (meaning #’education’)! See pictures of this experience on their Facebook page. Returning to the hotel for breakfast, the doorman congratulated us, and told me he saw us on TV and thought we were incredible.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying each other’s company, the company of very cute sea lions, and the company of incredibly adorable penguins, which we could not seem to get enough of! There was so much baby-talking to penguins that I did pick up on some weird looks in our direction. We also saw some beautiful views and landscapes from Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern-most tip of Africa.
By the end of the night, we had our final group dinner at a traditional pan-African restaurant called none other than: Gold. How appropriate. The food was delicious, and the performers at the restaurant danced and sang for us, getting most of us involved in the festive spirit. They even facepainted many of us. They danced with such passion—we could not believe how fit they were! I swear, it was like zumba times ten. One minute of dancing and singing with them literally left me panting, highlighting my lack of fitness. They showered us in gold pixie dust that left my glass of delicious South African Pinotage glittering, and I had to ask if it was still safe to drink. (It was.) Inevitably, after such good food and camaraderie, we wanted to perform for them in gratitude, and so up to the stage we went and sang Imfundo for the last time, unofficially, on tour. Our entertainers went nuts! Besides being showered in gold pixie dust, we were also showered in many hugs and some tears. It moved me to see Pieter up in the balcony wiping away tears. Every time we had sung the piece, I noticed he had cried.
The day did not end there. Though Pieter and Juanita told us we were heading to the hotel, we ended up back at Table Mountain, where we could observe the twinkling golden lights of beautiful Cape Town below as well as the twinkling golden lights above us. The nighttime sky in South Africa was like no other I’d ever seen. With champagne glasses prepared for each of us in that beautiful place, in that beautiful moment, we took turns making emotional toasts in a spotlight (i.e. the headlight of the bus) which outlined each speaker with a golden glow. It was a magical ending to a magical tour—an incredible experience, and an unforgettable treasure.
South Africa, a golden country, has stolen a piece of my heart. I promise to return.
Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika.