‘South Africa and the Democracy of Song’ at CAC Sept. 19

Published 6:22 am Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Contributing writer

Next week, the Community Arts Center invites you to explore and experience the music of “South Africa and the Democracy of Song” at its monthly Lunch with the Arts event.

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Johann van Niekerk, assistant professor of music at Centre College, will discuss the music that characterized the time of transition from colonial power to independence and the ways in which this music has served as a tool for dialogue, humor and reconciliation in the years since. The audience will also be treated to informal musical contributions by Centre College students.

Van Niekerk

van Niekerk joined Centre’s faculty in 2015. He is an active conductor, pianist, educator, writer and collaborative artist, originally from South Africa, and has lived in the United States since 2009. His research interests focus on music and social resistance with specific emphasis on music from the anti-Apartheid struggle, African-American Spirituals and the Baltic Choral Music tradition. He currently teaches courses in choral ensembles, conducting, music and social resistance, hip-hop and the humanities.

The students participating in the program are members of Centre Singers and will be singing folk songs and choral music from South Africa. Centre Singers recently presented on a related topic at the Southern Division Conference of the American Choral Directors’ Association (2018).

On the meaning of Democracy of Song, Johann quotes sociologists Rosenthal and Flacks who say, “Since singing is close to ordinary speech, anyone who can speak can make a song by putting speech to melody… as close to a perfect egalitarian vehicle as we can find.”

Of his presentation, Johann says, “I am excited to share some of the forming moments of my life and the way in which it relates to these questions: Can music change the world and does music influence social movements or merely reflect other trends after the fact? The location and transition into which I was born has presented the opportunity to explore and dissect some of these vital and fascinating processes through which music intersects with issues of class, race, and everyday life in different societies around the world.”

van Niekerk was born in the Republic of South Africa, where he completed his undergraduate education in music (piano performance and choral conducting). While in South Africa, he conducted choirs at Waterkloof High School and served as student intern at the internationally renowned Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School.

van Niekerk moved to the United States to pursue graduate degrees in choral conducting in Philadelphia and Seattle before coming to Centre College. He earned his DMA in Choral Conducting from the University of Washington, his M.M. from Temple University, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

The upcoming Lunch with the Arts series will also include the following presenters:

Oct 17, Lee Patrick & Loren Tice (saxophone and piano); Nov 14, Lydia DiMartino Ellis (therapeutic music); Dec 19, Young at Heart Band; Jan 16, Dick Domek (Ragtime piano); Feb  20, Maurice Manning (poetry); Mar 20, Bruce Richardson (Japanese tea ceremony); Apr 17, Danville Dulcimers; May 15, Overtones (barbershop quartet); June 19, Pioneer Playhouse.

For more information, visit communityartscenter.net.

On exhibit

Horizon: Contemporary Landscape – a national juried exhibition that challenges the traditional definitions of landscape art.

Reflections – a collaborative exhibit by The Gathering Artists, Danville’s longest-standing artist society.


Lunch with the Arts will present Johann van Niekerk noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the Community Arts Center Cost is $5 at the door; $3 for students.

Coming Up

• Ugandan Kids Choir Concert, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14. Cost is $5; $2 for students.

The children in the Ugandan Kids Choir are known for their musical talents and their joyful performances. They sing traditional African songs, play authentic African instruments, and dance in their colorful African attire.  The Choir is a ministry of Childcare Worldwide, which has been devoted to empowering children in the developing world since 1981. Childcare Worldwide serves children in nine developing countries by taking care of their physical, spiritual, and educational needs.

• Beginner Salsa, 6-7 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 4; for teens/adults; $40/person; instructed by Wes Bratcher

• Adult Group Voice Lessons, 1-2:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 13; $96/person; instructed by Barbara Hall.

• Painting 101, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, through Oct. 9; adults/teens; $90/person; instructed by Sarah Wiltsee

• Starry Night Studio: Floating Maple Leaf, 7-9 p.m. Sept. 25; $28/person; instructed by Lela Germann