Since its establishment, the Drakensberg Boys Choir School has seen many different conductors and produced a number of successful musicians among the boys who have passed through its doors. Notable conductors include Johann van der Sandt, Botes Gresse, Christian Ashley-Botha (‘Bunny’), Rudolf de Beer and Juan Burgers. Some of the Old Boys who have become prominent musicians, nationally and internationally, include Deon van der Walt, Colin Lee, Clint van der Linde, Jacques Imbrailo, Nicholas Nicolaides, the Bala Brothers, Rory Rootenberg and William Berger.
*Logo used with permission from the artist
The school consists of approximately 120 boys, from Grade 4 to Grade 9, who have been selected through auditions held across the country. Every day, the boys have seven academic lessons, including Mathematics, Languages, Economics, Natural and Social Sciences, IT, Art and Music subjects, as well as two hours of choir rehearsals. The choir performs an average of 80 concerts per year, which includes the weekly Wednesday concerts held in the Ken Mackenzie Auditorium on the school premises.
The choir tours at least twice a year, both nationally and internationally. The countries they have visited include Israel, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, France, Taiwan, Poland, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Botswana. One of the tour highlights was an invitation in 1983, from Pope John Paul II, to perform in St. Peter’s Square. They were the first South African cultural group to perform behind the Iron Curtain in 1985, and were also invited to perform at a congress of the American Chiral Directors’ Association in 2007.
In 2017, the choir performed 25 concerts in all major cities of Japan, by invitation of the Min-On Concert Association, in front of a combined audience of over 36 000 people. In 2018 the choir was invited as a guest choir to the European Youth Choir Festival in Basel (Switzerland), where they were the only choir from the outside of Europe.
In 2018, the Drakensberg Boys Choir competed at the 10th World Choir Games, held in Tshwane, South Africa. They won the Champions’ Title for ‘Scenic Pop’, with one of the highest scores in the entire competition. After their very first competitive competition, the Drakensberg Boys Choir has now been placed as the highest ranking Boys’ Choir in the world, on the Interkultur World Ranking List.
The story of the Drakesnberg Boys Choir begins in 1954 when Gwen “Ma” Tungay bought two of the three portions of the subdivided farm “Geduld” that was owned by Mr Erfmann for £6,000. Her father had died two years earlier and she had inherited £3,000 which she used as a deposit on the farm and which she registered in her husband Ronnie’s name. The Tungays were no strangers to the Champagne Valley and had been visiting the valley annually for holidays since their honeymoon in 1935. Their second eldest son, Peter, had expressed an interest in becoming a farmer and of taking the farm over, but he was tragically killed in a plane crash in October 1960. Deliberations then began of selling the farm as it was logistically difficult to run the farm from Durban and the running costs were high. However, Russell, their youngest son, objected and suggested starting a caravan park to sustain the farm. He took three years to build the first ablution block by hand and the caravan park formally opened its doors in December 1963...