Change the world

The Nelson Mandela University Choir, formerly known as the NMMU Choir (2005-2017) and the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE) choir (1994-2004), consists of 60 members, both students and alumni, who come from different walks of life.

The choir prides itself in being multi-cultural in both membership and the music it performs. Since its inception in 1994 the choir has gained a reputation for its unique ability to successfully interpret both Western and African repertoire and has since become sought after at choral festivals internationally.

Between 1994 and 2004, this acclaimed multi-cultural choir enjoyed numerous national and international invitations and successes, performing before President Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II and participating in the FICU International University Choir Festival, Valencia (Spain), the Centennial Celebrations of Philippines and the Voices International Choir Festival in Trondheim (Norway). In 2000 the Choir featured in a film based on the life of Nelson Mandela commissioned by Norway and filmed on Robben Island.

In 2007 the Nelson Mandela University Choir performed in Jacksonville, Florida (a Port Elizabeth sister-city) as well as with Chicago Children’s Choir and the Lyric Opera Orchestra at the Civic Theatre, Chicago, for the world premiere of Windy City Songs by South African composer, Dr Péter Louis van Dijk. They also performed at the Ravinia Festival (Chicago) and in Hyde Park (New York State).

In 2008 the choir performed Vivaldi’s Gloria and Van Dijk’s Windy City Songs with both the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (Cape Town) and the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (Port Elizabeth) under the baton of Dr Péter Louis van Dijk.

In 2009 the choir won the Volksliedbewerb (Folksong Category), and came third in the Kunstliedbewerb (Art Song Category) at the 46th Internationaler Chorwettbewerb in Spittal-an-der-Drau, Austria, and was highly acclaimed by all who attended. The choir also won the publicum prize as the most liked choir by the concert attendees. The choir further took part in the Kuesta National University Choral Festival at Potchefstroom University. 

In 2010 they were invited to partake in prestigious La Fabbrica Del Canto Choir Festival in Northern Italy. As no university funding was available, the choir costs were fully sponsored by the organizers. Once again they were singled out as one of the top performances. The choir also performed at the opening of the FIFA World Cup activities in Milano before the Sky news, BBC, RA 1 and regional television stations). The choir has cut one very successful CD/DVD and are presently doing another DVD for release by June.

In 2011 the choir was very privileged to be selected as one of 24 choirs (chosen from 120 choirs from five continents) as the ONLY choir from South Africa to perform at the prestigious IFCM’s 9th World Choral Symposium in Puerto Madryn, Argentina in August 2011. This is one of the most important events on the international choral calendar and is scheduled every 3 years in a different country and preferably a different continent.

In 2012 the choir received an invitation as one of five choirs (each from a different continent) to represent Africa at the 11th China International Choral Festival and IFCM World Choral Summit in Beijing, China in July 2012. The theme of this global initiative was voices in Harmony. The choir performed in the opening ceremony for the festival infront of 18 000 people. A special performance was also held for around 700 delegates, constisting of internationally renowned choral conductors. In addition to these performances, the Nelson Mandela University Choir hosted a workshop. Here, attendees were taught African singing techniques and walked out practising the famous "African Clicks."

The choir troured the Western Cape of South Africa during 2013 to much aclaim, whilst recording the "Zulu-kingdom" music for the soundtrack of the critically aclaimed video-game, Civilization 5: Brave New World. The choir also performed at the Kuesta National University Choral Festival at the University of Johannesburg,

2014 saw the choir once again visiting China as representatives of the African continent at the IFCM World Choral Summit and 12th China International Choral Festival in Beijing, China during August. The choir performed during the opening and closing functions, as well as at two 90-minute performances in which the choir took centrestage. This year also marked the choir's 20th year since inception, with this being celebrated at a special Reunion Concert held in August where various old-members joined in for several mass-choir pieces.

In 2015 the choir attended the BeKoor/AChoired Taste festival at the Grand West Theatre in Cape Town during August, and hosted the bi-annual Kuesta National University Choral Festival, the prestige choral festival for university choirs in South Africa, during September - this was the choir's second time hosting the festival; exactly 20 years after hosting it for the first time in 1995. They were furthermore invited as the official representative of Africa to participate in the IFCM World Choral Expo in Macau, China during November. As part of this inaugural event, the choir performed at the opening and closing function, during several lunch-hour concerts as well as presenting a choral workshop to the heightened enjoyment of all attending. It was during this tour that as is the sea marvelous, a piece composed by one of the choir's longest singing members, Madelie Olivier, had its world premiere.

In 2016 the choir were finalists in the Varsity Sing choral competition hosted by Varsity Sport and KykNET, as well as once again touring to Cape Town for the BeKoor/AChoired Taste festival in August. 

In 2017 the choir was invited as one of 5 choirs - and the only choir from Africa - to participate in the 3rd Shanghai International Choral Festival in Shanghai, China, as well as to the 3rd Jiangsu Zijin Choral Festival in Nanjing, China, from 20 to 27 May. The choir will further take part in the Kuesta National University Choral Festival in Stellenbosch during September.

Conductor and founder Junita van Dijk retired in 2019, celebrating 25 years of song. In 2020, musician and educator Ulagh Williams took over the baton as Choir Conductor and Manager.

Read the Choirs 25th Anniversary celebration concert programme