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20190501 110813

The Normat Choir’s songs of hope

On 14 September 2019 Normat Farms’ Ladies Choir achieved first place for the second year running at the Koue-Bokkeveld Training Centre’s choir evening. They are truly a choir of note, but it didn’t happen overnight. Gerrit Rautenbach reports.

The whole thing about a choir is that it’s like a woven tapestry; many individual threads forming a beautiful whole. The Normat choir is exactly like that, but maybe a bit more so because the circumstances leading to their existence is also a woven mat.

It began in 2015 when a group of Normat Farms’ employers attended the Leadership for Hope course, presented by Archie van Biljon at the Koue Bokkeveld Training Centre. One of the tasks was for the group to tell an original story; not with words but by putting a song together. They sang:

Hoe jy dink, verander jou lewe
En hoe jy dink, verander jou lewe …
Ek het ’n pen, jy het ’n pen skryf jou lewe.
(To look and listen, click here: https://youtu.be/VsNnlLFRPSo)

Ockie Geldenhuys, Chief Executive Member of Normat Farms was so impressed with their effort and with their musical ability. More threads in the tapestry. “We believed in them, but more importantly, we could see that they believed in themselves; believed they can,” says Ockie.

“In 2016 the Normat Farm Choir was formally formed, consisting of 12 women,” Berenice Janse, a member since inception confirms. The tapestry is taking shape.

Since then the choir has been going from strength to strength, and although the members are all employed staff on various farms, working a full day, they religiously practice two nights in the week as well Saturdays and Sundays. For no other reason than they want to sing. And have been given the chance to sing. More so, singing has a healing effect. It helps to alleviate work pressure, life’s pressures. How you think, changes your life, they sang right in the beginning. How you sing too …

Katriena van Rooyen is the choir conductor and deservedly so. She knows her sharps from her flats. “When I was at school, I started singing from a very young age. I remember I used to sing soprano, but soon learnt the tenor part and even the bass. I could hear it all, I could sing it all because I understood it. Mostly, I could do it, because music to me is so beautiful. So valuable. It came naturally to me to start conducting. I am blessed.”

“Performances are most special,” says Berenice. In their first year, they achieved second place at the Suidoosterfees. In 2018 and this year they won at the Koue Bokkeveld Training Centre’s choir evening.

Singing is what they love to do, but the way they make plans to also look the part is amazing. They arrange functions and fundraisings and help each other out. “If one member can’t buy the new shoes in time, someone else will help out, knowing that money will come back as soon as possible,” says Katriena. “There is complete trust and camaraderie. But Normat also helps tremendously. I remember the first outfit they supplied. White skirts and striped blouses. They help with transport, workshops, extra practice times and a lot more.”

Although the farms help, the responsibility of making the choir happen lies with the choir. That ensures that it is their project, creating much better sustainability. This choir is theirs, fulfilling their needs, making them proud to belong. They don’t have to do it, they want to do it. If you want to know how dedicated and serious they are, you only need to know that, when the pressure is on, the practice gets hectic. Due to working fulltime, weekends are sacrificed. So before a main event like the Suidoosterfees, on any given Sunday, at three in the afternoon, you’ll find the choir ready and waiting in their little training hall, waiting for their conductor.

Katriena will arrive exactly on time, dressed in her formal velvet conductor’s dress. No one cannot take it not serious anymore. This is the real thing. By doing that, she lifts the level of every practice to the level of a full-blown performance, getting a 100% return in song. She shows that she is proud of her choir, has respect for them and will make whatever effort is needed. The Normat Ladies’ Choir is today a beautiful tapestry of life.

And it echoes through the land
And it’s the hope of hopes
It’s the heart of every man
It’s the hope of hopes
It’s the love of loves
This is the song for every man – “From a distance”, Julie Gold.

To see and hear the above scene, click here: https://youtu.be/B4SwNb3gxWk

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