On Sept. 10, students from St. Anne's-Belfield School, Orange County High School, and Western Albemarle High School had the opportunity to enjoy a workshop with Zimbabwean a cappella group Black Umfolosi.
Formed in 1982 by the then school-age members who wanted to develop themselves and contribute to their community, Black Umfolosi named themselves after the Umfolozi Omnyama River in South Africa, the location to where their ancestors can be traced. Specializing in Imbube music, gumboot dance, and Zulu dance, the group has toured extensively nationally and internationally. Their performances are energetic and engaging, mixing gentleness of spirit and song with exuberance in dance. Their trademark harmonies mixed with intricate rhythms, clicking, and clapping are highlighted during their brilliantly choreographed shows with a full range of movements from subtle to vibrant stomping and leaping. Their famous gumboot dances showcase the traditional styles and rituals of the South African mining regions and are a particular crowd pleaser.
"This group is incredibly talented," said Will Nichols, director of Upper School music, who helped organize the multi-school workshop.
"Not only do they model their traditional style of music and dance, they do it really well. Having this high quality experience was extremely valuable as an educational tool. Its sometimes difficult to take students out of the classroom, but finding ways to bring the world to them can be equally as impactful."
In addition to a lecture recital, Black Umfolosi invited students to participate in performing by learning dances, singing, practicing hand motions, and asking questions about the group.
"The best part of the workshop was how the band engaged the students," said Nichols.
"They didn't just sing and explain passively. They brought the students into the experience fully. It was also wonderful to make this into a community learning opportunity by including other local choral students from different schools."
Following the workshop, Black Umfolosi presented an evening public performance in Grisham Hall hosted by the School and partner The Front Porch, Charlottesville's roots music school.
Photos from the student workshop are now available on the School's SmugMug account.