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BWW Interview: Matthew Counihan talks about directing AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR

The Ndlovu Youth Choir is set to bring Teatro At Montecasino alive

BWW Interview: Matthew Counihan talks about directing AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR Since its inception in 2009, the Ndlovu Youth Choir has become one of the world's most treasured groups. Their unique musical arrangements, powerhouse vocals, irresistibly combined with mesmerising choreography and infectious energy have inspired millions across the globe. They are the first choir in the history of either America's Got Talent or Britain's Got Talent to reach the final. Their soul-stirring performances won hearts and minds around the world.

This year, Showtime Management is bringing their incredible story of triumph and passion to the stage in AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR. Director of the production, Matthew Counihan, sat down to talk to us about the journey.

BWW: What drew you to this production?

Matthew: As far back as I remember, choir and song has been part of my life. I was always that guy that wanted to shake it up though and combine the spirit of choir with something a little more performative. Needless to say, that when I encountered Ndlovu Youth Choir, I was so excited! Their innate energy and charisma with their uniquely-Signature Sound had me hooked. This production was birthed through the need to create work in a starved sector. We saw AFRICAN PULSE as an opportunity to tick the boxes of the PESP, as well as create something that could tour to stages around the world. It wouldn't just be a choir on risers, but rather something that embraced the spirit of the Ndlovu Youth Choir in an epic setting and with some simple narrative value.

BWW Interview: Matthew Counihan talks about directing AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR BWW: What has it been like working with the Ndlovu Youth Choir - they seem like an incredible group of talented and dedicated young people?

Matthew: Incredible and talented doesn't begin to describe this awesome bunch! The peeps from Ndlovu Youth Choir have welcomed a bunch of total strangers into their tight-knit community and have thrown their hearts into every aspect of AFRICAN PULSE. We have come in and shaken up their worlds and thrown some new challenges their way. No ask has been too big. These guys are balancing the duties of youth, education, extra lessons, family commitments, existing Ndlovu Youth Choir gigs and then still attending AFRICAN PULSE rehearsals on top of this - they have been beyond remarkable.

BWW: Can you tell us a bit more about what the audience can expect from the show? What are the highlights for you?

Matthew: AFRICAN PULSE is best described as a theatrical feast of a concert. Take a generous helping of Ndlovu Youth Choir's repertoire, add in some killer choreography, spice things up with incredible digital scenery (specially developed) and then kit the stage out with a killer rig of sound, lights and LED screens and you have an idea of AFRICAN PULSE. Unique about this experience, is that we have workshopped a simple narrative that captures the spirit of Ndlovu Youth Choir. Choristers have been transformed into storytellers. Highlights, beyond the obvious output of our production, has been the journey we have walked with the Ndlovu community. Working alongside the youth of Ndlovu has opened my eyes, freshened my perspectives and reconnected me with home - South Africa.

BWW: As a director, how did you go about bringing this concept to life? It's a little different in that these are the people who lived the story of their success on America's Got Talent and are now exploring that story.

BWW Interview: Matthew Counihan talks about directing AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR Matthew: Quite simply, we listened. The story (spirit) was always there. Lesedi Job (Scriptwriter/Associate Director) and I asked questions, had conversations and then listened some more. We didn't need to create characters - they were there. It was about structuring the threads to resemble the shape of a simple story.

BWW: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career highlights as a director?

Matthew: I'm a Psychology graduate who found my way into some of SA biggest shows - locally and abroad (Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages). Worked with some incredible creative teams and learnt the tricks of the trade on the job.

In the grand scheme of things, this is my first biggie - my first large-scale production. It's a highlight and it hasn't even opened.

Prior to AFRICAN PULSE, I had been working in education as a Dramatic Arts educator. Crawford College Sandton and Redhill offered me awesome platforms to have at directing large casts of incredible Highschool kiddos. It was here that I could play, experiment and learn. Yep, the teacher who taught also learnt.

When not dreaming up some crazy creative ideas, I work with Hazel and Tony Feldman of Showtime Management as an Associate Producer.

BWW: The last year has been very challenging for so many in the live entertainment industry. How have you personally coped with the lockdowns and the massive changes that have happened? Where you able to keep working?

Matthew: There is nothing like a crisis to stimulate creativity - well at least for me. I'm a glass half full kinda guy. By my nature, I observe, witness and question - I'm a curious bugger. COVID allowed me to slow down, witness more, think and introspect. Awesome components for creativity. I read books (without pictures... I am a terrible reader) and I took up running 5-6 times a week. These were deliberate choices that shifted me. COVID has taken in many regards, but it has also gifted. Perspective?! The nature of the world has shifted - work had to too. I swam with the currents and will continue to so.

BWW Interview: Matthew Counihan talks about directing AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR

BWW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Are there any last words you would like to share with the public about this exciting production?

Matthew: AFRICAN PULSE has been a project of much generosity. The teaming and collaboration of our many suppliers to make this show happen under immensely difficult circumstances cannot go unacknowledged.

Photo credit: Supplied


AFRICAN PULSE - CELEBRATING THE NDLOVU YOUTH CHOIR will take place on Saturday 1 May 2021 at 2pm and 6pm at Teatro at Montecasino. Tickets are R250 each and can be purchased on www.showtime.co.za


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