WATCH: This is how the Langa Methodist Church choir ended up singing at Glastonbury festival

2019-07-05 05:09
Glastonbury festival. (Getty Images)

Glastonbury festival. (Getty Images)

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The Langa Methodist Church in Cape Town is on a high after its choir was handpicked as one of the opening acts at this year's Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts in England. 

"The church is very excited," church secretary Zola May told News24 after the choir performed on the famous Pyramid Stage, described by organisers as "the most instantly recognised festival stage in the world". 

Artists who were in the line-up this year included Billie Eilish, Stormzy, and George Ezra, with past stars including the Rolling Stones and Beyonce. 

After their performance on Sunday, they also sang at the St Just Miners Chapel in Cornwall on Wednesday. 

The town was once the heart of tin mining in the region, according to the Cornwall Guide, and the church's emblem includes a mineworker's pick.

The choir was met by the village mayor on Tuesday and escorted through the streets by the mayor and a local Scouts troop, according to the church's Facebook page.

May told News24 that it all came about quite unexpectedly.

Last year, they had been asked if somebody could come and listen to them sing. 

"Only to find out there is a guy coming from London called Michael Eavis," said May.

Eavis is none other than the founder of the festival, where musical lovers trek to once a year to listen to and see some of the best live bands, singers and entertainers in the world.

The 2019 festival also made a big push to protect the environment after previous years, when fans left tents and rubbish behind. It included attractions such as a bee-powered art installation and woodturning classes to make your own magic wand.

Before Eavis' visit to the church in the sun-washed suburb east of Cape Town, the choir had already sung for a Shoprite commercial. 

"He listened to them singing and then he went back [home]," said May.

Eavis, who is in his 80s, travelled to Cape Town a second time for another listen.  

May said they had closed the church office as usual for the December holidays.

But when they reopened in January, there was an urgent email waiting in their inbox. 

It contained an invitation to sing at the festival, with flights and accommodation to Worthy Farm in Somerset to be covered by the organisers.

All they had to do was spring into action and get their passports organised.

In the run-up to their performance, they upped their practices from twice a week to three times a week, squeezing it in to the already busy schedules of their other daily commitments and work. 

Sadly, on the day they were due to leave, one of the choir members had a death in the family and could not go with. 

"And that's how all this kicked off," said May modestly.

Glastonbury head of music programming Nick Dewey wrote in the Glastonbury Free Press that they found the choir while on a trip with Oxfam to see how some of the proceeds of the festival are spent. While driving around Langa, a local driver proposed visiting the church to hear the choir that he was a part of. 

"It was spellbinding to witness it and we felt very honoured to be allowed in there to watch such an intimate performance," he wrote.

"It had that power and intensity of a southern gospel choir, but obviously for my father-in-law, Michael Eavis, it was even more poignant with them being Methodists like himself!" wrote Dewey.

The church proudly posted a review by the Guardian on its website: 

As news spread, South African Methodists in the UK spoke wistfully about their upbringing in the church, and how pleased they were for the choir, which has a drummer and bell ringer. 

The services at the church, which is on the corner on Washington and Lerotholi avenues, are held at 08:00 and 09:00 on Sundays. 

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Read more on:    glastonbury festival  |  cape town  |  good news
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