Grahamstown Cathedral Choir, and Makana Choir School


The Cathedral of St Michael and St George in Grahamstown is home to many treasures, given over the years to the glory of God and for the inspiration of those who come into the building to worship. One of the most exciting treasures of the Cathedral is not ancient, but very much alive, the music made by the Choir. The choir consists of some dozen adults and the young choristers of the Makana Choir School. Throughout the year the Choir sings at morning Eucharist services twice a month, and at Evensong twice a month.

Makana Choir School

The Makana Choir School was initiated in June 2009 by the then Director of Music at the Cathedral, Barbara Stout, and her husband Wilf, who was the Cathedral organist. They began with a handful of junior choristers, all Junior School pupils, and by the end of that year they numbered 15. In July 2012 Mrs Stout was succeeded by Dr Andrew-John Bethke, who held the position of Director for five years. Under his direction the level of professional musical training  was maintained, and indeed exceeded the high standards previously set. (For tributes to A-J Bethke at the time of his farewell, see People and Places for April and May 2017, and for photos see our Gallery.) On his departure in April 2017 it was announced that Mr Cameron Luke had been appointed to succeed him. Mr Luke has been Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Cheltenham, in the UK, since 2007. His musical qualifications from the London College of Music, Victoria College of Music, Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Organists include a Diploma in Choral Direction and a Fellowship Diploma from the Royal College of Organists (FRCO). His arrival has been delayed by the slow progress of his application for a South African work visa.

Kutlwano Kepadisa

Until the arrival of Cameron Luke the choir is being trained and conducted by the Choir Intern, Khutlwano Kepadisa, known as Kepa.

Many of the young choristers, who have joined the choir while in primary school, stay on until Grade 11 or Matric. Several of the older boys now sing tenor and bass parts. As older choristers leave, other youngsters are auditioned and recruited to take their place. The junior choristers attend local state schools: Graeme College, Victoria Girls’ High School, Victoria Primary and Mary Waters High School.

The choristers are trained in singing and musicianship during a one-and-a-half hour practice at the Cathedral each week, one practice a week held at their respective schools, and a one-hour practice before every choral service. They take part in two Choral Evensong services and two choral morning services per month, always with a different repertoire.

In return for the choristers’ commitment to the Choir they may be eligible to receive a Scholarship towards their school fees. In 2018 the full scholarship will amount to R4,500 per annum, paid directly into the choristers’ school fee account in two half-yearly tranches. Probationers who are only admitted as full members of the choir half-way through the year receive a half scholarship in the second half of the year.

Belonging to the Cathedral Choir exposes the young people to singing an extensive repertoire at a professional level. The Choir is becoming better known through concerts, and through singing during the National Arts Festival. Listen to the Cathedral Choir singing part of the Magnificat in G by Andrew-John Bethke at a Choral Evensong in the 2016 Arts Festival.

Vision and Objectives

The Vision of the Choir School is to develop the musicianship of young choristers and thereby to develop them as well-rounded leaders in their community.

The Objectives of the School are:

  • To provide educational enrichment, academic support and supplementary tuition in the areas of vocal training, general musicianship, and training in sight-reading and choral technique to a high standard, in the context of the Choir of the Cathedral of St Michael & St George, Grahamstown.
  • to complement the musical training of the choristers provided by the schools which they attend;
  • to develop the unique individuality of all choristers to their maximum potential in musicianship, singing and choral technique;
  • to encourage mutual respect and collegiality amongst the choristers;
  • to nurture and develop the choristers’ self-esteem, self-worth, self-control, self-discipline, self- motivation and self-respect;
  • to encourage and develop a lifelong passion for a wide range of music and singing;
  • to provide a firm base for the choristers to become caring, principled, open-minded and well- balanced citizens of the world;
  • to respect and honour the historical and cultural background of choral music and recognise its importance in worship.

Scholarship System

Scholarships are paid towards the Choristers’ school fees, and are deposited directly into their respective school fee accounts in liaison with the school bursars.

Criteria for awarding scholarships

Musical: Choristers are selected based on an initial and follow-up audition. At the beginning of each year potential choristers have an initial audition. If accepted as Probationers they then serve a probationary period of approximately three months (without scholarship). At the end of this period the probationer takes another audition to become a full chorister.

Academic: To be awarded/re-awarded a scholarship a chorister must generally have passed their last school grade. Scholarship choristers’ reports are obtained from schools so that their academic progress can be reported to funders and used as a basis for the Scholarship award/re-award decision. Choristers not eligible for a scholarship because of poor academic performance (i.e. not being promoted to the next grade) will not be eligible for a scholarship but they will, however, not be excluded from the choir.

Attendance: Choristers are expected to attend at least 80% of all practices and services punctually. An attendance register is used to record attendance and will be scrutinised in deciding on the award/re-award of scholarships.

Financial Need: Scholars with a Household Income of less than R320,000 p.a., and who meet all the above-mentioned criteria, are considered for a Scholarship.

Awarding/ re-awarding scholarships

New probationers are accepted at the beginning of the academic year on the basis of an initial audition and serve their three-month probation before being auditioned as full choristers and being able to apply for possible inclusion in the scholarship scheme. Any child who applies to join the choir at mid-year might be allowed to do so if successful in their initial audition, but will remain a probationer and not be eligible for a scholarship until the following year. If at the beginning of the next year a child who has already been in the choir for at least three months, is competent and passes the full chorister’s audition, he/she may be admitted as a full chorister and receive a scholarship right away. All scholarships will be re-awarded annually based on a musical re-assessment at the end of the year and provided they are still complying with all other scholarship criteria. The scholarships will be paid in two tranches. In their first year, new choristers who have passed their full choristers’ audition at the end of their probation period will receive the second tranche of the scholarship only, at the beginning of the 3rd term.

World Choir Games

Four of the Makana Choir School choristers have been selected to join a Grahamstown-based community choir called Kwantu, which has been accepted to take part in the World Choir Games. These will take place in Pretoria in July 2018. Their participation will bring them an invaluable experience and will also reflect on the prestige of the Makana Choir School. The Choir School has therefore included in the 2018 budget a contribution towards their travel and accommodation costs.

Funding Appeal

The Makana Choir School would like to ask for your support towards this worthwhile project. On behalf of the Choristers of the Makana Choir School, thank you for your interest in this initiative focussed on the development of their musical and choral skills and in them as leaders in their respective communities. Your generous support will undoubtedly have significant impact on the Choristers and on the broader Grahamstown community. A number of individual donors make regular monthly payments to the Choir School, which although not large in themselves, together make a valuable contribution towards the Choir School’s budget. Please consider joining them.

Banking details are as follows:

Account name           Makana Choir School

Bank                           First National Bank

Branch Number        210717 Grahamstown

Account Type            Business Cheque Account

Account Number      62256130726

Donors are requested to give their email address as the ‘From reference’, so that gifts can be acknowledged, and they can be updated with news about the Makana Choir School.

Makana Choir School Expenditure Budget 2018

Current and Previous Donors

For the first two years of its existence, the Choir School was funded entirely by a private benefactor who had close links with the Cathedral. In 2011 the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Fund added its support to the tune of R40,000 in addition to the private funding of R140,000. In 2012 Lewis Stores donated R3,000 towards the Choir School. This, along with private funding of R80,000, supported scholarships, some of which were reduced to half scholarships for 2012. In late 2012 the New Settlers Foundation committed R50,000 to the Choir School, and we are grateful that they have continued to support us with annual grants of varying amounts, dependent on the availability of funds. Their contribution for 2018 was R100,000. Another frequent donor whose support we value is the Donaldson Trust, which contributes towards specific projects such as choir training camps. In addition to these there are a number of individuals who generously give monthly sums towards the scholarships and other expenses of the Makana Choir School. Their combined contributions are vital in enabling the work of the Choir School to continue.