Drakensberg Boys' Choir School

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Drakensberg Boys Choir School
DBCS-logo-cmyk reduced resolution.jpg
Drakensberg Boys Choir School is located in South Africa
Drakensberg Boys Choir School
Drakensberg Boys Choir School
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Coordinates 29°01′20″S 29°26′08″E / 29.02222°S 29.43556°E / -29.02222; 29.43556
School type Private
Religious affiliation(s) Christian
Established 1967
Founder John Tungay
Status Open
Grades 4-9
Gender Male

Drakensberg Boys Choir School is a school near the small town of Winterton, in the heart of the Drakensberg mountain range in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The school educates the members of the Drakensberg Boys Choir. It was founded in 1967 and claims to be the only choir school in Africa.[citation needed] Enrollment is approximately 120 boys aged 9 to 15. The school has a 600-seat auditorium constructed in 1995 and holds weekly concerts. The Choir has toured the USA, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mauritius and many African countries.


The school opened on 23 January 1967 with 21 pupils who had been selected by John Tungay from auditions he held across South Africa. The entire operation was privately financed by John from the sale of his Durban North residence, his dairy farm at Rosetta and his printing business.

The founding members of his Drakensberg Boys' Choir were: Leslie Legg (Durban); Begley Goodchild (Kroonstad); Rennie Agnew (Durban); Chris van der Merwe (Sasolburg); Francois and Ben Cronje (Standerton); Robert Baumann (Welkom); Rudolph Lewis (Johannesburg); Sakkie Fourie (Edenvale); Derek Dumayne (Durban); Philip, Andrew and David Mortlock (Swartberg); Bill Holesgrove (Umbogintwini); Rodwell Rehse (East London); Willem Breedt (Randbrug); Bruce Knowles (Port Elizabeth); Stephen Wilkinson (Durban); Quentin and Gerald Swart (Roodepoort) and Roger Smith (Glenashley).

Such was the success of the choir's concerts throughout South Africa that by the end of the first year 15 more boys had left their former schools and joined the choir school and the enrolment for the Drakensberg Boys Choir's second year of operation had risen to more than 50 choir boys.

Tungay's Advisory Board confirmed that the school had been a financial success from its first year of operation and within four years the school grew to cater for 120 pupils in several choirs, both senior and junior, and there was a lengthy waiting list. The boys, aged 9–15, are allocated in grade 4–9.

The natural surroundings of the choir school, nestling against the Drakensberg mountain range in the Champagne Valley of KwaZulu-Natal, serves as an inspiration to the choirboys. Within four years the choirs were ready to undertake international concert tours from America in the west to China and Japan in the Far East. In 1976 South Africa's Institute of Marketing Management presented John Tungay with the Marketing Award of the Year.


Set on a 100-acre (40 ha) estate in the Drakensberg, the facilities at the school have from inception been based on a "farm school" structure. Facilities at the school has been upgraded, and in 2006 a new academic facility was opened. The construction of a six hundred seat auditorium in 1995 with modern sound and lighting equipment, allowed the choir school a greater audience to its weekly Wednesday concerts, and its festivals. Previously there had been an 80-seater hall. There has also been construction of a new boarding establishment, of which phase one was completed at the start of 2009.


The headmaster is Mr Andrew Stead.

Concert tours[edit]

The Drakensberg Boys' Choir performing at the Media24 Centre in Cape Town in 2015.

From 1971 the Drakensberg Boys Choir has presented its choral programmes internationally, including North America, the Far East, across the continent of Africa as well as in Europe. In 1973 they were invited to the world festival of choirs in Israel (the 6th Zimriya)which they won and got the only standing ovation. They also took part in the film "Those Naughty Angels" in the same year. The film is still screened regularly in South Africa.

The choir has presented concerts in the United States four times. In Europe they have sung in the UK, Hungary, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Portugal, Greece, Poland and, by Papal request, at the Vatican City before 25,000 people.[1]

The choir has toured across much of southern and central Africa, singing in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia, and in Egypt. It has undertaken tours to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Japan, Turkey, Finland, Australia and Scandinavia.

On the invitation of the Minister of Cultural Organisations the choir toured Japan in 1997, 2001 and 2002.

The Music[edit]

Conductors of the Drakensberg Boys Choir have included:

  • John Tungay - from 1967 to 1978
  • Wolfdieter Maurer - 1967 (On loan from the Vienna Boys' Choir)
  • Hans Kassier
  • Edward Aitchison
  • Desmond Wright
  • Louis van der Westhuizen
  • Derek Scarr
  • Eberhard Kunkel
  • Charles Denholm
  • Susan Reed
  • Lionel van Zyl
  • Hannes Loubser
  • Daniel Baard
  • Botes Gresse
  • Christian Ashley-Botha - retired from the DBCS in 2005 after 26 years of loyal service.
  • Vaughan van Zyl
  • Rudolf de Beer - left in 2006 to take up a post at the University of Stellenbosch.
  • Bernard Kruger - left at the end of 2009 to take up the position of choirmaster at Kearsney College.
  • Dr Johann van der Sandt from 2008 to 2014
  • Charlotte Botha from 2012 to the end of 2016 (joint conductor with Dr Van der Sandt and Bernard Krüger).
  • Bernard Krüger - Has rejoined the choir as Music Director from 2016
  • Kenny Kabak

The choir is known for its African repertoire, containing works like "Shosholoza", and "Night Sounds" where the choir imitates the sounds of the African Bush. They also perform a Gumboot Dance, which originated in the South African mines. Using African instruments and body percussion as accompaniment, the choir performs traditional African works. Choir genres includes pop, rock, and African.


The Drakensberg Boys Choir School has released CDs with content ranging from traditional African music to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Notable alumni[edit]

The Bala Brothers, the award-winning South African vocal trio, attended Drakensberg Boys Choir School in the 1980s and 90s. In 1988, six years before the end of Apartheid, the oldest brother, Zwai, was the first black student admitted to the school.

Jean-Philip Grobler, an indie electronic synthpop artist, sang in the Drakensberg Boys' Choir during his childhood before moving to Brooklyn, NY to make music as St. Lucia.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Pope John Paul II (20 July 1983). "Address at a General Audience". vatican.va (in Italian). Retrieved 2015-08-17. 

External links[edit]