History of African Sanctus

African Sanctus (originally known as African Revelations) was first performed by the Saltarello Choir in July 1972 at St. John's Smith Square, London, and later broadcast on BBC Radio on United Nations Day. In 1974, BBC Television's 'Omnibus' made a documentary film of African Sanctus on location in North and East Africa. This film, directed by Herbert Chappell, nominated for the 'Prix Italia', was first screened on Easter Day, 1975 and coincided with the release of the original Philips recording. The score was first published in 1977 and premiere performances were given in Toronto, at The Three Choirs Festival, Worcester Cathedral in 1978, followed by the Royal Albert Hall in 1979, conducted by Sir David Willcocks. Since then the work has gained steady momentum in the choral repertoire - literally hundreds of live performances have taken place worldwide, notable examples being:

  • The South African Broadcasting Choir in Johannesburg
  • The Los Angeles Master Chorale conducted by Roger Wagner
  • The Sydney Philharmonia Choir, Sydney Opera House
  • Nairobi Choral Society, Kenya
  • The Paul Hill Chorale at the Kennedy Centre, Washington
  • The Commonwealth Arts Festival, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
  • International Choral Competition, Liszt Academy, Budapest
  • Danish National Radio Choir, Copenhagen
  • The Bach Choir, for VSO, Royal Festival Hall, London
  • Carnegie Hall, New York
  • Taipei Philharmonic Hall, Taiwan

In 1994, when producing the new Silva Classics recording (Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Choristers of St George's Chapel, Windsor, conducted by Neville Creed), David Fanshawe composed an additional movement, Dona Nobis Pacem - A Hymn for World Peace, which completed the Agnus Dei. Using this new recording, BBC TV commissioned Herbert Chappell to make a further film, African Sanctus Revisited, which contrasts the original Sanctus journey with live performance, providing stirring and poignant images of Africa today, and projecting the global relevance of a work that has become a landmark in our musical lives.

1997 marked the 25th anniversary of African Sanctus and performances included ACDA, American Choral Directors' National Concention and the Bach Choir's tour of South Africa. By popular demand, Selections from African Sanctus, namely Sanctus, Kyrie, Et In Spiritum Sanctum, The Lord's Prayer and Dona Nobis Pacem were published as single sheets. The work now appears on many educational syllabuses, including GCSE and the International Baccalaureate. Fanshawe's stunning African photographs are frequently used for multi-media performances, and the work is often choreographed. Recent concerts have been included in many international festivals, educational and fund raising performances: including Zimbabwe, Orlando's Regional ACDA (Master Chorale of Tampa Bay), Europa Cantat, and premieres in Brazil, Taiwan, Denmark, Israel, Switzerland, Newfoundland Spain, Germany and Hong Kong.