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January 12, 2005

Sir Elton John 'moved' by Durban Aids choir

Independent (South Africa):

Sir Elton John is determined to give "hands-on" support to South Africans infected and affected by HIV and Aids. John jetted into Durban on Monday. The visit was hosted by the Aids Foundation of South Africa in conjunction with the United Kingdom's (UK) Elton John Aids Foundation and had been kept under wraps for several months.

For the Sinikithemba ("give us hope") choir members at Durban's McCord Hospital, who learned only seconds before their performance who their VIP guest was, it was a moment they'll never forget. Welcoming John and his party to the hospital's Aids care and treatment clinic with a selection of traditional songs, their performance ended with a personal invitation from the star to sing at his foundation's concert at his UK home in July.

"Your beautiful singing, your grace and passion is absolutely thrilling," a clearly moved John told the 15-member choir, who are all open about their HIV status. "Seeing you, healthy and full of joy, leading normal lives again is an inspiration to everyone. The world is a better place because of you." He asked the choir to rehearse a special song for the occasion, The Circle of Life, from The Lion King, which he has promised to sing with them on stage that evening.

He was fresh from his charity white-tie and tiara concert in Cape Town, where R7-million was raised by his foundation for a number of Aids projects. Dressed in low-key casual clothes, he emphasised that the visit to KwaZulu-Natal was a time to "learn, listen and understand". "Last year at our annual fundraising concert we saw a documentary about orphaned children in Nkandla (a rural area in the heart of Zululand) and their suffering. It was deeply haunting. This year we want to focus on hope and the courage and tenacity of people to overcome disease and despair. What I have seen and heard today has been wonderfully uplifting," John said.

The star could not resist joining the choir on stage in a final impromptu choral number, clapping and cheering the choristers. Said choir leader Phumulani Kunene, close to tears: "We have sung for many famous people during our tours, like Bill Clinton, Michael Johnson and Mary Wilson of the Supremes, but we have never experienced anything quite like this. There is only one word for it - magic." As the star left, the choir sang Wathinta Thina - isiZulu for "you have touched us". Choir member Ncamisile Yengwa said: "This is a good man - we can never forget him."

Posted by acapnews at January 12, 2005 12:41 AM