Sound / Image Installation the African Choir 1891 Re-imagined

21 Sep 2016 – 1 Oct 2016

Regular hours

11:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 21:00
11:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
11:00 – 18:00

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London, United Kingdom


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A new sound installation by acclaimed composers Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi, alongside a selection of large-scale photographic portraits of members of The African Choir from 1891.


In this work in progress, Miller and Sibisi re-create a performance of The African Choir during their tour in late 19th Century Victorian Britain as a contemporary sonic interpretation.

Working with 14 young professional South African singers, the composers re-invent songs based upon the original concert programme performed by the African Choir at a gathering of the Royal Hygiene Society in London in the summer of 1891. These scores are musically arranged from a contemporary perspective: God Save the Queen will be sung in the South African a-capella style of “Isicathamiya”, and Rossini's Stabat Mater in a 1950s soft shoe/kwela–style.

Without an original recording in existence, the composers had the freedom to reimagine the repertoire through improvisation and “workshopping” with the singers, rather than trying to reproduce a documentary reconstruction of the concert. Thus the The African Choir 1891 Re-Imagined is conceived as a multi-track performance for a new contemporary audience. The fourteen singers chosen by the composers are drawn from existing choral groups and opera schools in South Africa; each singer corresponds with a counterpart with his or her vocal type in the original fourteen-member African Choir, who toured Britain between 1891 and 1893. The portraits in the gallery were first shown in Autograph ABP’s acclaimed exhibition Black Chronicles II (2014), in association with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images.

Presented by Autograph ABP in partnership with UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art.

Part of The Missing Chapter programme, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund.


  • The installation will be in Autograph ABP’s Black Chronicles Archive Laboratory from 21 September – 1 October 2016 in the second floor gallery.
  • A free panel discussion and drinks reception Sound & The Archive will take place on September 26, 6.30 – 9pm. Book tickets >


Supported by Heritage Lottery Fund.

Realised with support from the South African Department of Arts and Culture, and Mr Jonathan Levy.


Philip Miller is a South African and international composer and sound artist based in Cape Town. His work is multi-faceted, often developing out of collaborative projects in theatre, film, video and sound installations. One of Miller’s most significant collaborators is the internationally acclaimed artist, William Kentridge. His music to Kentridge’s animated films, and multimedia installations, has been heard in some of the most prestigious museums, galleries and concert halls all over the world, including at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the South Africa Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013. Miller’s new video and sound installation ‘Bikohausen’ was  premiered in Germany’s Darmstadt Summer Music Festival in August 2016.

Thuthuka Sibisi graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Stellenbosch University in 2011. Alongside his music studies he completed studies in Physical Theatre and Movement Practice with Sam Prigge and Estelle Olivier. Thuthuka has toured extensively, performing throughout South Africa, Asia, South America and most recently, in China where he served as Musical Director to Philip Miller’s Pulling Numbers (premier) and for Ciné-Concert, presented as part of Notes toward a Model Opera by William Kentridge. Thuthuka made his Italian debut as Music Director for William Kentridge/Philip Miller’s Triumphs and Laments in Rome, Italy, in April 2016. Further projects include a collaboration with Cape Town Opera as Musical Director for Musiquées Sacrée d’Afrique et d’Europe, in residence at Festival International d’Aix-en-Provence 2016.

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