This diminutive country’s history spans being the center of one of the strongest West African Empires and then part of the Portuguese and French empires. The resulting mix of native cultures, Portuguese rhythms and the French language makes Benin an absolutely wonderful pairing with Ghana or Nigeria. Tour the many palaces of the Dahomey Empire, perform at the Portuguese-styled cathedrals and collaborate with local gospel choirs and traditional musicians.

Classical Movements has been putting together tours to West Africa since 1997 focusing primarily on Ghana, Togo, The Gambia, Mali and Senegal from educators within the DC Public Schools.

🇧🇯 Sights & Sounds 🇧🇯

  • Porto Novo
  • Royal Palace Museum
  • Benin Orchestra and Gospel Mass Choir
  • Cotonou | Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou
  • Ancien Pont
  • St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Parakou
  • Royal Palaces of Abomey

Testimonials

What a trip: music, social work, scenery, pioneering performances in Swaziland, food, drink, and history! Johan, our guide, was terrific.

Dr. Thomas Duffy | Professor of Music & Director of Bands, Yale University

Thank you for your tireless energy and enthusiasm over the past few weeks. You have made our festival experience truly amazing and we have some wonderful memories. We can now say we ‘have been everywhere!’ I look forward to seeing you at the future Classical Movements festivals.

-Rachel Walker | Choir Member, Daley Road Singers, 2012

This tour was such a success that I wish to make this trip to South Africa a regular rotation for future choral tours. We feel confident that we can continue to learn and enrich our experience in this beautiful country in the capable hands of Classical Movements.

Gisele T. Becker | Director of Choral Activities, George Washington University Singers, 2009

You did such a spectacular job of following the ever-moving target in the months before the trip, finding us the venues we needed and working with us to make the tour the enormous success that it was. And then once the tour began, there you were, always thinking of how to improve things, quietly taking care of the problems, form lost tuxes to too-many Delft passengers. There are many smiling YAC faces as a result of your hard work and great competence.

Sherry Agar | President, Yale Alumni Chorus Foundation, 2007

The Children’s Chorus of Washington has just returned from the 2010 Ihlombe! South African Choral Festival, and choristers, chaperones and staff all agreed that this was the most enriching and life-changing tour we have taken. The shared concerts with the other international choruses and the South African choirs were musically exciting. We at CCW are grateful to Classical Movements for having the vision to plan and carry out all the details that made this such a memorable tour.

Joan Gregoryk | Music DirectorChildren’s Chorus of Washington, 2010

I am amazed at how many sights we were able to see, places we were able to visit, and great meals we were able to share, quite apart from the gathering of the choirs and their musical experiences together. Tour guides were wonderful. You all do an excellent job. Thank you.

Heather Keith | Staff, New Zealand Secondary Students Choir, 2008

You just don’t know how exciting it was working with the kids of the two choirs from the USA namely the St. Mark’s Choir from Texas and the Miami Children’s Choir. It was one of the most enjoyable sessions we have ever had. Classical Movements is making leaps and bounds in promoting not only music but cultural diversity, sharing, and appreciation of humanity. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

George Mxadana | Director, Imilonji kaNthu Choral Society, 2011

I have toured many countries, but never have experienced such a professional relationship with a tour organization.  Memories of a perfect itinerary, round-the-clock assistance, unforgettable memories of cordial encounters, impressive landscapes, and great concerts remain with us.

Christoph Bachmann, Founder & Director of Choirs, Jugendchor Konservatorium Winterthur, 2011

South Africa is an extraordinary destination for choral music, and the team at Classical Movements helped us create an unforgettable trip. The musical collaborations and the extra musical experiences were superb. The great beauty of the country, the wild life, the high standards of hotels, meals and venues and the warmth of the people were better than we could have wished for.

Jeffrey Douma | Music Director, Yale Alumni Chorus, 2007

This was the best travel/performance experience I have ever had. The choirs we performed with were all outstanding, as were the excursions. The history of South Africa is worth exploring.  Classical Movements has crafted an experience in South Africa that is not to be missed. Our lives will never be the same. Thank you for the positive change on my life and the lives of all who experienced Ihlombe!

Tim Sharpe | Music Director, Miami Children’s Chorus, 2011

Thank you for inviting us to participate in this wonderful Ihlombe! Festival. Musically, we, the Morgan State University Choir, had an opportunity to hear some very fine choirs from South Africa and the United States. Culturally, we visited places that will change our lives forever. I personally know how much time and effort went into every detail of this trip.  You have given the students of these choir memories that will last a lifetime.

Dr. Eric Conway | Choir Director & Fine Arts Chairman, Morgan State University, 2009

Classical Movements proved to be the best decision we made for our trip to South Africa.  Their staff was efficient, friendly and dependable. Our guide? Incredible!  This company provided a broad diversity of musical engagements that provided fine audiences, high-profile collaborations and attractive venues. With 25 years of touring, I have never experienced such a supportive and dependable company.

Craig Denison | Artistic Director, Florida’s Singing Sons Boychoir, 2008

Press

Citing success in its South Africa programs, Blue Heart Tours has expanded into Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia with itineraries. According to the tour operator, South Africa is favorable for tourism because it is one of the most diverse and beautiful areas in the world and has tremendous potential for tourism in that it can offer safaris, a varied countryside, and the lure of big, cosmopolitan cities.

-Jax Fax Travel Magazine | Feb, 1995

Singing is an integral part of our psyche and it’s not uncommon to find small choirs scattered throughout communities. This phenomenon is one which prompted Neeta Helms, President of Classical Movements, to arrange a choral festival to celebrate that talent. One of the aims of the festival is to see choirs performing out of their usual areas, and that goes beyond merely just hosting international groups. Even local choirs will have the opportunity to branch out into new communities. ‘I discovered that the common person on the street here is quite likely to sing,’ says Helms. ‘Like people would describe the Irish or Welsh as singing nations, it is the same here. It really impressed me.’ Helms has been doing business with South Africa since 1994. ‘The music here is very compelling. People around the world should know about it.’ She says that is one of the main aims of Ihlombe!, to raise awareness of the extent and quality of choral music in the country.

-Cape Times, Terri Dunbar-Curran | Aug. 5, 2010

In keeping with one of the core beliefs of Classical Movements, and building on donations to the three benefactors of last year, some of the profits from the concerts will be shared between South African groups that work to help under-privileged communities and youth programmes. Classical Movements is also empowering local choirs by directly sharing the profits from ticket sales.

-The Star | July 30, 2010

 

Ihlombe! is a life-changing cultural, social, and educational opportunity to travel to another country.

-Washington Informer, Gale Horton Gay | April 24, 2013

The prestigious Ihlombe! South African Choral Festival…

-Washington Post, Petula Dvorak | July 25, 2013

A grand concert at Pretoria City Hall…exhilarating performances.

-Pretoria News | July, 2013

The lessons learned in South Africa will never be forgotten.

-Toronto Star | Aug. 1, 2013

Despite cultural differences, music does play a huge role in bringing people together. This was endorsed during the Ihlombe! South African Music Festival held at the University of Pretoria on Saturday.

-Pretoria Rekord, Thokozile Mnguni | July 25, 2014

Abundant enthusiasm. That is the first thing you notice about Neeta Helms, President of Classical Movements. Ihlombe! showcases not only local talent but unique circumstances too, such as the All Saints Blind Choir from Ga-Rankuwa. They have also partnered with accomplished names in choral music, like George Kamxadana. Then there is the issue of the premiere taking place in Soweto. The township affords the Canadian and American choirs a chance to witness a part of our country that they would otherwise not have seen.

-The Citizen, Sibusiso Mkwanazi | July, 2010

In keeping with one of the core beliefs of Classical Movements, and building on donations to the three benefactors of last year, some of the profits from the concerts will be shared between South African groups that work to help under-privileged communities and youth programmes. Classical Movements is also empowering local choirs by directly sharing the profits from ticket sales.

-Johannesburg Star | July, 2010