Palissander, one of South Africa’s premier chamber choirs, is an independent amateur choir that was formed in 1992. Sarita Hauptfleisch, who still conducts the choir, founded Palissander with the hope and dream of making soul music. This has developed into the choir becoming an ambassador of love and peace to both local and overseas communities.
The name Palissander is a reference to the fourth volume of poetry by the Afrikaans poet Boerneef, entitled Palissandryne. In the opening poem of this volume, Boerneef writes of his recorder of palissander wood (a precious dark brown wood, related to jacaranda wood) that plays 'palissandertaal' (palissander language). Later in the volume, the poet uses the word 'palissandertaal' repeatedly as a synonym for music.
Palissander creates innovative choral experiences that enrich the lives of the choir members and the audience.
The opening statement in the Pretoria News review of Palissander’s gala concerts held in September 2006 says: “Of all the choirs currently active, none has done more than the Palissanders to change the image of the medium.” A performance by Palissander is different from a traditional one because of the choir’s singular commitment to touching the hearts of the members of the choir and the audience alike. The choir does this by engaging the audience not only musically, but also intellectually and spiritually through enthralling programmes bound together by central themes. This converts a choir concert into a spiritual experience for all.
Palissander’s programmatic approach would not be as effective if it were not matched by a very high standard of choral singing. Reviewers agree that the choir’s technical finish can stand the closest scrutiny. The singers are praised for their marvellous interpretative skills and unerring sense of appropriate style. This is all the more of a challenge as the theme approach enables an extremely diverse repertoire to be drawn together into a cohesive whole. The choir is also seen to use just the right element of showmanship to bring off the extrovert pieces effectively and avoid over-sentimentality in the reflective ones.
Domestically, Palissander has participated successfully in the major national arts festivals. The choir has also on more than one occasion toured to the Western and Southern Cape.
Since 2000 the choir has been touring internationally every second year and it has to date performed in Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Kenya, Italy and France. In 2008 Palissander will tour to Germany and France.
The choir has to date released five CDs. Palissander is based in Pretoria and currently consists of 21 members.