Palissander, one of South Africa’s premier chamber choirs, is an independent amateur choir of international standing that was formed in 1992. The choir has to date performed to great acclaim in Canada, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Kenya, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Estonia and Finland. Highlights of Palissander’s overseas tours include concerts in the Notre Dame in Paris and the Rock Church in Helsinki, as well as an impromptu performance for the world-leading Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This year, the choir is touring to Portugal. Palissander’s core values are passion, abundance, joy, respect and acceptance. 


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.


Sarita Hauptfleisch, who still conducts the choir, founded Palissander with the purpose of making  music for the soul. This has developed into the choir becoming an ambassador for love and peace to both local and overseas communities. 


The choir connects with the audience through sharing programmes bound together by central themes. The theme approach enables an extremely diverse repertoire to be drawn together into a cohesive whole. Since 2004, the annual themes have addressed topics such as peace, democracy, tolerance, our response to HIV/AIDS and COVID, respect for the earth and recognising the importance of water. In 2022, Palissander celebrated its 30th anniversary with the theme, This is us - sing like a planet. The programme highlighted the fact that, like every planet, every person has a unique sound (voice) that needs to be heard.


In 2023, Palissander will walk a portion of the Camino Portugués, starting from the cathedral in Porto. The choir will give performances along the way, as well as in Porto, Lisbon and Cascais. The theme for the programme is Kaleidoscope – everchanging journey. The music reflects every person’s physical, as well as spiritual, journey through life. Like a kaleidoscope, one’s journey is everchanging. 


The program portrays the two mirrors of a kaleidoscope in the form of contrasting concepts that one encounters on the journey, such as alone/together, seeking love/having found love, old path/new path, and storm/sun. A key reflection is that the destination is not more important than the journey. In each concert, the audience is invited to select the order in which the music is performed, based on the concepts that resonate most with them at the time. In this way, the concerts themselves are everchanging. The program combines music by composers from around the globe with that of African composers. The music is accessible to everyone.


Palissander is based in Pretoria, South Africa, and currently consists of 24 members, 18 of whom are touring Portugal.