America’s Got Talent has returned to our screens, and the tears have already begun flowing.
The auditions are always a mixed bag. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re going to get.
With the Mzansi Youth Choir’s debut performance on the season 18 opener, we got something special.
The choir from South Africa was inspired by the story of the late Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski, a talented singer who shone on the 2021 AGT stage, and blew away judges with her own audition.
On that occasion, Marczewski scored a golden buzzer with an original song, “It’s OK.”
Following that performance, the singer revealed that she had a 2% chance of survival from cancer that had spread to her lungs, spine and liver. The video garnered millions of views on YouTube and her performance warranted a standing ovation from all four judges.
Nightbirde exited AGT weeks later to focus on her health. Her story ended in tragedy, when Marczewski passed away in 2022, aged just 31.
She’s gone, but not forgotten. And on Tuesday night (March 30), Mzansi Youth Choir ensured her music would live on, and her legacy would continue, by covering “It’s OK”.
Hailing from Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, the choir was formed 20 years ago as a safe space for youngsters to develop and grow.
Following the TV performance, tears. On stage, at the judging table and in living rooms around the world.
“For anyone who doesn’t know, we lost a very very special person from our AGT family. Her name was Jane. Her nickname was Nightbirde, and she sang this song,” Heidi Klum recapped for the audience. “It was really beautiful. Thank you.”
“That was the perfect AGT audition, remarked Sofia Vergara.
Howie Mandel was moved by what he heard and saw: “I’ll always remember Nightbirde. And to see that it touched people on the other side of the globe, unbelievable. You deserve so much more than a yes. And to be here, you deserve a thank-you.”
Judge Simon Cowell wore his emotions for the world to see. “This brought back so many memories for me,” he said, trembling and wiping tears from his face. “I know how much this would have meant to her. Right to the end she was so passionate about sharing her music…you’ve come back here with the most amazing tribute. It was perfect.”
The singers wouldn’t be denied. They earned the Golden Buzzer, and with it, a slice of history. Passage through the competition was awarded by the audience, a moment never seen before in AGT.