Season 18 of America's Got Talent has only just begun, yet fans are already blubbering messes. The award-winning Mzansi Youth Choir took the stage in the season premiere and blew everyone away with a moving rendition of "It's OK" by late AGT contestant Jane "Nightbirde" Marczewski.
The choir told the judges — Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Sofía Vergara — that they chose to sing Nightbirde's song because they were "very inspired and touched" by her story when she appeared in the competition series. Following the powerful performance, Simon made a historic suggestion. Read on for the full story!
The Mzansi Youth Choir won the first-ever Audience Golden Buzzer.
After the choir's emotional performance, Simon struggled to hold back tears: "This brought back so many memories for me," he explained before getting choked up. "I know how much this would've meant to [Nightbirde] ... it was just breathtaking, honestly."
The crowd began chanting "Golden Buzzer" over and over, leading Simon to suggest the choir receives the first-ever Audience Golden Buzzer. The judge said, "We've never done this before, but we've always discussed one day giving the audience something. So this is for [the choir] and [the audience]. This is for Jane."
Jannie Zaaiman, the founder and director of Mzansi Youth Choir, spoke with People and opened up about the tear-jerking audition, stating, "We never expected a reception like this."
"We had hoped we would make it through to the next round," Jannie added, "but this was an absolute spectacular experience for the choristers, who handled the pressure with such poise and grace ... We are immensely proud of them for this extraordinary achievement."
Nightbirde's older brother, Mitch Marczewski Jr., also spoke with People: "It was simply amazing to see. AGT did an incredible job with Jane's song, and I was deeply moved by their performance," he said of the Mzansi Youth Choir. "I didn't think anyone could cover Jane's song on AGT, but they proved me wrong."
"It's humbling to see how far Jane's story has reached and how many people it has touched," Mitch continued. "In some ways, it isn't surprising because hope is a universal language that Jane's story embodied so well, but it's still surreal to think that a small-town girl's story could empower so many people across the world."
The Mzansi Youth Choir hails from South Africa.
In 2003, the Mzansi Youth Choir was established with the aim of offering "talented, underprivileged teenagers and young adults the opportunity to proficiently perform locally and abroad." Since then, the group has been all over the world — the choir even shared the stage with Shakira at the 2010 FIFA World Cup kick-off concert!
In April 2017, the choir performed at the International Youth Choir Festival at the Royal Albert Hall and at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Not only were they the only group from Africa to be selected, but they were also the only choir to receive a standing ovation. Three years later, the choir won the first-ever virtual World Choir Games.
New episodes of America's Got Talent air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.