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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

AN AFRICAN CELEBRATION (article first published : 2008-07-5)

Standard Bank has supported the National Arts Festival for 25 years and for a considerable period, the bank had naming rights.

Standard Bank is still one of the major sponsors with the Eastern Cape provincial government, National Arts Council and the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund but now tends to concentrate on specific projects such as the Young Artist Award Winners and the Standard Bank Festival for Jazz which now incorporates the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Festival.

Celebrating its 25 years of sponsorship, Standard Bank presented a splendid concert featuring several past and present winners of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Titled An African Celebration, it was directed by Janice Honeyman (a Young Artist Award winner in 1982) and her surefire feel for comedy and a theatrical presentation meant that the concert became a fast-moving, humorous and glorious celebration.

This fantastic show – for such it became - was superbly held together by the incomparable Janine Neethling as Musical Director. Former Durban actor James Ngcobo, now based in Johannesburg and carving his name as a director as well as a tv actor, was a genial and amusing host.

The line-up was certainly impressive. Heading the star-studded line-up was acclaimed diva Sibongile Khumalo whose every appearance is a delight, particularly when performing with Themba Mkhize in one of his own compositions, Inner Peace. Sibongile Mngoma sang O Mio Babbino Caro with a sensitive piano and guitar accompaniment.

Appearing alongside them was this year’s winner, Zanne Stapelberg. Making no secret of her advanced pregnancy, she breezed through Barcelona with Zwai and Phelo Bala and Nicholas Nicolaidis. That baby is surely going to come out bursting with song! While Barcelona was an undoubted highlight of the programme, the same foursome had the audience in fits of laughter with their rendition of Largo al Factotem from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

What a treat to have three Young Artist Award Winners forming the Young Artists’ Jazz Trio with Concord Nkabinde on bass guitar, Shannon Mowday on sax and penny whistle and this year’s Mark Fransman seated at the piano. The Debbie Rakusin Dancers pumped up the tempo with their foot-stomping Boots & Tap and the Cantus African Choir impressed with their discipline and harmonies. Accompanying musicians were James Grace on guitar, Rob Watson on drums and John Hassan on percussion. – Caroline Smart




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