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SPIER SUMMER ARTS SEASON (article first published : 2004-11-2)

The Spier Arts Trust officially launches the Spier Summer Arts Season on December 10, providing an interesting and diverse variety of performances. Annebelle Schreuders, Managing Director of the Spier Arts Trust, says: "The Spier Arts Trust team look forward to a Summer Season celebrating a proudly African line-up with emphasis on collaborations between performers with diverse backgrounds."

Launching the Spier Summer Arts Season is Boy Called Twist which takes Charles Dickens's classic novel Oliver Twist and relocates it in contemporary South Africa. This sometimes brutal but compassionate film tells of a Cape Town street kid who is in search of love, home and a family. It stars Kim Engelbrecht, Trix Pienaar, Leslie Fong with Jarrid Geduld in the title role. (December 10-11)

Freshlyground and Oliver Mtukudzi and his band Mahube present a celebration of diversity with a hybrid of musical styles comprising six Southern African countries and 17 artists in a performance on December 15. In keeping with the high quality of work and blend of different cultures and music, African Sanctus on December 17 and 18 is a celebratory and visionary work portraying unity between people, their faiths and their music. An unorthodox setting of the Latin Mass integrated with traditional African music recorded by David Fanshawe on his legendary journeys up the River Nile, it is conducted and directed by Richard Cock. Also performing are the Cape Town Opera Chorus, the Freeflight Dance Company choreographed by Adele Blank and drummers directed by Dizu Plaatjies of Amampondo fame.

On December 20 and 21, Sunset Christmas Carols is a powerful rendition of massed choirs along the banks of the Eerste Rivier and up against the backdrop of the Helderberg mountains. Well-known for his entertaining presentation of choral music, Richard Cock directs the Princess Square Singers together with the Harry Gwala Singers, the Cape Town Opera Chorus and the Cape Brass Ensemble. In a celebration of compelling combination, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu perform A South African Story, Part II, at Spier's spectacular outdoor amphitheatre on December 28 and from January 6 to 9). Johnny continues his South African story, using amusing anecdotes, historical and anthropological facts about not only his life, but the history of the music and dance forms that have influenced his bands, Jaluka and Savuka over the past 25 years.

For comedy fans, there is a line-up of side-splitting comedians from January 21 to 22 with Mel Miller, Corné and Twakkie, Miss Kwa Kwa, Kurt Schoonraad, Mark Lottering, Chilly Boy and Dowwe Dolla.

Brett Bailey wrote, directed and designed in association with Third Word Bunfight productions, the acclaimed Big Dada. It is the story of the rise and fall of Idi Amin, the charismatic General who burst onto the African stage with his military regime in 1971. It is the story of a tyrant who bankrupted his banana republic, advised Queen Elizabeth on her wardrobe but also slaughtered thousands of people. With performances on January 28 and from February 3 to 5, it draws on the traditions of African pop and traditional design, art and performance.

In association with Nedbank, Spier presents The Nedbank African Giants Music Festival, starring Valiant Swart, Karen Zoid and Judith Sephuma. Enthralling audiences from February 10 to 12 will be Valiant with his guitar and soulful-blues songs, Karen Zoid, singer, songwriter and the first lady of South African rock and talented jazz vocalist, Judith Sephuma.

Il Travatore, directed and produced by the famous Angelo Gobbato and conducted by Olivier Cuendet takes place on February 24 and 26 and on March 4, 9 and 11. It is Guiseppe Verdi's passionate tale of love, lust and revenge, starring Sibongile Khumalo as Azucena, Sidwell Hartman as Manrico, with the voices of Nkosazana Dimonde as Leonora and Ntsikelelo Mali as Di Luna. Nedbank presents the world première of Valley Song - the Opera, created by composer Thomas Rajna and librettist Guy Willoughby. Based on Athol Fugard's play, Valley Song, this new South African stage work tells the story of Veronica, a gifted young girl from a remote Karoo valley who yearns to go to Johannesburg to become a singing star. Set after the first democratic elections, Valley Song - the Opera is a story of hopes kindled and impossible dreams bravely fought. It is the first South African opera that deals with the problems and aspirations of a rural coloured community and it makes use of indigenous musical styles. Performances on March 3, 8 10 and 12.

Imagine the strains of grand opera combined with some of the world's finest vintages. Throughout the many libretti of opera literature are references to wine and to the merriment of drinking. Spier will be hosing intimate evenings of Wine and Opera for small groups to explore the unique relationship between wine and song. Excerpts from famous scores are paired with the wines referenced in the text. Historical and musical background on both music and vintage are provided. This unique experience will enhance the most seasoned musician and intrigue the novice. Performances on February 13 and 23 and March 2 will star the Spier Young Voices.

Festival of Music By Ten Year Olds 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of Spier. Celebrations for a decade of democracy continue until April 26, 2005. In light of these achievements, the Spier Arts Trust and the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) will co-host a Children's Music Festival from March 19 to 21. This will feature workshops and concerts in which ten-year-old children will learn about and play a range of music styles.

The Spier Arts Summer Season closes with Medeia, directed by Brett Bailey. This is an adaptation of Dutch playwright Oscar van Woensel's Medeia, a drama filled with passion, corruption and murder. It incorporates the lyrics of pop stars Madonna, R.E.M. and The Beatles. This play moves from its original setting in Greece to a refugee camp in Africa, erected on the Spier Farm. It will be performed by musicians and performers from South Africa and Angola on March 17, 18, 19, 22 to 26 and 29 to 31 as well as on April 1 and 2.

More information from Gilly Hemphill on 021 886 4900 or 082 820 8584 or e-mail: grcomm@mweb.co.za




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