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NAF LIVE MUSIC (article first published : 2005-05-16)

Hundreds of musicians with truckloads of instruments will converge on Grahamstown between June 30 and July 9 for the National Arts Festival – one of Africa’s great bastions of live arts performance.

The main music line-up ranges from orchestral classics, through chamber, to choral, electronic and World Music. Separate sections on the programme are devoted to New Music and Jazz, with more joyous sounds pouring out of dozens of Fringe festival venues round the clock.

Richard Cock conducts the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra in a symphony concert that features three soloists, Francois du Toit (playing Sans Saëns Piano Concerto No 2) and Mexico’s celebrated cellist Carlos Prieto together with the Spanish violinist Gerardo Ubaghs playing a new work composed for the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote.

The orchestra, conducted by Michael Hankinson, will accompany the Cape Town City Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty with the score by Tchaikovsky. Richard Cock will conduct the orchestra and the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg in two programmes: a concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular operetta Pirates of Penzance (with commentary links by Alan Swerdlow) and a classical concert featuring Haydn’s Nelson Mass and John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit.

They say the singing voice is South Africa’s favourite music instrument and this Festival is the place to revel in it. The Spier-based lyric company Dimpho di Kopane will present two of the works that have had the critics raving in Europe and the USA: Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries and Ikumkanikazi yeKhephu The Snow Queen. Both are wittily and sensitively Africanised versions of two classics: a medieval religious street theatre piece and Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless story.

Thanduxolo Christian Ngqobe’s oratorio, Ibali Lomculo-Jesus: Life and Crucifixion will be performed by some of the Eastern Cape’s finest voices accompanied by the Legato Youth Orchestra.

The thrilling Congolese-style mass, Missa Luba headlines a programme of indigenous song by the University of Pretoria Chorale under the baton of Michael Dingaan. And the venerable split-tone singers of the Ngqoko Cultural Group, playing ancient African instruments will show why they are so sought after by European festival organisers.

The Festival continues its ardent love affair with the cello, offering the life-changing opportunity to hear one of the world’s greatest cellists, Mexico’s Carlos Prieto in concert with Spain’s violin prodigy Gerard Ubaghs. Multi-award-winning cellist Anzél Gerber presents two concerts of works adapted for cello and piano with chamber musician Anneke Lamont. And the cello has a love affair of its own – with the sitar – in two magical recitals of classics and new compositions by Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-de Haas. She plays a specially modified cello so they can both sit, Indian-style, to entrance world audiences.

Lovers of Baroque can always expect a festival treat and this year it’s Baroque and Blue, a winsome classical/jazz crossover presented by flautist Helen Vosloo and jazz pianist Wessel van Rensburg and a small ensemble.

The highly acclaimed young Sontonga String Quartet will present two late night concerts with Matthew Reid as guest clarinettist. Marianne Serfontein (vocals), Marietjie Pauw (flute), Bennie van Eeden (piano) and Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) comprise a second quartet, Collage, performing pieces by South African composers (including Hendrik Hofmeyr and Hans Huyssen) along with classics in their two programmes.

Whizzing audiences off into the future, two Dutch exponents of electronic music will release the creative potential of their sci-fi music machines in two recitals which should be equally fascinating to musos and techno-geeks alike. Joel Ryan and Keir Neuringer are both based at Holland’s Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music.

Worthy reps of World Music, Mexico’s Grupo Mono Blanco (white monkey) will set pulses racing with their vivid son jarocho – the vernacular music and dance code from Veracruz, product of the cross-influences of Spanish, indigenous and African musics.

For more information about Music, Jazz and New Music at the Festival, as well as the rest of the National Arts Festival programme, visit www.nafest.co.za or pick up a free copy of the official National Arts Festival Booking Kit at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets. Booking is at Computicket.

The National Arts Festival, Grahamstown is proudly sponsored by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council.




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