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CHRISTOPHER DUIGAN (article first published : 2003-10-18)

“If music be the food of love, play on. And on, till you’re ready to drop.” This might well be the slogan of self-confessed workaholic, pianist Christopher Duigan. Now change is in the air for this indefatigable mover-and-shaker who, as a performer and impresario, represents a force second to none on the local music scene.

Under the banner of his Music Revival organization, Duigan staged no less than 11 concerts at last week’s Hilton Festival. And this hard on the heels of a grueling performance schedule undertaken during a recent trip to the UK.

Widely recognised as a notable force on the classical music front in KZN, Duigan has almost single-handedly mobilised the once laid-back music-going public of his hometown, Pietermaritzburg, with his zeal in promoting his chosen art form. He has also made a marked contribution to the live music scene in Durban. Through his ongoing series of programmes ranging from full-blown chamber music recitals to popular café concerts, he has been pulling audiences for close on eight years, presenting between 50 and 80 concerts and recitals annually.

While entertaining audiences and creating work for himself as a soloist, and for his popular Kerimov Trio (with the violinist and cellist husband-and-wife duo, Boris and Elena Kerimov), he has also hosted a wide spectrum of fellow artists, not only Durban-based but from other provinces, as well as many from the international circuit.

Duigan recently returned from taking part in a series of engagements at the Edinburgh Festival where he made his third successive invited appearances. He also appeared in London in the Royal Overseas League and Commonwealth concert series, giving between three and five concerts a day as a chamber musician, as well as two solo recitals at St James’s Church in Piccadily.

At home he has performed widely with leading South African orchestras, most recently in Cape Town, playing Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no 2, as well as giving solo recitals and playing in the Kerimov Trio at national festivals and other major centres. As a recording artist he has been equally prolific, producing what now amounts to a string of compact discs, and his latest solo release is imminent.

Now Christopher feels it’s time to take stock – and to find a way of recharging his energies.

“I plan to ease up a bit, and to give fewer concerts locally. I am contemplating taking my PHD, using the wealth of data relating to audience development that I have amassed over the years while running Music Revival. My approach to making music has been consciously eclectic. I have deliberately tried to cross traditional barriers by creating programmes for a wide sector of people to enjoy.

Another growing interest now involves working on the vocal music front as Christopher acknowledges being greatly stimulated by his close professional association with leading South African soprano Angela Gilbert. His recent UK trip fuelled this new-found passion, as he was fortunate enough to attend performances of Berlioz’s great operatic epic, Les Troyens, given under the baton of Sir Colin Davis; of Handel’s rarely staged opera, Poro, and also several lieder recitals given by leading exponents of the genre.

So is his audience indeed to see and hear less of this one-man musical powerhouse? It’s hard to imagine, but if so, perhaps it’s time for us to sit up and show that “Local is indeed as lekker” on the music scene as it is on the competitive sports front.

This particular force would be sorely missed, should he slip away quietly into the closeted world of academe.

This report from William Charlton-Perkins of Copy Dog Editorial Enterprises. Contact 031 201 3739 or 082 335 6088.




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