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KZNPO TO WOW LONDON AUDIENCES (article first published : 2004-11-4)

In an historic first for South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra will stage a joint performance with Britain’s famed London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) at the Barbican on November 16. This highly anticipated performance will feature, as soloists, renowned South African opera singers Linda Bukhosini and Bongani Tembe who have made a mark on the world stage and are distinguished graduates of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. It is the first time that a South African orchestra will undertake a European tour.

In another major achievement for the performing arts, a 200–strong cast of South African artistes, including two of the country’s best known choral societies - the award-winning Durban Serenade Singers and the famous Soweto-based Imilonji KaNtu – will leave South Africa on November 12 and 13 to take part in the historic concerts in the United Kingdom and Germany.

A highlight of the joint performance will be the world premier of a specially-commissioned work with a libretto inspired by a poem, aptly entitled Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu! (Our Zizi! Our Hope!), by Dr Lindiwe Mabuza who is South Africa’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom as well as an eminent author and well-known poet. “This initiative will immensely enrich relations between South Africa and the United Kingdom, said Dr Lindiwe Mabuza. “It has introduced new dimensions to our cooperation, which will see audiences in South Africa and the United Kingdom interacting through the medium of technology to celebrate historic achievements in both countries”.

The programme for the Barbican on November 16 begins with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 2 “Hymn of Praise”’’. The second half starts with Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu! - a new work which highlights gallant contributions towards South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 and the hope of a reconciled and united country that followed. The original music is composed by well-known South African composer Phelelani Mnomiya and orchestrated by South African-based composers, John Simon and Christopher James. Conducted by the accomplished young French maestro, François-Xavier Roth, the programme will come to a rousing end with Ravel’s masterpiece Bolero.

This cultural exchange project is the brainchild of Bongani Tembe, KZNPO’s chief executive and artistic director: “This exciting joint venture with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), who are celebrating 100 years of establishment as one of the world’s leading orchestras, will motivate us to even higher levels of excellence and help the KZN Philharmonic to build on what is already an outstanding reputation both locally and abroad,” says Bongani. “Allied to this is the implementation of an innovative education and development programme designed to take orchestral music to the people and break down pre-conceived notions of what orchestras should be.”

In a message of support from the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki said, “This collaboration has opened new and exciting avenues to broaden and deepen relations between our two countries. It is our fervent wish to strengthen people-to-people co-operation with the United Kingdom with a view to advancement of our mutual interests. I wish the project every success and I have no doubt that many generations in both countries will learn valuable lessons from this experience.”

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “I’m immensely proud of the role that many people in Britain played in supporting those in South Africa who struggled to end apartheid. It is why this joint concert by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Durban Serenade, the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society and the London Symphony Orchestra – itself celebrating its centenary – is such a wonderful way to celebrate this anniversary and to mark continuing friendship between our two countries and two peoples.”

The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, S’bu Ndebele, whose provincial government is the principal sponsor of this tour, said, ”I am convinced that the significance of this collaboration between the KZN Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra goes beyond auspicious anniversary celebrations; the relations between our two countries are being bolstered and decidedly enriched. This unprecedented cultural opportunity to combine the extraordinary musical talents of our own eminent artists with an orchestra of the exceptional calibre of the London Symphony Orchestra, performing music which depicts South Africa’s rich history and heritage, will help brand the province of KwaZulu-Natal and, indeed, South Africa.”

This exciting collaboration between these orchestras, singers and choirs was made possible thanks to generous sponsorship by The Government of KwaZulu-Natal, The Brett Kebble Foundation, SAA, Telkom and PetroSA. The KZNPO is grateful for the invaluable support from the South African High Commission in the United Kingdom as well as to the many people and institutions who have worked hard to make this historic journey a reality.

(Editor’s Note: If the Barbican audiences reponds the way today’s media group did, then London can expect a thrilling production! I will be keeping you up to date via artSMart as I will be accompanying the orchestra with cameraman Chris Coombes to document the tour. - Caroline Smart)




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