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KZNPO IN BREMEN (article first published : 2004-12-2)

After the successful concert at the Barbican in London with the London Symphony Orchestra on November 16 which featured the world premiere of Phelelani Mnomiya’s Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu! (Our Hope), the KZN Philharmonic touring company moved to Germany where they performed in Bremen on November 20.

Bremen is twinned with Durban and this beautiful old city opened wide its hospitable arms to the 202-strong touring company which comprised the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, soloists Linda Bukhosini and Bongani Tembe, actor Bheki Mkhwane and a choir which was made up of the Durban Serenade and Soweto-based Imilonji KaNtu choral societies.

Besides Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu!, the programme included the full Mendelssohn Symphony No 2 instead of only the Hymn of Praise which was selected for the pre-tour concert in Durban as well as for the concert at the Barbican with the LSO. On the podium for the Mendelssohn was popular German conductor, Justus Frantz, in place of French maestro, François-Xavier Roth who had conducted the full programme in Durban and in London. The KZNPO’s own Naum Rousine took up the baton for Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu!.

An exhilerating introduction to the Mendelssohn – and one up on the Barbican concert - was the use of the magnificent St Ansgarii organ which had been rescued from the original church which was bombed during the Second World War. Played superbly by Mr N Kuppe, it reminded me how we sorely miss the use of our splendid organ in Durban.

Once again soloists Linda Bukhosini and Bongani Tembe acquited themselves extremely well, their voices better suited to the acoustics of St Ansgarii, while narrator/poet Bheki Mkhwane repeated his impassioned and dramatic linking sequences. Handling the second soprano part with aplomb was Tokolela Bongi Similane, Daphney Hlatshwayo having performed it in Durban.

There were some minor glitches in the Mendelssohn and the strings sounding a little shrill at times. Perhaps these were due to a change in conductor or cramped conditions for the strings but they did little to mar the audience’s appreciation.

Being a new composition, Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu! was followed with much concentration by the audience but at the end, the response was an immediate standing ovation. Two encores later, they were still calling for more, after which the choir took over and sang themselves off the stage! They would probably be there still, if the good people of Bremen had anything to do with it!

The choir undoubtedly took the honours – what about calling this new combined choir The Themba Lethu Singers?

This exciting collaboration between two orchestras, singers, actor and choirs was made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship by The Government of KwaZulu-Natal, The Brett Kebble Foundation, SAA, Telkom and PetroSA. – Caroline Smart

See separate article on Bremen soon to be loaded to the Miscellaneous and Leisuresmart pages




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