A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

music
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

KZNPO TOUR WRAP (article first published : 2004-12-3)

Now back home in hot, humid Durban after the wintry climes of London and Bremen, the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra can be justly proud of its achievement in having been the first South African full-time professional orchestra to undertake a European tour. (See other articles on these pages, some of which may have dropped down into Music Archives)

While I accompanied the tour as a specialist arts journalist documenting the process on video, it was the cameraman, Chris Coombes, who did most of the work. My task begins now, logging the footage and editing the material into programmes which can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. In the process of making sure Chris got the best shots possible, I was able to assess the tour fairly critically from an independent observational standpoint.

First of all, many congratulations are due to the KZNPO administration staff for undertaking and achieving a tour of such magnitude without prior experience to fall back on. The London Symphony Orchestra has an entire department devoted to touring programmes. The KZNPO tackled the mammoth task with their present staff plus a temporary assistant.

It was good to see Ministers Sbu Ndebele, the KZN Premier, and Narend Singh, Minister of Arts, Culture and Tourism KZN, supporting the project by being present at both a function for the touring company held by the South African High Commissioner at South Africa House and at the concert itself.

A strong bond has now been established between the KZNPO and the London Symphony Orchestra, one of the most respected and experienced orchestras in the world. Clive Gillinson, MD of the LSO for the past 20 years, paid tribute to Bongani Tembe for getting the project together – and still having the energy to go on stage and sing! He described the concert at the Barbican as “a really special and historic event.” He also mentioned that the LSO players “all loved the partnership”. Plans are in hand to bring the London Symphony Orchestra to South Africa in the near future.

The function after the concert buzzed with excitement. Adrian Sunshine, conductor of The London Chamber Players and a visiting conductor for the KZNPO said: “The KZNPO surpassed itself ...” A prominent businessman said to the High Commissioner: “If this is what the new South Africa is all about, I’m investing in it.” He apparently plans to place one of his factories here which has the capacity to employ in the region of 2,000 people. Disney executives were impressed by the high quality and standard of performance and I understand that they are already planning a concert in South Africa with the KZNPO and the singers in 2005. If either or even both of these two initiatives take fruit, it will be a great coup for the KZNPO.

There is no substitute for experience. While many of the established members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra took the tour in their stride, for the majority of the younger musicians – and most of the choir members - it was a thrilling but initially fairly nerve-racking experience. The project gave them invaluable exposure to global scrutiny, the unprecedented opportunity to perform with one of the world’s top orchestras in one of London’s most prestigious venues and the satisfaction of knowing that they had taken part in a unique and successful trans-continental and trans-cultural musical triumph.

It was an unforgettable experience to be seated in the gallery of the Barbican looking down onto the stage with the KZNPO musicians intermingled with the LSO in front of the massive bank of choristers. It was like watching Mark Shuttleworth blasting into space. We had arrived in a global context!

The concert in Bremen at St Ansgarii Kirche was a great success (see separate review). I watched the audience’s response with interest from my lofty vantage point in the organ loft. Mendelssohn they knew but Zizi Lethu! Themba Lethu! was something different. As the work grew in its intensity and the choir eventually broke into dancing, they were entranced. Apparently it is highly unusual to get the citizens of Bremen on their feet, cheering enthusiastically. They demanded and were given two encores and their applause continued as the choir sang themselves off the stage.

The Mayor of Bremen stressed the value of the KZNPO touring company’s visit in terms of cultural and financial exchanges between Bremen and its twin-city of Durban. Conductor Justus Frantz has indicated that he plans to invite Linda Bukhosini and Bongani Tembe to perform with a choir with his Philharmonia of the Nations in Germany next December.

The tour abounds with good memories, including trying to squash a full quota of passengers plus instruments into an average sized aeroplane from London to Hamburg. In London – the various reactions of orchestra members as they headed for their first rehearsal with the London Symphony Orchestra. In Bremen - Bheki Mkhwane bicycling along sturdily and proudly… on the wrong side of the road!; snow falling to remind us that Christmas really makes sense in northern climes; the delicious breakfasts at the splendid Park Hotel; Bremen’s fascinating old town; the magical Christmas decoration shop and the magnificent organ at St Ansgari’s.

Overall, I believe the tour was a great success – both artistically and in terms of generating further beneficial financial and cultural exchanges between KZN and Europe. – Caroline Smart




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart