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MUSIC AT NAF (article first published : 2005-03-23)

New cross-genre fusions, new multi-media spectacles, new scripts and new culture-smart agendas stimulated by new audience appetites are the dominant flavours on the Main programme for the National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9. "A new tribe of mature and professional South African artists with international experience are cooking up a storm in the Mzantsi arts kitchens. The ingredients for this festival were garnered from the four corners of our creative marketplace by people who know the shortest route to the heart of an audience," said Lynette Marais, Festival Director.

In the age of mass media, the value of the live experience that the National Arts Festival offers is nowhere more vivid than in the music programme and the annual Symphony concert in particular. Hearing a full orchestra perform live is becoming a rare privilege. For Festival 2005, the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra does the honours with Richard Cock conducting Mendelssohn's overture of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Fantasy Overture from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No 2 with soloist François du Toit and a new work by Spanish composer Tomas Marco to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes' writing of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Soloists in this work are Mexican maestro Carlos Prieto, one of the world's most revered cellists, and Spanish violinist Gerardo Ubaghs.

The delightful musical and dramatic talents of Dimplo Di Kopane (DDK, ‘combined talents') will be showcased in two lyric works that sent US and British critics into raptures. Yiimimangaliso The Mysteries is a re-imagining in African vernacular of a medieval popular street-theatre piece. DDK's London run was a sell-out and extended twice by public demand. Ikumkanikazi yeKhephu The Snow Queen was commissioned for the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Bicentennial Celebration in Denmark. It uses traditional music and Xhosa ceremonies to restate the themes of reconciliation and transforming love.

DDK sets the tone for a Main Festival Music programme particularly strong in voice and choral works. The popular Johannesburg Symphony Choir presents two concerts with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra under the baton of Richard Cock with soloists Sibongile Khumalo, Beverley Chiat and Nicholas Nicolaidis. The first concert features Haydn's Nelson Mass and John Rutter's Feel the Spirit. The choir's second show is a concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance with commentary links by Alan Swerdlow.

World music gets a whirl with Grupo Mono Blanco (‘white monkey') from Veracruz, Mexico, exponents of son jarocho (irreverent sound) a vibrant regional folk music which traces its roots to African, Spanish and indigenous cultural influences. Stringed guitar-type instruments, witty vocals and vigorous heel-dancing all come to the party.

Some of the finest voices of the Eastern Cape, conducted by Malusi Mtyalela, join forces with the Legato Youth indigenous orchestra under the baton of Masibulele Mkosana to perform Ibali Lomculo-Jesus: Life and Crucifixion with a score composed by Thanduxolo Christian Ngqobe. The Ngqoko Cultural Group was formed in 1983 to perform indigenous music once known as "Abahedeni" (music of the heathens). They are veterans of the European music festival circuit, and their 2005 concert includes traditional songs accompanied by ancient instruments like the friction drum, the uhadi (percussion bow) and the umrhube (mouth bow). Also celebrating Mzantsi Afrika's bounty, the multi-lingual, 50-strong University of Pretoria Chorale, conducted by Michael Dingaan, presents a programme of Indigenous African Songs including works in Zulu, Pedi, Xhosa, Ndebele, Siswati, Venda and Setswana.

Soprano Marianne Serfontein with Marietjie Pauw (flute), Bennie van Eeden (piano) and Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) forms the Collage quartet to present two concerts. The first features classical and neo-romantic works and the second pieces by South African composers. Like Collage, the exciting string ensemble, the Sontonga Quartet is renowned for their performance of contemporary compositions. They will present two late-night concerts including a work by Osvaldo Golijov with clarinettist Michael Reid. The quartet features Marc Uys (violin), Waldo Alexander (violin), Xandi van Dijk (viola) and Brian Choveaux (cello).

The classical/jazz crossover makes for easy listening in Baroque & Blue, a concert named after the CD that earned fame for Helen Vosloo (flute), Wessel van Rensburg (piano), Denis Lalouette (electric bass) and Rob Watson (drums). They play Bach, Scarlatti, Faure, Bizet, Bolling and Piazzolla. Sitarist Shubhendra Rao and cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas marry East and West, producing a new musical language that holds audiences and critics enthralled worldwide. The duo is accompanied by tabla player Biplab Bhattacharya. In another treat for cello fans, multi-award-winning cellist Anzél Gerber, accompanied by the accomplished soloist and chamber musician Anneke Lamont (piano), presents two recitals of works by Brahms, Beethoven, Kreisler, Paganini, Schumann and pieces from the piano, violin and vocal repertoire arranged for cello and piano.

Back to the future, music meets science fiction in two concerts presented by Joel Ryan and Keir Neuringer from Amsterdam's STEIM (the studio for electro-instrumental music). They use saxophone and self-built wind and digital instruments based on real time signal processing.

JAZZ: Swinging collaborations across nations and genres is the spirit of the 10-day Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, incorporating the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival. The likes of John Fedchock from the USA, the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra and an international posse from Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Portugal, Israel, France and Norway jam it on the programme with Mzantsi Afrika's trumpeter Marcus Wyatt, saxophonist Zim Ngqawana, guitarist Selaelo Selota, vocalist Gloria Bosman, to mention a few. The electrifying young pianist, Andile Yenana is this year's Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Music. An Eastern Cape homeboy, he has performed to acclaim in the States, Britain and France.

NEW MUSIC INDABA: The theme for 2005 - Re-imagining Africa - draws music and musicians from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Zimbabwe, the DRC and (of course) South Africa. Uganda's Justinian Tamusuza is composer in residence. The popular Stockholm Saxophone Quartet will be back and Luc Houtkamp's POW3 (Netherlands) will display their virtuosity with computers, turntables, live electronics, voice, tenor sax and a tap dancer. Voice is well represented by the likes of Liberian-born soprano Dawn Padmore and uhadi bow singer Madosini (in the final phase of the Bow Project). The 2005 choral concert is dedicated to Enoch Sontonga who died 100 years ago.

This festival is presented by the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, SABC and the National Arts Council and booking kits will be available during mid April in time for the opening of the booking on May 9. The Fringe booking kit will be available from May in time for the opening on May 23. Further information on 046 603 1103/1164 or visit http://www.nafest.co.za




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