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SPIER FESTIVAL (article first published : 2005-12-4)

From December 2005 until the end of March 2006, The Spier Arts Trust Summer Season enters its 10th year, with a programme that promises to showcase top quality productions. Says Annebelle Schreuder, Artistic Director of the Spier Arts Summer Season, "This year's programme reflects the high quality work being produced by South African performing artists today. To celebrate our 10th year we are looking forward to the next ten years. We plan to launch a ten year Sculpture Garden project by mid 2006 and to extend arts projects beyond the summer season."

This festive season Spier hosts The Shaolin Monks, presented by Real Concerts, from December 6 to 11 and again from December 13 to 18. A group of Buddhist Monks provide a spectacular show of mental discipline and physical strength. The Wheel of Life broke all attendance records at the Civic Theatre in Johannesburg and will entertain Cape Town audiences with a display of some of the world's greatest martial arts.

Christmas would not be the same without the famous Richard Cock Sunset Christmas Carols exclusively for Spier this year. On December 18, massed choirs form the backdrop against the Helderberg Mountains on the banks of the Eerste River, whilst myriads of voices sing a variety of African songs as well as favourite well-known carols. Keeping South Africa close to its heart, Nataniël presents a brand new show from December 20 to 23 entitled Imagine a King, presented by SARIE. He will host various artists from South Africa’s top line-up of divas including Judith Sephuma and Lindiwe Alam who join a collaboration of unique voices with inspirational songs for the festive season.

Cape Town City Ballet presents Queen at the Ballet from January 24 to February 1 choreographed by Sean Bovim and conducted by Michael Hankinson. Popular Luciano Zuppa and Duncan Royce perform Freddy Mercury's vocals and the show also stars Zanne Stapelberg and Aviva Pelham. Gavin Rajah and Malcolm Kluk, amongst others add to the set design with a visually striking array of costumes.

From ballet, the programme moves to the DDK Lyric Festival, with the lyric group, Dimpho Di Kopane performing in their new venue at the Lynedoch Eco Village. This vibrant, passionate cast will present three productions: Ikumkanikazi yeKhephu (The Snow Queen) which is a South African version of the Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, Yiimimangaliso (The Mysteries) and Ibali looTsots (The Beggar's Opera). The DDK Lyric Festival runs from January 24 to February 4.

On February 3 and 4, the Spier Arts Trust presents The Spier Open Air Poetry Festival curated by Antjie Krog. This is a new, emotional rhetoric part of the programme and incorporates many established as well as new poets and writers. Audiences can expect to hear the best English and Afrikaans poetry, spine-tingling Xhosa praise poems and rap. Poets will perform with bands and bands will use poetry in this mind-challenging festival.

Opera at Spier presented by Nedbank comprises a Spier Arts Trust commission of Pulcinella, a new opera by Martinus Basson and Princess Magogo. Pulcinella is an Italian Baroque Melody by Igor Stravinsky, and Marthinus Basson creates a new production of ‘ballet with song'. Conducted by Xandi van Dijk, the cast includes dancer Mark Hoeben and soprano Zanne Stapelberg.Pulcinella takes place on February 10 and11 and again from February 16 to 18. Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu, is an opera based on the true story of the noble Princess of the Zulu nation, Princess Magogo, whose musical talents inspired and influenced her people during the early 20th century. From February 24 to 26, audiences will be graced by the powerful voice of Sibongile Khumalo, who is one of the world's leading mezzo-sopranos. The music is composed by Mzilikazi Khumalo, and provides the show with a feast of singing, dancing and drumming. Stunning costumes and set design form an exhilarating backdrop to this must-see show.

The Spier Arts Summer Season would not be the same without resident playwright, Brett Bailey producing another acclaimed inter-active theatre drama, Orfeus (February 14-19 and 21-26). This Greek myth of Orpheus tells of the shamanistic journey of an inspired poet-musician into the Underworld. Orpheus is seeking his wife, Eurydice who had died from a snake-bite. His music was said to bring harmony to all Nature. This production is set in a contemporary-mythical African world, where Orfeus takes audiences on a cross-country adventure of their imagination.

Nedbank again presents The African Giants Festival, featuring David Kramer's Karoo Kitaar Blues, Hugh Masekela and The Paul Hanmer Retrospective. David Kramer's Karoo Kitaar Blues offers an unforgettable South African journey, showcasing the talents of eccentric Karoo and Namaqualand musicians. (February 3,4,9,10 and March 11). Hugh Masekela in true African Giant style will entrance with his trumpet (March 5), jazz fundi Paul Hanmer will captivate with his breathtaking jazz piano pieces along with a guest list of 30 leading South African Musicians including Louis Mhlanga, Marcus Wyatt and Kevin Gibson. (March 17-19). In its quest to discover talent, Spier has brought together two outstanding attractions under the umbrella of "The Spier Discover Stage". Simphiwe Dana, often likened to Miriam Makeba will perform some of her work (March 26) whilst South Africa's favourite up-and-coming band Freshly Ground will rock with their infectious rhythms (March 25).

Jay Pather, acclaimed director comes to Spier with a programme entitled Home by the Siwele Sonke Dance Theatre. ‘The Home' is a universal symbol of safety and comfort, but Jay questions this assumption as he portrays this cutting-edge dance performance, which is a mix of Shembe, traditional Zulu dance, ballet and contemporary dance. (March 16 &17). The Just So Stories bring the remarkable talents of Ballet Theatre Afrikan together to perform Rudyard Kipling's much-loved Just So stories. This collaborative performance involves dancers, musicians, singers and actors and is a must for the whole family. (March 30 and 31 and April 1).

To close the season, the Spier Arts Trust and composer Philip Miller host an experimental lecture about the TRC Cantata, which is a work-in-progress musical and literary investigation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, ten years on. This work aims to celebrate the human spirit which rose above the horror of apartheid. It includes the spoken word and traditional African and contemporary music. It promises to be an unforgettable and emotional theatrical experience. (March 29)

Moe information from Gilly Hemphill on 021 886 4900 or 082 820 8584 or e-mail: grcomm@mweb.co.za




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