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MUSIC ON 2007 NAF (article first published : 2007-03-27)

In a world grown increasingly angry and aggressive, individuals inevitably react by seeking meaning in the particular, the private and the personal. And the arts, harbingers of our inner lives, lead the way. The trend is clear in the Main Programme for the National Arts Festival which takes place in Grahamstown from June 28 to July 7. Several important new theatre pieces focus closely on the tender moments when two souls find common ground. The music programme is infused with the overwhelming humanity of hundreds of voices singing in unison. A vast embroidered altarpiece celebrates the joy and the beauty of creation. This is pleasure with a deeply healing purpose. Art that helps to fill in what’s missing - helps to make sense of our existence.

Now in its 33rd year, the Festival began in 1974 and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.

“The programme offers a representative sample of current creative preoccupations,” said Lynette Marais, Festival Director. “Our artists have extra sensitive antennae which enable them to scout out the route ahead, anticipating the way people on the ground deal with the contexts they find themselves in.” Now, more than ever, audiences and artists are turning inward, reassessing value systems, questioning the accuracy of memory, overhauling the power balance in relationships, and trading-in yesterday’s hopes and dreams for new ones.

The singing voice soars over the broad landscape of artsound on the Main Festival programme. Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Music, Bronwen Forbay will appear as the soloist with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra under the baton of Richard Cock. The programme for this concert includes favourite pieces by Glinka, Elgar, Grieg and Sibelius, and the orchestra can be heard again with the 150-strong Yale Alumni Choir performing Haydn’s magnificent oratorio, The Creation. The solo passages will feature Bronwen Forbay (soprano), Simon Estes (bass-baritone) and Randall Umstead (tenor).

A second group of internationally renowned US visitors, the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Choir, will present a programme ranging from Bach to Brubeck. Throwing hot chillie into the vocal mix, Pieter-Dirk Uys and Geoffrey Johnson’s latest cabaret, Bambi: Vile and Vunderful features songs by Stephen Sondheim and Kurt Weill, interspersed with raunchy reminiscences from that scandalous Uys alter ego, Bambi Kellerman.

Instrumental recitals on the Main Festival Music programme include four concerts by different duos, all world-class soloists in their own right. Zanta Hofmeyr (violin) and Malcolm Nay (piano) will perform Grieg’s three hauntingly lyrical violin sonatas. Bass-ically Brilliant is the light-hearted title Peter Martens (cello) and Leon Bosch (double-bass) have chosen for their lively and varied programme. Pierre van der Westhuizen and Sophia Grobler, who perform as the Westhuizen Duo, present a recital of the works for two pianos that have earned them renown in the USA where they are both currently studying and teaching. Clarinettist Matthew Reid presents two recitals with pianist Pieter van Zyl, including the première of a new sonata by Peter Klatzow.

East Meets West celebrates dialogue between western classical music and the evocative sounds of India. Cello and saxophone join sitar, sarod and tabla to create a new vocabulary of delight. The Southern African tradition is celebrated in Uhadi, a concert of indigenous music featuring voices and ancient instruments from tribal groupings in the Eastern Cape hinterland. Moving forward through time to the mid-twentieth century, A Celebration of the Music of Todd Matshikiza pays tribute to the brother who wrote King Kong.

Taking music into a spontaneous future, jazz pianist Paul Hanmer and cellist Francois le Roux (The Ha!Man) revisit favourites from their CDs. Fusion gets an extra spin with Grassroots featuring multi-instrumentalist Dave Reynolds, guitarist/vocalist Louis Mhlanga, bassist Concorde Nkabinde, and vocalist/trombonist Siya Makuzeni in a picnic of popular forms blended with pan-African, Caribbean, the acoustic textures of classical music and the spontaneity of jazz.

Young saxophonist Shannon Mowday is the leading lady for the 2007 programme which incorporates the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival. As Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Jazz, Ms Mowday heads up a strong South African contingent that includes heart-stealing songsters Melanie Scholtz and Judith Sephuma.

As is the Festival custom, the artists will group and regroup for various sessions. In tribute to Mzantsi’s jazz heritage, Hotep Galeta (piano), Barney Rachabane (saxophone), Stompie Manana (trumpet) and Swiss-based drummer Makaya Ntshoko will join forces for a first-ever concert. A special programme featuring a selection of top Eastern Cape jazz musicians is sponsored by the Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture. Multi-national jazz-birds from Switzerland, Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Norway, Britain and the US will fly in to roost in Grahamstown for Festival week.

Collaborations between locals and visitors provide those unique musical experiences that have festinos returning year after year. Trumpeter Feya Faku shares the stage with a Swiss trio from Basel, and guitarist Louis Mhlanga jams with Dutch pianist Jeroen van Vliet. And when the 10-nationality Awesome Big Band pulls out all the stops, even terra firma will get into the swing.

As the countdown to the festival begins, keep a watchful eye on this space or www.nafest.co.za (See other disciplines for festival programme news)




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