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Friday, March 23, 2018


Rhumbelow Theatre, Pietermaritzburg will present Blarney Party with the legendary Durban-based Irish group, The Blarney Brothers, at the Allan Wilson Shellhole, on March 25 at 14h00.

2018 marks a special landmark for South Africa’s much-loved Blarney Brothers. Now celebrating their 44th Anniversary, the indefatigable three-man musical outfit have been at the heart of South Africa’s music scene for four decades this year, livening up parties and gala events with their own special brand of music, including Irish ballads, catchy pub songs, popular ‘newies’ and the occasional Irish jig.

Surely our longest-running group with an unbroken performance record, The Blarney Brothers remain at the forefront of the South African entertainment industry.

Comprising siblings Paul and Damien McIlroy and fellow band member, Tony Fisher, who all settled in South Africa in the 70’s, the three Irish-born musicians joined forces to form their own professional band in  August 1974, landing a six-month contract to perform six nights a week at Durban’s Astra Hotel in Russell Street.

With a swiftly growing fan base, they moved on to the Pool Bar at the Lonsdale Hotel, then on to the Killarney Hotel. Thereafter, they signed up as an entertainment act aboard a cruise ship, Oceanic Independent, heading for Cape Town in 1976.

They stayed on in the Mother City to perform at the Elizabeth Hotel, before signing on with the Holiday Inn Group. This led to a Blarney Brothers deal being struck with Southern Suns to appear on their national entertainment circuit, touring up and down the country at regular intervals over the following number of years.

Blarney Brothers leader Paul McIlroy recalls “We came in for a lot of publicity when we were invited to perform on the same bill as Pat Boone and his daughter, Debbie Boone, during their South African tour.  This was in 1977, the year Debbie Boone hit the big time globally with her rendering of You Light Up My Life.

Shortly after this, with their children at school-going age, the Blarney Brothers settled in Durban. They took up artistic residence at The Barn, the entertainment venue at the then Athlone Hotel, now the Riverside Hotel. This became closely linked with their brand at home, as for some 12 or 13 years the group appeared here every Wednesday and Friday, regularly pulling full houses.

Other associated venues were the River Gardens in Amanzimtoti, and Father’s Moustache at the Malibu Hotel opposite Durban’s South Beach.

A career highlight during the following decade was a commission to make the seven-part television documentary series, You Don’t Have To Be Irish. This saw the Blarney Brothers taking a month off to film in Ireland for SABC 3. The series was screened in South Africa in 1986 over six weeks.

Since the early 90s, the group have undertaken numerous international tours. Besides appearing in the United Kingdom, they have visited the Far East frequently, appearing in Singapore, Shanghai, Macau, Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Australia.

They have performed in many world famous venues, notably the Excelsior Hotel’s Dickens Bar in Hong Kong during the Hong Kong Rugby 7th every March. Last December saw the group performing at the prestigious annual South African Shang Hai Ball.

“We are always game for a party and look forward to renewing ties with old friends as well as meeting new ones. During our 13 years at The Barn we played to an average of 1,200 people a week. A lot of couples met each other during our shows. Many of them still come back to see us perform, bringing their children and grand kids to meet us” says McIlroy.

While scores of Blarney Brothers fans need no introduction to the famous group, new recruits can log onto for perspectives on their rich performance history, as well as the titles of their CD’s, and other information.

Blarney Party takes place at 14h00 on March 25. (Venue opens 90 minutes before show for picnics & drinks).

Tickets R150 (R130 pensioners, R90 MOTH members & block bookings of 8 or more). Bring food picnic baskets and a bar is available (no alcohol may be brought on to the premises). There is limited secure parking.

Booking is through Computicket or contact Roland on 031 205 7602 or 082 499 8636, email or visit

The Allan Wilson Shellhole is situated at 5 Durban Road in Pietermaritzburg.


(The winners of the competition. Photo Val Adamson)

The annual Iscathamiya Competition hosted by Durban’s Playhouse Company took place on Saturday through to Sunday, March 17 and 18, 2018. Always a red letter event for fans of Iscathamiya, the traditional music genre made famous by Grammy award-winners, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the event drew crowds of supporters who were there to cheer on their favourites.

Now into its 20th year, this annual competition presented by The Playhouse Company, an Agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, has become one of the major highlights of KZN's arts and culture calendar, bringing together music fans and singing groups from all corners of KZN, as well as from the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. A total of 100 groups competed for the coveted prize money totalling R200,000 in the following categories: Top 20, Standard, and Open Section.

A fashion extravaganza was another element to the competition for 55 males and females, the ladies competing in the category known as Onobuhle (Beauty Queens) while the male fashionistas strutted their stuff in the funky category known as Oswenka (Swanking). This event always proves a highlight of delight and glamour in the cultural aspect of Iscathamiya.


1. S.A. Action Boys- Bizana
2. Kokshill White Boys-Harry Gwala
3. Mzamo Young Boys-Pmburg

TOP 20
1. INkululeko- Gauteng
2. Abafana Bokuthula- Harry Gwala
3. Highlands City Boys -Harry Gwala

1. Black Power Angels-Harry Gwala
2. PMB Home Boys
3. Zamani Happy Boys- Durban

Easy Walkers-Durban

1. Lungisani Masango
2. Bhekizenzo Buthelezi
3. Mseni Masondo

1.Mantombi Ndaba
2. Zinhle Sithole
3. Nolitha Khumbaca

1. Dumisani Ngcobo
2. Mfihlakalo Ngobese
3. Simphiwe Ndlovu

1. Samukelisiwe Chadelwa
2. Ayanda Ngcobo
3. Nozipho Mbatha


(Members of the Playhouse Chorale)

The Playhouse Company is bringing back Handel’s Messiah for an Easter Sunday matinee performance on April 1 at 15h00. Directed by theatre luminary Ralph Lawson, the Company’s grandly staged production in Durban’s Opera Theatre features popular soloists, Khumbuzile Dhlamini (soprano), Violina Anguelov (mezzo), Thabiso Masemene (tenor) and Aubrey Lodewyk (baritone), with the 40-strong Playhouse Chorale and members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, performing under the baton of English conductor, Tim Murray.

“Our seasonal production of Handel’s Messiah has long been one of the highlights of The Playhouse Company’s annual arts programme,” says the Company’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Linda Bukhosini. “It is always a profound joy for us to present this universally-loved work, both as a performance showcase for the wealth of vocal talent we are proud to nurture, and as a means of uniting our disparate community audiences in a spirit of faith and harmony through music as a universal language.”

Director Ralph Lawson shares his thoughts about this staging of the great work, which has become the world’s most frequently performed choral masterpiece since it was performed in Dublin in April 1742.

“It's wonderful to have the opportunity to work on a semi-staged version of Messiah, a work of genius that, on every hearing of it (even at rehearsal), bestows a glow of marvellous well-being. The thing that appeals to me most about the work and which I'm trying to bring out in the staging of it, is Handel's humanity, which really infuses the work and makes a version like this possible.

“He was, we are told, profoundly generous and donated regularly to retired musicians, to orphans and to the ill. He gave some of the proceeds from the debut performance to a debtors' prison and a hospital in Dublin. His annual benefit concerts always included Messiah and proceeds went to his favourite charity, a home for abandoned children called the Foundling Hospital in London. And he left the bulk of his considerable estate to charity and to his servants.

“This quality imbues the work, and, in directing it, I've sought to bring it out through the singers’ approach to the text - in other words, to get them to engage emotionally with it rather than reproduce it somewhat technically as they might do in a conventional oratorio performance. For unlike his great contemporary, Bach, whose oratorios exalted God, Handel wrote about human beings' response to God. In this way he can really lift the spirits, because he is writing about human beings for human beings. Small wonder that Beethoven considered Handel ‘the greatest composer that ever lived.

“It's really inspiring to work hand-in-hand with our conductor, Tim Murray, who is a Baroque music performance expert. He and I see eye to eye about a number of things pertinent to the work - in this case a fusion of what is known as ‘historically informed’ detail with the strength and unique quality of our local voices. A lot of the musical dynamics of the piece are later additions by editors and we're stripping these away to get back to basics and ‘real’ meaning.

“Tim and I agree this combination of detail with the strength and glorious sound of African voices is a really potent one. We hope to give the piece a fresh dimension, while offering our audience the traditional Messiah experience which is so much part of what Easter is all about.”

Joining the conversation, conductor Tim Murray adds: “One of my formative musical experiences as a boy chorister was singing Messiah on tour in Holland with the Hannover Band, conductor Roy Goodman and a wonderful group of soloists. It was the late 1980s, and the historically informed style, on original instruments, was long-established, yet in the context of an old-fashioned British choir school it still had a somewhat radical edge. I will never forget the sound of those performances: so fresh, vibrant and alive. Cobwebs well and truly blown away.

“Fast forward thirty years and I am still on tour! As Associate Music Director of Cape Town Opera I am lucky enough to work regularly with South African voices. Much of the wonderful choral tradition of this country has its origin in oratorio singing, so it’s a particular pleasure to come back to Messiah and to see how these two ‘traditions’ can come together in the service of this wonderful piece of music.”

One of the high points of Western music, Handel’s Messiah score abounds with a wealth of evergreen choral items. Among these are the magnificent Hallelujah Chorus, along with equally splendid numbers such as For Unto Us A Child Is Born, And The Glory of the Lord and many more, as well as benchmark solos such as Every Valley, He Was Despised, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion, Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion, The Trumpet Shall Sound and Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage Together, to name but a few.

Messiah takes place at 15h00 on April 1 in the Playhouse Opera. Booking is through Computicket outlets nationwide. Tickets from R110 and R130. Call 0861 915 8000 or book online at Alternatively call Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 (office hours).


(William Charlton-Perkins. Pic by Clinton Marius)

 (Andrew Warburton stars in SASMT’s Gala Concert at Howard College Theatre on April 5. Photo by Val Adamson)

Celebrating musical diversity

A range of artists headed by Durban's star pianist Andrew Warburton appear in a Gala Concert to be presented by the South African Music Teachers’ Association (SASMT) at UKZN’s Howard College Theatre on Thursday April 5. The programme includes masterpieces by Beethoven, Ravel and Brahms. The SASMT gala event, presented in collaboration with UKZN’s School of Music, starts at 19h30. Tickets are R130 (R100 for students and pensioners).

The concert opens with Warburton playing Beethoven’s challenging Bagatelles Opus 126, before being joined onstage by soprano Vanessa Tait-Jones for a performance of Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder (Gypsy Songs). The second half of the evening sees Warburton collaborating with fellow pianist, Christopher Cockburn in a rendition of the original two-piano version Ravel’s La Valse. The programme concludes with another masterpiece, Brahms’ Trio in E flat Major opus 40 for Piano, Violin and Horn, in which Warburton teams with Violeta and Sorin Osorhean (KZNPO Acting Concertmaster and Principal Horn respectively).

The Gala Concert is part of the SASMT’s Centenary Conference, which runs in a number of Durban venues between April 5 and 7, under the banner, The Passion of Music – Celebrating Diversity.

SASMT was initiated 100 years ago to create a network for the promotion of a high standard of professional competence in music teaching and to promote the continuous development of music educators. SASMT invites all music teachers, musicians, students and lovers of music to join it for this year’s inspiring and informative national conference.

Says Dr Rosalie Conrad, current National President of SASMT and convenor of its 2018 Conference: “In keeping with the theme and title of this year’s landmark event, we are delighted to have on board a strongly representative range of leading music academics, teachers and practitioners, who will cover the comprehensive programme we will be presenting during the three-day event.

“Our roster of distinguished specialists and their topics includes:  Dr Patricia Opondo (African Music); Dr Liezl-Marét Jacobs (The Music Teaching Environment); Ronél Perks (Chamber Singing); Priscilla Crundwell (Writing Music Textbooks); Andrew Warburton (Chamber Music with Piano); Vanessa Tait-Jones (Vocal Health); Sue van Blerk (Business Ethics); Prof Chatradari Devroop (Contemporary Music Education); Dr Liezl-Marét Jacobs (South African Piano Music); John Walton (KZNPO Outreach); Iqbal Naroth (Indian Music); Marijke de Bruin (Music and Emotional Intelligence); Dr Andrew-John Bethke (Sociology of Music); Richard Haslop (Steel Guitar); and William Saunderson-Meyer (Jaundiced Eye) Gala Dinner guest speaker.”

For information regarding presentation dates, times and venues, full programme details, entrance rates and profiles of the speakers, visit For further enquiries, contact Heidi van Schoor telephonically on 071 604 7056 or email

Pianist Christopher Duigan is currently performing a recital programme titled The Magical Musical World of Claude Debussy, in recognition of this month’s centenary of the French composer who died in Paris on March 25 1918. Duigan performs iconic items such as Clair de lune, Reflections on the Water, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, Arabesque No 1, Reverie and The Sunken Cathedral tomorrow (Saturday March 24) and on Saturday March 31 at 'Casa Mexicana', 35 Montgomery Drive, Athlone in Pietermaritzburg. His programme will be reprised at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday (March 25) at 11h30; at St Agnes Church in Kloof on Tuesday March 27 at 19h30; and at Amber Auditorium, Howick on Thursday March 29 at 19h00. Booking is via email at or on 083 417 4473 (sms or WhatsApp only). For more information visit

Two choral masterworks are coming up on the Durban music scene. This Sunday (March 25), the Durban Symphonic Choir and the KZNPO perform Dvorak’s Mass in D in St Joseph’s Cathedral, Mariannhill. Conducted by Naum Rousine, the performance starts at 15h00. Tickets are R130, available on, or at the door.

On Easter Sunday (April 1) The Playhouse Company presents Handel’s Messiah in the Playhouse Opera at 15h00. Directed by Ralph Lawson, this grandly staged production features popular soloists - Khumbuzile Dhlamini (soprano), Violina Anguelov (mezzo), Thabiso Masemene (tenor) and Aubrey Lodewyk (baritone) - with the Playhouse Chorale and members of KZNPO performing under the expert baton of British conductor Tim Murray, who is a Baroque music specialist.

Composed in 1741, Messiah was first performed in Dublin in April 1742. After what was described as a ‘modest’ initial public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity to the extent that it has long been one of the most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

Highlights include magnificent choral items such as the renowned Hallelujah Chorus, along with equally splendid numbers such as For Unto Us A Child Is Born, And The Glory of the Lord and many more, as well as benchmark solos such as Every Valley, He Was Despised, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion, Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion, The Trumpet Shall Sound and Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage Together, to name but a few.

Booking for Messiah is at Computicket outlets. Book now to avoid disappointment. Call 0861 915 8000 or book online at Alternatively call Playhouse Box Office on 031-369 9540 (office hours). - William Charlton-Perkins