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Friday, July 3, 2009


Music transforms the spirit at the National Arts Festival.

Winning hearts and minds and transforming cynicism into wonderment, scores of South Africa’s finest musicians join forces with foreign guests in a resounding celebration of the human spirit at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from July 2 to 11. Ten days tingling with the magic of live music.

The tribe of performers ranges from the young and new to icons of jazz, contemporary and classical music. Rock sensation Jesse Clegg and Young Artist Award-winning baritone Jacques Imbrailo are listed alongside Afro-diva Busi Mhlongo, the hot pop-indie quartet The Parlotones and The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, to name a few.

The Eastern Cape Indigenous Orchestra presents a concert of timeless themes performed on traditional instruments, taking audiences back to the source of inspiration for many contemporary composers.

The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s symphony concert conducted by Bernhard Gueller features soloist Catherine Foxcroft (piano) and their programme includes Moerane’s great anthem Fatso la heso (My Country), Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 23 Opus 26 and Brahms’ Symphony No 1 Opus 28. The orchestra’s Gala Concert under the baton of Allan Stephenson features Young Artist Award winner Jacques Imbrailo (baritone) as soloist. The programme includes 14 classical favourites. Leaving no ear untuned, the hard-working orchestra will also accompany the Cape Town City Ballet’s double bill: Paquita and La Sylphide.

In a second appearance, Jacques Imbrailo is accompanied by Waldo Weyer (piano) for a programme that features Schumann Dichterliebe and vocal compositions by Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky.

A previous Young Artist Award winner, Zanne Stapelberg joins forces with guitar maestro James Grace for Canciones en Español, a whirl of song from Spain and Latin America. In his solo recital, Grace pays tribute to masters of the guitar: Rodrigo, Tárrega, Albéniz, Granados and Pujol. More Latin rhythms pulse in the Trio Hemanay’s one programme with tangos by Hendrik Hofmeyr and Astor Piazzolla. This celebrated trio cleverly counterbalances works by Haydn, Muyanga, Rutter, Rachmaninoff and Damase in their other programme.

Music talks to music across the ages in Viva Baroque Cello, two recitals by Hans Huyssen (cello) and Andrew Cruickshank (harpsichord). Their first recital is pure Bach; the second juxtaposes Italian Baroque sounds with African rock. In her concert, Busi Mhlongo fuses traditions like mbaqanga and marabi with elements as diverse as funk, opera and gospel.

Music talking to music across cultural differences sees traditional Xhosa musicians Madosini Latozi Mpahleni and Dizo Plaatjies in dialogue with avant-garde Swiss Ensemble baBel. East Meets West has the sitar, sarod and tabla striking deep chords with cello and saxophone.

In An African American Celebration of Music, Marcus Eley (clarinette) and Lucerne DeSa (piano) pay tribute to the enduring spirit of the Mother Continent that informs contemporary compositions by African Americans. Other visitors from the US include The Pacific Boychoir, a renowned ensemble from an academy in California. The Voices of Cape Town choir directed by Lungile Jacobs pays tribute to the great South African composer Michael Moerane. Three tenors join Chilean violinist Juan Munoz and Filipino pianist Mariel Ilusorio with special involvement of Ambassador Virgilio Reyes to introduce audiences to the music of the Philippines. (Audiences can also take in a programme of movies from the Philippines in the Film programme.)

In addition music features strongly in a number of the works on the main theatre programme and as always the Jazz Festival programme offers fans a feast of entertainment.

The Fringe musical programme ranges from rock to pop, through tributes to gems from the classical repertoire. In addition, playing and singing is actively encouraged at the Village Green Craft precincts, and on the streets of Grahamstown.

Further details are available in the free Festival Booking Kits, which are available from selected Standard Bank branches, Exclusive Books and Computicket outlets nationwide. Booking is at Computicket. For further information visit

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Sunday Independent and MNet.