national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, April 4, 2014


 Michael Green reports on Friends of Music’s success to date.

The Friends of Music organisation has for more than 30 years played a major role in the cultural life of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa in general.

It was founded in 1982 by Dr Vera Dubin, a retired dermatologist (skin specialist) who lives in Durban, and she is still the chairman of the organisation.

The intention from the outset was to provide a recital platform for musicians of high quality, and that objective has been totally fulfilled. Several hundred distinguished international, national and local artists have performed for the Friends of Music over the years, and the tempo continues unabated. This year the Friends of Music will present 16 concerts involving about 40 musicians.

These have included performers on the piano, violin, flute, cello, guitar, French horn, recorder and of course a wide variety of singers.

Many big names have appeared for the Friends of Music in the recitals given at the Durban Jewish Centre, for example the pianists Christina Ortiz from Brazil, Libor Novacek from Czechoslovakia, Spencer Myer and Brian Wallick from the United States, the cellist Jerome Pernoo from France, the South African soprano Bronwen Forbay, and several of the distinguished new musicians emerging from the East, from China, Korea and Japan.

South African performers such as Njabulo Madlala (baritone), Albie van Schalkwyk (piano) and Christopher Duigan (piano) have featured prominently on Friends of Music programmes.

Chamber music – duos, trios, quartets, quintets – has been a strong component in the programmes, presenting South African musicians such as Boris Kerimov (cello) and Elena Kerimova (violin), husband and wife members of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra; David Snaith (viola); Liezl-Maret Jacobs (piano); and Avigail Bushakevitz (violin) and Ammiel Bushakevitz (piano), sister and brother.

One of the most important functions of the Friends of Music has been the development of promising young local musicians. They appear as Prelude Performers for 15 minutes at the start of each concert, and funds from the National Lottery have enabled the Friends of Music to provide this unique service; the Friends of Music are the only association in the world providing a platform for young players on this basis.

Many of these Prelude Performers have in time become fully-fledged soloists with substantial reputations in South Africa and abroad.

The Friends of Music also present, in association with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, pre-concert lectures during the orchestra’s symphony seasons. These 45-minute talks, illustrated with musical examples and given at the Durban Playhouse, are designed to enlighten and entertain audiences before they walk across the road to the City Hall to attend the symphony concerts.

Entrance charges for Friends of Music recitals are very reasonable, in accordance with a policy of making good classical music available to all at an affordable price. Ticket prices are R60 for members of the Friends of Music (R70 for non-members and R20 for students). Membership costs a mere R25 a year.

It is not surprising that the Friends of Music organisation has been honoured by the KZNPO and by the Minister of Arts and Culture. It is official recognition of what all Durban music-lovers know: this is an organisation that is making an invaluable contribution to the musical life of the community. – Michael Green