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Monday, July 13, 2015


(Musa Ngqungwana)

(Reviews from the artSMart team at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown)

A concert to be savoured and remembered. (Review by Keith Millar)

Every year, the National Arts Festival selects emerging, young South African artists who have made a significant impact in their particular field of artistic endeavour, and recognises their talent by awarding them with the Standard Bank Young Artist Award.

This prestigious award not only carries a cash prize but also affords them national recognition and acclaim. They are also given the opportunity to feature on the main programme at the festival.

The Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music this year was the very impressive bass-baritone singer, Musa Ngqungwana. Not only did he appear as a soloist with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra in their Gala Concert but presented two concerts of his own at the Rhodes Chapel. I had the great pleasure of attending one of these concerts.

Ngqungwana, who was born in the Eastern Cape but is now based in the USA, has a sumptuous voice. It is rich, powerful and sonorous, and seems come from the depths of his soul. He displayed admirable control and precision, and considerable musicality in a performance of some distinction.

The programme started with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, a cycle of nine songs drawn from a collection of poems of the same name by Robert Louis Stevens. Next was Vier Ernste Gesänge Op.121 (Four Serious Songs) by Johannes Brahms. They were written in 1896 and based on bible texts.

Completing the programme was Maurice Ravel’s Don Quichotte á Dulcinée. This was written, but never used, for a 1930’s a movie about Don Quixote.

Ngqungwana sings with an outwardly effortless ease. He has a wonderful voice, substantial stage presence and considerable charisma. He appears to be the whole deal and it is little wonder that he has a fast-growing international reputation.

The concert took place in the acoustically agreeable Rhodes Chapel on a chilly Grahamstown evening. However, Ngqungwana’s excellent performance certainly warmed up the atmosphere for the disappointingly small audience. Much to this audience’s delight he gave an exciting rendition of the South Pacific hit, Some Enchanted Evening, as an encore.

Accompanying Ngqungwana was the very accomplished French pianist Laurent Phillipe. He provided a sympathetic and dramatic backing for the singer.

All in all it was a concert to be savoured and remembered. – Keith Millar

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