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Sunday, July 5, 2015


(Baritone Christiaan Bester. Pic by Shawn Northcutt)

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

Magnificent and very well-received concert sets the tone for classical music offerings at NAF. (Review by Keith Millar)

A little while ago, I attended a delightful Friends of Music recital at the Durban Jewish Centre in Durban featuring the Lonestar Classical Voices Quartet. Michael Green’s insightful review of that recital is available on the artSMart webpage at

I enjoyed the concert so much that when I saw that the Quartet was scheduled to perform two concerts at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, I immediately added them to my list of productions not to be missed.

I was fortunate enough to attend their first concert and was once again blown away by the standard of the performance.

The Lonestar Classical Voices Quartet comprises two South African artists who are now based in the USA, two Americans singers and a Korean born accompanist. All five hold doctorate degrees in music.

Singing soprano is the much loved, Durban-born Bronwen Forbay. Forbay was a featured Standard Bank Young Artist for Music at the Festival in 2007. She is also a Fulbright alumna.

The Americans in the group are the serene and graceful mezzo-soprano Jamie van Eyck, and the sweet toned lyrical tenor, Randy Umstead. The impressive baritone voice in the quartet is that of Christiaan Bester, who is another South African based in America. The accompanist is the very accomplished Korean born pianist, Kaju Lee.

The Beethoven Room, which was the venue for the concert was bursting at the seams with concert goers. They reacted ecstatically to the programme of German music which included two groups of Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder (love songs) and a selection of songs from operettas composed by Johan Strauss 11 and Franz Lehár.

The group were joined by pianist Catherine Folcroft for the Liebeslieder.

Favourites were Umstead’s performance of Yours Is My Heart Alone by Franz Lehár, Bronwen Forbay singing My Dear Marquis (The Laughing Song) from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and the duo by Van Eyck and Bester of Though Lips are Sealed from The Merry Widow by Lehár.

Romantic Songs of Love was a magnificent and very well-received concert and sets the tone for the classical music offerings at the festival. The production was presented by the National Arts Festival with the support of the American Embassy and in association with Baylor University and Georgia College. – Keith Millar

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