An exciting and joyous occasion. (Review by Michael Green)
The Durban City Hall was full of the sound of Zulu music for the fifth concert of the spring season of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concert was dedicated to Heritage Day and to the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Zulu kingdom by King Shaka. It was mainly a vocal concert, and it revealed an impressive array of composers and performers, all of them South Africans.
The stage was crowded with the 70 players of the KZNPO and a choir of about a hundred singers from three Durban groups: the Clermont Community Choir, the Prince Mshiyeni Choir from Umlazi and the Thokozani Choral Society from KwaMashu.
There were three conductors during the evening: Russian-born Naum Rousine, who has been a member of the KZNPO for 20 years; Msizi Myandu and Monty Manamela.
The six composers on the programme were Naum Rousine himself, born in 1947; Phelelani Simon Mnomiya, born 1960; Hendrik Hofmeyr, 1957, from Cape Town; Mzilikazi Khumalo, 1932-; Warren Bessey, 1959-; and Newman Sibisi, 1946-.
There were a dozen vocal soloists, among them Bongani Tembe, chief executive of the KNPO, whose well-trained tenor was heard to good effect.
Other notables included the sopranos Nozuko Teto and Thembisile Twala; the mezzo Nana Mkhize; and the baritones Andile Dlamini and Mthunzi Nokubeka.
One of the remarkable performances of the evening came from a non-Zulu, Magdalena de Vries, playing a marimba concerto by Hendrik Hofmeyr. The marimba is a set of wooden bars struck with mallets, with metal tubes, resonators, underneath to amplify the sound. It was developed in Central America in the 17th century but it has its origins in Africa.
Magdalena’s four flying mallets, two in each hand playing simultaneously, gave a performance that was as beguiling visually as it was aurally.
The programme opened with a composition by Naum Rousine with a distinctive military character called Warriors: Festive Overture.
This was followed by an excerpt from Mnoymiya’s short opera called uZiyankomo, which recalls a poignant episode in Zulu history.
Warren Bessey was represented by Nandi, a symphonic poem paying tribute to the mother of Shaka, and Newman Sibisi by Uz’ungangilahli Jehova, Do not abandon me, Lord, for tenor, choir and orchestra.
Splendid music for voices and orchestra by the highly accomplished Mzilikazi Khumalo completed the programme: KwaDedangendlale, a hymn-like anthem, and excerpts from his oratorio uShaka kaSenzangakhona.
This concert was an exciting and joyous occasion. - Michael Green
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