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Sunday, May 21, 2017


(Back: Luxolo Mahlasela & Ethan Mackenzie. 2nd row: Benjamin Burton, Avuya Ngcaweni, Rachel Luyt & Brendan O’Loughlin. Front row: Andrew Ward, Weien Amy Luo, Fiona Nomvelo McIlroy & Sabastian Marimuthu)

Every performer gave their all and covered themselves with glory. (Review by Keith Millar)

This must rank among one of the most feel-good events on the Durban music calendar.

Sixteen precociously talented young classical musicians, between the ages of nine and the early 20’s, appearing as soloists with South Africa’s premier orchestra, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, on stage at the Playhouse Drama Theatre.

This annual event is a collaboration between the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and the South African Society of Music Teachers. There were 37 applications to take part in this prestigious concert and after a rigorous audition process the best 16 were chosen.

One can only imagine what a boost it must be for these young artists to be invited to play with a professional orchestra in front of a discerning audience.

Every one of the young performers on display grasped their opportunity and performed their chosen work with flair, enthusiasm and attitude. There may have been the occasional display of nerves and the odd stray note but it mattered not at all as every performer gave their all and covered themselves with glory.

Many of the young performers are students of members of the KZNPO. This gave extra spice to the event with teacher and student playing together on stage and sharing the exciting experience.

The KZNPO gave a spirited, proficient and sympathetic execution of the wide cross-section of musical items performed. Under the baton of Maestro Naum Rousine, their performance added a great amount to the success of the event.

Rousine himself was his usual supportive and understanding self as he guided his young soloists through their performances.

Standout performer on the evening was nine-year-old pianist Weien Amy Luo a pupil at Crawford Prep in La Lucia. She is a tiny girl who needed extensions to reach the pianos pedals. How her hands stretch to play chords on the keyboard is a mystery. However, she gave a performance of considerable skill and élan. She has played a concerto with the orchestra every year since she was four. This prodigy is headed for stardom.

Also of note was young opera tenor Luxolo Mahlasela. This 22-year-old is a student at the UKZN Opera School. He has a beautiful and superbly-controlled voice. Another who may be headed for future stardom.

While signalling out these two, I must reiterate that there was not a poor performance on the night. Every one of the young performers gave their all and solicited resounding reactions from the audience. But space does not allow that I make individual comment about all of them.

However, with my congratulation and gratitude for a superb evening of music, I wish to list them all.

On trumpet were Brendan O’Loughlin (14) from Thomas More College and Andrew Ward (11) from Chelsea Prep School. Both learn their instrument with the KZN Philharmonic’s Cathy Peacock.

Rachel Luyt (15) from St Mary’s studies the saxophone with KZN Philharmonic’s Kirsten Sayers.

Esihle Mthethwa (12) from Wykeham Collegiate is studying flute with Jennifer du Plessis.

Weien Amy Luo (9) from Crawford Prep studies piano with Philippa Greenwood.

Benjamin Burton (13) and Sabastian Marimuthu (12), both from Highbury, study violin with KZN Philharmonic’s Petya Koleva.

Leia Poona (15), also a violinist, is from Crawford College and studies with KZN Philharmonic’s Elena Kerimova.

Ethan Mackenzie (14) studies piano with Melissa Greyvenstein and goes to school at Kharwastan Secondary.

Siyolisa Nyondo (a fellowship player with the KZN Philharmonic) studies with principal double bass player Simon Milliken. She was accompanied by Kgaugelo Mpyane from the Free State University playing viola.

Morgan Coackley (15) is home-schooled and studies cello with KZNPO’s co-principal Aristide du Plessis.

Vocalists were Robyn Gillespie (17), a learner at Crawford College North Coast, studying voice with Ros Conrad, Avuya Ngcaweni (20) and Luxolo Mahlasela (22), both studying voice under Lionel Mkhwanazi at UKZN and Fiona Nomvelo McIlroy (16) from Reddam House who is being mentored by Tonya Koenderman.

The KZN Young Performers Concert is a very special occasion. I doubt that a single member of the audience left without their hearts full and a sense of wonder at the standard of the next generation of classical musicians. Look out for this concert next year – but book early as the tickets understandably sell out very quickly. – Keith Millar