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Tuesday, September 1, 2020



(Left: Albertina Sisulu)

 “As Women’s Month draws to a close, we pay our final tribute to one of South Africa’s most loved and notable women, Albertina Sisulu,” says Bongani Tembe, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra.

 “Ma Sisulu, as she was affectionately known, was an activist and nurse and one of the most important leaders of anti-apartheid resistance in South Africa. She was a champion of human rights throughout her life, along with her husband and fellow activist, Walter Sisulu.

 “She gracefully balanced the life of being a mother, working professional woman, political activist and a supportive partner to her husband, who was on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. She was a tireless champion for human dignity.

 “At the first sitting of the nation’s democratically elected parliament in Cape Town she rose as a Member of Parliament to nominate her friend and comrade, Nelson Mandela, as president of a democratic South Africa,” Tembe adds.

(Right: Composer John Knox Bokwe)

In this special tribute, performed in 2018, the KZN Philharmonic presents two memorable works by South African composers: John Knox Bokwe – whose moving song Plea for Africa was conducted by Cathrine Winnes and performed by Siphokazi Maphumulo with four choirs; and Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Ma Sisulu Sinfonia - dedicated to the life of stalwart Albertina Sisulu. 

Ndodana-Breen is a distinguished South African composer who is currently a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

(Left: Conductor Cathrine Winnes)


Bokwe (arr. Cock): Plea for Africa (5 minutes)

Conductor: Cathrine Winnes

Soloist: Siphokazi Maphumulo, soprano

Choirs: Clermont Community Choir, Durban Symphonic Choir and Thokozani Choral Society


(Right: Composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen)

 Ndodana-Breen: Ma Sisulu Sinfonia (10 minutes)

Conductor: Justus Frantz

Composer: John Knox Bokwe | 1855-1922

Plea for Africa – arr. Sue Cock in 1998


Programme Notes:

John Knox Bokwe

Bokwe was a real pioneer in South African society during the 66 years his talents were given to us. As a journalist, Presbyterian minister and one of the most celebrated Xhosa hymn writers and musicians of his time, he left us a rich legacy.

His Plea for Africa, an ode to our beautiful continent, is one of the cornerstones in any African hymn collection. Although there are traces of a Victorian revivalist hymnology to be found, it also has a more African flavour – especially in the soprano solos which is part of it. Its message is both universal and inclusive. The influential Walter Sisulu, for one, championed this classical piece throughout his life.


Conductor: Cathrine Winnes

Norwegian born Winnes studied music pedagogy, classic saxophone and conducting and graduated with a master's degree in orchestral conducting. She has conducted several of the Norwegian professional orchestras and all of Norway's professional military orchestras. She has been guest conductor for various orchestras and is the artistic director at the Symphony Orchestra at the University of Oslo. In 2008 she started to work as a lecturer in conducting at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

(Left: Soloist Siphokazi Maphumulo)

Soloist: Siphokazi Maphumulo

Regarded as a true trailblazer for young women in the Arts and respected for her operatic talent, Maphumulo holds an honours degree in Industrial Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and has been part of the Playhouse Chorale for five years, performing in Messiah and other Playhouse productions. Her performing abilities started to blossom in 2009 when she represented KZN in the South African Schools’ Choral Eisteddfod (SASCE) in four pieces under the opera section.

“My parents have played a huge role in what I have achieved, they have been very supportive. I am a young mother and would like to say to the other young mothers out there that they must not allow their situations to define them,” she said.


Choir Biographies:

The Clermont Community Choir will soon be celebrating its 30th Anniversary. An undefeated champion at the famous prestigious Old Mutual National Choir Festival, the choir specialises in different music genres with a special focus on choral, opera, classical and African Indigenous music. The choir is based in Durban with 85 members based countrywide; membership varies from scholars, tertiary students, workers and employment-seekers.

The Durban Symphonic Choir made its debut a half century ago, in 1966, with a performance in Durban’s City Hall of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. Founder member, Jacqueline Anderson, identified this as an appropriate choice for the choir – an institution infused with energy, on a mission to celebrate and deliver an infinite variety of musical works to supportive audiences. Many hundreds of choir members and numerous audiences have, over the past 50 years, been enriched by the DSC’s rich repertoire which, as well as its solid classical base, incorporates light classical works, items from musicals and pop operas. It is the DSC’s hope that the work begun fifty years ago – mastering choral compositions for our own enjoyment, and the pleasure of our audiences – will continue for many years to come.

Thokozani Choral Society’s story began when the Thokozani Brothers Choir – a group of 10 men – started singing traditional music in Khayelitsha in 1997. In 2004, this choir had an enormous break – their first international performance in Switzerland that celebrated the first decade of democracy in South Africa. Since then, the Thokozani Together has reached thousands of children from communities across Khayelitsha.

Composer: Bongani Ndodana-Breen | B. 1975 -

Ma Sisulu Sinfonia (2018)

This gentle orchestral piece reflects the quiet strength and resilience of a matriarch who is one of the giants of South Africa’s liberation movement. It hints at the sound world of Sisulu’s Xhosa roots in the Eastern Cape’s Tsomo district. This is achieved through allusions to bow-harp (uhadi) patterns and distinctly African melodic contours of the Xhosa hexatonic scale found in the traditional music of that region. The piece also incorporates quiet hints of anti-apartheid songs, filtered and manipulated by various compositional techniques.

The use of “sinfonia” in the title is intended to reinforce the non-programmatic nature of the music. Ma Sisulu Sinfonia is not intended as a “portrait” piece but more of a composer’s poetic meditation on the personal traits of an extraordinary woman. Ma Sisulu Sinfonia is a continuation of a cycle of operatic and orchestral works by the composer reflecting on themes of African heroes and historic moments in South Africa’s journey to liberation.

(Right: Conductor Justus Frantz)

Conductor: Justus Frantz

A name that one associates with outstanding orchestras and an absolute commitment to music, Professor Justus Frantz has been an internationally successful pianist and conductor for more than 30 years. He has served classical music countless times by constantly discovering and nurturing young musical talents. He is chief conductor of the Philharmonia of the Nations and works regularly with renowned orchestras all over the world such as the Mariinsky Theatre, the Great Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sinfonia Varsovia and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra.


Your Donation Counts!

Together with the World Symphony Series, the KZNPO also undertakes a comprehensive education, development and community engagement programme which exposes more than 30,000 urban and township learners to educational music concerts. Without the support of those who share their love for music and commitment to being an essential resource for the people of South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra would be hard-pressed to achieve its mission. It is a registered Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) with SARS.


KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra

FNB: Durban Main Branch

Branch Code: 221426

Current Acc No: 62001363689

(To link direct to the KZN Philharmonic’s website click on the orchestra’s banner advert on the top of the page or visit