national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, October 2, 2022


(Above: Jeff Robinson & Melvin Peters)

St James Church in Morningside is celebrating its 120th anniversary with a concert of unusual music, featuring Melvin Peters on organ/keyboards and Jeff Robinson on saxophone on October 9 at 15h00, entitled Unconventional.

The highlight of the concert will see Melvin Peters performing live organ accompaniment to the iconic, much-loved vintage 1920 black and white movie, The Scarecrow. Peters was first engaged to create music for The Scarecrow in October 2019 for Musgrave Methodist Church, to celebrate the refurbishment of their church organ.

The Scarecrow is a short 19-minute (two reel) family-friendly silent comedy film starring a youthful Buster Keaton. It is perhaps best-known for its opening scene in which Keaton and co-star Joe Roberts, are doing household chores with an array of delicious Heath-Robinson type ropes-and-pulley labour-saving devices. Later in the film, Keaton tries desperately and comically to outrun Luke the dog – the real-life pet of silent movie pioneer, Fatty Arbuckle, who mentored Charlie Chaplin and discovered Buster Keaton. Keaton’s real father does a turn as the furious farmer who realises his daughter and Buster’s character are in love.

The idea is to emulate the time when pianists were hired to play accompaniment to silent movies. In this context, spontaneous music will be played on the organ, creating a very different feel to the appreciation of the movie.

Melvin Peters and Jeff Robinson are both known for their performances primarily in the jazz arena. However, on this occasion, they will draw on influences from other genres as well. The combination of organ and saxophone is unusual, allowing them to perform a repertoire of interesting and surprising music. He and Peters have worked together for at least three decades in different bands, including Platform Jazz and the KZN All Stars.

The audience will be treated to a varied programme of music with a focus on improvisation, taking listeners on a musical journey. Peters will perform an unusual repertoire of hymns – many from outside the Western Classical spectrum. Durban’s own pianist / organist, he straddles the worlds of sacred music and pure jazz with a repertoire that ranges from mainstream to modern.

Peters is known for his solid musicianship, his creativity and imaginative improvisatory skills. He has performed abroad, most notably in the United States, United Kingdom, and various parts of Europe. He has collaborated with several South African artists, including Abdullah Ibrahim. A personal highlight was the opportunity to share the stage with Dave Brubeck in 1999. He is currently the Music Director at St Paul’s Church, Durban.

Jeff Robinson is a retired academic from UKZN, having taught Music Education there for several years. He has a strong classical background, and he draws on this tradition when he is improvising. His clarity of sound is refreshing, and his excellent technique allows him to play effortlessly.

Tickets R100 which includes refreshments after the show. To book contact Tessa Lee on

The concert is being held at 15h00 on October 9, 2022. St James Church is at 115 Venice Road, Morningside.