More Music : The Rest of the Fest 3

What I know about music is dangerous. I don’t know who was more relieved when I stopped piano lessons as a child – me, my teacher, the piano, or the rest of the family who had endured my clanging. But just because I can not produce music myself doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. And being ignorant has advantages – I have attended concerts where friends have engaged in fierce debates about the merits of the various performers. While I just smile and think “That was nice”.

So I will not attempt to comment or critique the music I heard during the festival. Suffice to say that I enjoyed all the shows I went to. Which were:

18 Strings – Steve Newman, Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery. All three were amazing, but it was particularly awesome when they played together. At one point I counted seven guitars on stage. And came away with two new cds for my collection (I already own several by Steve Newman).

Bach Goldberg Variations –  Zanta Hofmeyer (violin), Morkel Combrink (viola), Wessel Beukes (cello). Beautiful.

North Sea Big Band – jazz  A collaboration between jazz musicians from South Africa, Norway, Scandinavia and Finland. Wonderful stuff, with an amusing note when they included a vuvuzela.

Symphony – Cape Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra – conductor Richard Cock, soloist  Florian Uhlig, who was so good I almost wished I could play the piano. They played pieces by E von Reznicek, Robert Schumann and Antonin Dvorak.

Celso Duarte & Ensemble – music from Mexico, a mix of traditional, classical and jazz. Celso Duarte played the harp and many other instruments, accompanied by a wonderful group of musicians. I was fascinated by the unfamiliar instruments, particularly the guy who played what looked like the jawbone of a donkey!

Home from Home – Chris Mann and Nia – Chris Mann’s poems set to music, accompanied by local band Nia, against a backdrop of artwork by Julia Skeen.


A Song and Dance

The Rest of the Fest – Part 2

Songs of Migration – compiled by Hugh Masakela and James Ncgobo and featuring Hugh Masakela and Sibongile Khumalo, this was an awesome show.  Using music and dance the talented cast capture the experiences of migrancy in South Africa.

Ballet Bonanza : Festival is pretty much the only time I get to see ballet, so the ballet is usually one of the first pages I look at in the programme (unless we are fortunate to have an opera on). This year there were two productions from Cape Town City Ballet.  They put on Carmen two years ago, so I decided to give that a miss. The other programme, Ballet Bonanza was a mix of extracts from different ballets.  It was a lovely show, with highlights from old favourites, and some less familiar pieces.  What was particularly lovely for me was seeing so many children in the audience. This was an ideal show to introduce little ones to ballet, with short pieces and no complicated story, just a chance to sit back and enjoy the music and the dancing.

Sentimientos – this was a very different dance production, but equally delightful. La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre put on an energetic and beautiful performance of flamenco dancing. I was swept away by the colours, the movement and the glorious music (courtesy of a live five-piece band). Stamping feet, castanets, guitars, a double bass all combined with the swirling skirts and flowing movements. Ole!

The Rest of the Fest

I had all sorts of good intentions about blogging every day during festival. This site seemed a good space to write brief reviews of shows I had seen, and what I had been up to. Sadly this did not happen.

I was so busy that all I could manage was a brief Facebook update on the previous day’s show. While it is now too late to help publicise the shows, I do want to at least make a note of what I saw, and what I thought of each one. So over the next few days I will post brief entries on my festival activities.

My brief festival summary: I saw a lot of shows, and I liked them all. I didn’t get to many of the art exhibitions and missed all the films, talks and lectures. But I did see a good mix of dance, drama, comedy, physical theatre and music (classical, contemporary and jazz). And I somehow managed to still see a few of the soccer matches on tv.

The Best of Three

So far I have seen three shows at the Arts Festival. And all three have been worth seeing.

Poster for Breed

BREED : A play written and directed by Brink Scholtz, for the Ubom Theatre Company and featuring Andrew Buckland. The advert in the programme was rather vague – “a darkly comic tale” does not tell you much. But Ubom is usually good, and both Brink and Andrew Buckland are pretty much guarantees of a good show. So this seemed a good show to start off my festival.

It was a wonderful play. I was impressed by the script and the performances, with each actor captivating the audience. It is indeed a darkly comic tale, showing the intersections between a man, his daughter, a group of squatters and a hapless delivery man. All bound together by a vicious dog, whose unseen presence imbued the play with an atmosphere of barely suppressed fear and potential violence.  I have recommended this play to several people, and those who have gone to see it agreed it was brilliant.

NO FAT JOKES was a bit lighter in tone. I was attracted by the title alone, even before reading the blurb. Written and directed by Roshnee Guptar, it  rails against the conspiracy of the skinny people, as they wage war against fat people.   It will make you laugh, it will make you smile (in discomfort or recognition, depending on which side of the battle line you fall). It will make you want to eat a donut.  Zanne Solomon gives a strong performance . I look forward to seeing her in her other show, Shaggy.

GOOSEBUMP MADRIGALS AND MORE –  The Boulevard Harmonists are an a capella ensemble, made up of students at the University of the North-West in Potchefstroom. While the members might change over the years, the group is a regular at the festival, and is always worth listening to. This year was no exception. The first half of the show featured 16th century madrigals, performed to full effect in the Rhodes Chapel. The second half was equally beautiful, but with slightly more contemporary music, including a crowd-pleasing rendition of “The Bare Necessities”, from the film The Jungle Book. The young singers are highly accomplished and it was a delightful end to the first day of festival.

Curtain up!

Sunday June 20 2010, Grahamstown. The National Arts Festival is officially open.

I have been watching the posters going up, scaffolding for seats being carried into halls, traders setting up stalls in High Street. And now it has all begun.

I have a busy festival ahead of me, with something on almost every night. I will try to blog on a daily basis about shows I have attended and any other interesting festival experiences.

At the moment, my favourite poster is one for a show called The Game. It shows a slightly manic face superimposed on a large green tennis ball. Underneath, in big friendly letters is the line: We are not coming! I have no idea what the show is about, but every time I see the poster it makes me laugh.

Festino moment of the set-up stage was seeing a group of traders putting up a tent, and quite happily tying their ropes around the optimistic sign saying “No Camping”. Somehow I think that is a losing battle.

I had a head start on festive events with two book launches this week. Thursday saw the launch of Chris Mann’s book Home from Home: New and Selected Poems. He performed a few poems with the group Nia. They have a show on at festival and if the three poems we heard were anything to go by, it will be worth attending. I bought a copy of the book and look forward to reading it once things have calmed down.

Then last night I was at another poetry launch, this time Kobus Moolman with his new collection, Light and After. Kobus read several poems which were moving and haunting. Needless to say, another book bought and added to my to be read pile.

Today I have two shows booked. First up is a play Breed and this evening I attend an a capella show, Goosebump Madrigals. Depending how I feel I might go to a comedy No Fat Jokes. How could I not like a show with a title like that. Although there is also the tempting thought of going home and watching the soccer.

My world cup activities will be somewhat curtailed now that the festival is upon us. Time to turn off the television and see live theatre.

It is coming!

No, I am not referring to that small sports event being held in South Africa.  I am talking about the National Arts Festival, starting in Grahamstown on 20 July 1010.

This is an annual extravaganza of art, with music, drama, dance, comedy, crafts, exhibitions, talks and much more. Grahamstown is transformed as thousands of artists, performers, stall holders and festinos flood into town. Even is you don’t attend a single show, the people watching potential of this event is enormous.

I love the festival, and am always excited when it finally starts. But I must admit that after a week I am getting tired and irritable and am quite ready for everyone to go home. So how I will cope with an extra long festival remains to be seen. While most events that usually happen in June and July  have been cancelled or rescheduled (you know, that small sporting event that we won’t mention), for some strange reason the organisers of the arts festival felt it would be a good idea to extend the run. From 10  to 15 days.

We are waiting to see if this is really a good idea. On the one hand, we might get a lot of extra visitors. Either foreign tourists who have come to South Africa to watch sport and decided to take a break from soccer for a bit of culture. And then there are South Africans from the host cities trying to avoid the sport. So this could be a bumper festival. On the other hand, it might be very quiet. I wonder how many people really want to travel at this time, what with expensive tickets and crowded airports to contend with.  And some days or nights it will pose a dilemma for festinos – do I got to a show, or do I stay at home and watch soccer?

In my case the answer will usually be  – go to a show. I already have several shows booked, and will add a few more to the list. I will blog about the shows I attend, here and on facebook. And will most likely be talking about little else over the next few weeks.

Let the games begin show start.

Happy Museum Day

18 May is International Museum Day. The theme for this year is “Museums for Social Harmony”. Something we can certainly do with in South Africa.

Museums record the history and culture of a country, a community. Apart from providing an interesting glimpse into the past, knowledge of where we came from can help us get to where we want to go. And hopefully avoid endlessly repeating the same mistakes.

Many people never visit museums, seeing them as boring places they were forced to visit as children. If you are one of those people, please consider visiting your local museum. You might be surprised.

New Coin on BookSA

 The latest issue of New Coin got a mention on BookSA, listing the poets included in the issue and giving three sample poems.
 BookSA is a vibrant site, giving a lot of interesting information about all aspects of South African literature. It is well worth visiting.  It is great to have New Coin included as one of the literary journals they promote, as poetry needs all the publicity available.

Autumn in the kitchen

There is a new post on my cooking blog: Crystal Cooks, giving an update on progress for for my cooking challenge for March and April. I was away a lot during that time so treated it as one  month.

One recipe book, four new recipes. Two flops! Not a good statistic. Hopefully I will make nicer dishes in May. To read the full post go to March-April Update

For new readers who are wondering what this is about – I have challenged myself to try four or five new recipes each month, working through a different recipe book each time.

World Book Day

23 April is World Book Day. I wanted to post something book related on that day. For various reasons I was not near a computer, but I did get to spend some time reading. Always a good thing, whatever day it is.

I thought I would add to the book celebrations by listing some of my favourite books as a child. This is a fairly random list, and I know I have left off a lot. I suspect the moment I hit the publish button I will think of another one I really should have included.

So this is really just a snapshot of some of the books which got me hooked, turning me into an avid reader.

Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation (science fiction for children, written for the author’s daughter, and one of my favourite books. And yes, this is the same Terry Nation who was a scriptwriter for Dr Who)

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue FishDr Seuss – for the love of words, the rhythm and rhyme, and the wonderful bizarreness of some of the words and images. I loved all of his books, but this was my favourite.

Enid Blyton –  How could I just pick one?  I worked my way through all the Secret Seven, Famous Five, Adventure series and others. I wasn’t that keen on the boarding school books (by Blyton or any other author) but loved the Magic Faraway Tree and the fairy tales and stories of talking toys.

Hilda Bosman’s Omnibus – a great tome of a book, with beautiful illustrations. It contained nursery rhymes, fairy tales, poems and extracts from classic children’s books. Many happy hours were spent with this book. And the extracts sent me searching for the rest of the story.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe C S Lewis – I read and enjoyed the whole Narnia series, but this was always my favourite.

Bears in the NightStan and Jan Berenstain. Naughty bears sneak out of bed, one at a time. Each page showed the progress of all the bears, eg Out  of bed. Out the window. Down the tree. This was a book to be read and recited, especially at the end when the bears get a fright and race back to bed. My sister and I used to see who could recited the route back to bed the fastest.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne – what more needs to be said about the bear of little brain and his friends. I loved (and still love) Pooh but my favourites were the insecure Piglet and melancholic Eeyore. Characters I can still relate to.

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame The gentle adventures of Mole, Ratty, Mr Badger and the outrageous Mr Toad were a delight.

HeidiJohanna Spyri – a classic account of an orphan going to live with her grandfather on the Swiss Alps. I can’t think how many times I read this book and the sequels.

The Lion in the GatewayMary Renault – historical fiction for children. A simplified tale of the war between ancient Greece and Persia, and the sacrifice of Leonides and his Spartan soldiers, this inspired a love of history, of myth and legend.

So here you have a few of my favourite things. Which books would be on your list?