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.

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.