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.

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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 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.