Orchestras need Rainbow Nation audiences

DRIVING FORCE: Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis

I love going to hear the UCT Symphony Orchestra at the Baxter, not only because the Concert Hall is a super venue for music, but it gives me the chance to check on the way this orchestra, as well as the Cape Town Philharmonic, is changing. Our orchestras will only survive if they attract musicians of every colour, race and gender and pull in an audience representative of our Rainbow Nation.

I can’t tell you accurately how many women are in the UCT orchestra as their bobbing heads kept appearing and disappearing but they seemed to be in ever-growing numbers. No longer confined to lady-like bowing in the back benches, these musicians were making their violins, violas and cellos sing out loud and clear and feminine faces were also visible among the brass, horns and in Paul Creston’s Concertino for marimba and orchestra, conducted by Bernhard Gueller.

The five-octave western concert grand marimba was a huge surprise. When pushed on to the Baxter’s Concert Hall stage it looked more like a utility mobile stretcher, the wheels of which immediately had to be tightened so the instrument didn’t roll off the stage into the auditorium.

In contrast Soyoung An, the Seoul-born percussionist and soloist, was dwarfed in her little flat shoes. However the moment she picked up her mallets and began dexterously striking the wooden bars with confidence and vigour, you knew she knew what she was doing. She probably covered half a kilometre running up and down hitting the wooden bars arranged like the keys of a piano in groups of two or three.

The resonators, suspended underneath the bars, amplified the somewhat strangely appealing metallic sound.

This marimba belongs to the College of Music where it is used in shifts by students from 8am until midnight for practice and lessons. It is difficult to transport for although it can be broken up, the college does not yet have the special bags to convey these parts. I wondered who had gallantly pushed it from the corridors of the college to the Baxter’s back door and home again after the concert. Quite an effort.

Strongs to a tenor

Capetonians can count themselves lucky if on August 13 at Artscape they heard the famous South African tenor Johan Botha in the opera gala with local singers Goitsemang Lehobye, Bongiwe Nakani and Mandla Mndebele. Johan treated us to a good first half before it was announced that he would cut out two arias in the after interval programme. We then knew all was not well.

Three days later at his Endler Hall concert at Stellenbosch he sang an octave lower in the two out of three Wagner pieces listed and was seated on a chair with the music. Friends say it was heartbreaking.

Though he flew to Gauteng determined to keep his final engagements on August 18 at the Brooklyn Theatre in Pretoria and August 23 at the Linder Auditorium, Johannesburg, both had to be cancelled. He then returned to Vienna.

The life of this famous international tenor is unbelievably stressful. His engagement for the rest of the year reads like an itinerary no sane man or woman would undertake let alone a recovering cancer patient. Clearly four concerts in nine days in South Africa in celebration of his clean bill of health from liver cancer, diagnosed over a year ago, was a step too far and too early.

We can only hope Johan will fully recover his health.

Art exhibition

If you have an hour to spare do pop into Kirstenbosch to see the high standard of execution and variety of the art works by members of the Constantiaberg Art Society on show till the end of this week in the exhibition hall.

I attended the opening last Friday and came away most impressed. Clearly this society offers an encouraging and stimulating programme of meetings, lectures and competitions for those with an artistic bent keen to learn more but without pressure to make them conform. You don’t necessarily find that same freedom at art schools.

The society was started by a few local artists back in 1991 and membership today has risen to more than 150, including several well-
known names. Those who’ve recently learnt the art of drawing and painting are also welcome and encouraged.

Highlights are obviously the two annual exhibitions at Kirstenbosch.
I liked the way the works were displayed either on one or two panels or easels. This enabled the artists to show several pictures, thus giving the
viewer more of a “feel” of his or her style and capabilities so increasing the chances of making a sale.
At the last exhibition 35 of the 54 participants made a total of 109
sales with lots of encouragement and compliments to everyone.

Time to compromise

It will be a sad day when we can no longer buy bags of compost, fertilisers and flowers at Flandorp’s Gardening Supplies. It’s been one of those quiet miracles that you find in the Cape that such a valuable piece of Constantia land could carry on being used for this informal business next to the derelict walls of the former Porter Reform School.

Surely a humane deal could be struck to allow brothers Richard and Desmond Flandorp to use some of the land to continue providing 10 men with jobs and the rest of the ground be sold off or rented at market-related prices. It’s time now for compromises.

Clueless cricket

Ted took his blonde to watch the test between South Africa and New Zealand at Centurion. She was not only clueless about cricket but also utterly bored. When Faf du Plessis hit a six into the stand, she said “Hurrah…They’ve lost the ball, now we can all go home.”

fionachisholm@iafrica.com